Roman Polanski Says His ‘Persecution’ Began With Sharon Tate Murder: ‘All This Still Haunts Me Today’

“Most of the people who harass me do not know me and know nothing about the case,” director says in press notes for his new film premiering in Venice

Roman Polanski
Roman Polanski (Getty Images)

Roman Polanski says he feels persecuted by the press and people on social media who know nothing about him, and he says all of this persecution stems from the death of his wife Sharon Tate.

In the press notes for his latest film “J’Accuse,” which premieres at the Venice International Film Festival this week, Polanski gave an interview saying that his “image” has been negatively shaped by the press since Tate’s murder by the Manson Family.

“The way people see me, my ‘image,’ did indeed start to form with Sharon Tate’s death,” Polanski said in the film’s press notes. “When it happened, even though I was already going through a terrible time, the press got hold of the tragedy and, unsure of how to deal with it, covered it in the most despicable way, implying, among other things, that I was one of the people responsible for her murder, against a background of satanism.”

Polanski goes on to say that following the release of his film “Rosemary’s Baby,” the media presumed he was “in league with the devil” and he was persecuted for months until Manson’s family was identified. He says this cycle now continues with women accusing him of other impropriety.

“All this still haunts me today. Anything and everything,” Polanski continued. “It is like a snowball, each season adds another layer. Absurd stories by women I have never seen before in my life who accuse me of things which supposedly happened more than half a century ago.”

Polanski, 84, has been a fugitive from the United States since 1978 when he fled to France prior to sentencing in a sexual assault case involving his having drugged and raped a 13-year-old girl. Since then, several other women have come forward to accuse Polanski of raping them when they were children or teenagers under circumstances similar to the 1977 case. And in December 2017, the Los Angeles Police Department opened a new investigation into accusations by artist Marianne Barnard that Polanski molested her in 1975. He has consistently denied the accusations.

His latest film is the story of the Dreyfus Affair, about a French officer at the end of the 19th century who is wrongly convicted of treason and is publicly persecuted in the press due to false accusations and anti-semitism. Polanski said he believed another Dreyfus Affair could “definitely” happen today and said he saw parallels between the story and his own life.

“Another affair is possible, definitely. All the ingredients are there for it to happen: false accusations, lousy court proceedings, corrupt judges, and above all ‘social media’ that convict and condemn without a fair trial or a right of appeal,” he said. “In
the story, I sometimes find moments I have experienced myself, I can see the same determination to deny the facts and condemn me for things I have not done. Most of the people who harass me do not know me and know nothing about the case.”

“J’Accuse,” also with the English title of “An Officer and a Spy,” makes it world premiere at the Venice International Film Festival beginning on Friday.