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Patrick Goldstein and James Rainey
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Is Hollywood really a hotbed of support for Roman Polanski?

Roman Polanski With all the studio hirings and firings in the last 24 hours, I've been too busy to revisit until now one of the most wonderfully bizarre twists in the Roman Polanski case. For days on end, I've been reading stories everywhere about how the Hollywood elite has rushed to Polanski's defense, saying he should be released from custody in Switzerland, seemingly glossing over that in 1977 he gave a 13-year-old girl champagne and a Quaalude and had sex with her.

There is no disagreement about the sex. But I take issue with all the stories -- including this latest one from Wall Street Journal critic Terry Teachout -- that claim Hollywood's support of Polanski is evidence of just how out of touch the movie industry is with the rest of the world. Teachout bashes all of the "Hollywood celebrities" who have rushed to Polanski's defense, starting with Harvey Weinstein, who was quoted in a story in my paper, describing Polanski's vile conduct as a "so-called crime." Teachout rattles off the names of a host of filmmakers -- including Woody Allen, Jonathan Demme, Sam Mendes, Mike Nichols and Martin Scorsese -- who signed an international petition that "demands the immediate release of Roman Polanski."

There's only one problem: All of those filmmakers, along with Harvey Weinstein, live far, far away from Hollywood and, with occasional exceptions, make their movies outside of Hollywood as well. If you look up the rest of the names on the best-known petition in circulation, it is filled with the names of foreign filmmakers, writers and actors -- including the likes of Pedro Almodovar, Wong Kar Wai, Alfonso Cuaron, Isabelle Adjani and Salman Rushdie -- who also rarely set foot in Hollywood. If critics like Teachout want to claim that high-brow artists and writers have rushed to Polanski's defense, fair enough. But to say that Hollywood is in his corner, as part of a political argument that Hollywood is a liberal elite woefully ignorant of mainstream values, is just hogwash.

There's no petition going around with the names of the real Hollywood elite -- A-list filmmakers and studio chiefs like Steven Spielberg, Alan Horn, James Cameron, Amy Pascal, Jerry Bruckheimer, Brian Grazer, Tom Rothman, J.J. Abrams, John Lasseter or Michael Bay -- because the real Hollywood elite isn't supporting Polanski. In fact, they haven't offered the slightest hint of backing for Polanski. It's only European and New York-based artists, who clearly see the world in a very different light than the real Hollywood elite.

To that point, I'd like to let you read a lively essay from screenwriter Josh Olson, who's best known for earning an Oscar nomination for his script for "A History of Violence." In this essay, which he wrote for The Times, he makes some of the same points I've just made but in a much more personal, not to mention entertaining, fashion. He even takes the paper to task for some of our coverage. And while I think we've done an outstanding job of covering the Polanski story, I think we're always open to constructive criticism. So look at what Olson has to say -- he certainly doesn't pull any punches. Keep Reading:

by Josh Olson:

The other day the Times ran a story titled “In Roman Polanski case, is it Hollywood vs. Middle America?” by John Horn and Tina Daunt. In that Mr. Horn and Ms. Daunt seem to believe that Hollywood exists as a monolithic entity, let me answer for Hollywood.  No. It’s not. And thank you for asking. Sadly, I suspect that that isn’t the answer they were looking for. They state that “Hollywood is rallying behind the fugitive filmmaker.” Well, speaking as someone who actually lives and works right in the heart of the city and the business, I can assure you that this isn’t even remotely true. 

Their entire argument rests on just three things -- an incredibly poorly conceived off-the-cuff comment by Whoopi Goldberg, a petition that Harvey Weinstein is circulating, and that there isn’t a great hue and cry from Hollywood demanding that Polanski be brought to justice. I cannot speak to Ms. Goldberg’s painfully unfortunate comment, except to say that I have no doubt she didn’t mean it to come out quite the way it did. As for the lack of a hue and cry, I’m not entirely sure what we’re supposed to do.

I cannot pretend, as some have, to have spent the last thirty years gnashing my teeth at the fiend Polanski’s escape from justice, but neither can I pretend to be outraged that a convicted criminal who fled prosecution has been caught. Perhaps I missed the meeting where these things were explained, but it just never occurred to me that I was supposed to stage a rally when something happened that doesn’t bother, interest or affect me in the least.

Melissa Silverstein is quoted as saying, "I think people are afraid to talk in Hollywood. They are afraid about their next job." Well, she’s half right. We’re all scared about our next job. That’s the nature of the business. You never know where the next paycheck is coming from. What we are NOT, however, is sitting around fretting about whether or not Roman Polanski will be displeased with us if we publicly state that we think raping children is a bad thing.

As a rule, when I read the news that a fugitive from justice has been caught, my standard response is to think, “How nice,” and turn the page. If it’s a particularly interesting story, I might tell my girlfriend about it, but until this moment it never occurred to me that I was supposed to alert the media as to my feelings on the subject. It’s hard enough keeping up with all the injustice in the world. Now we have to stand up and shout every time it goes the way it’s supposed to? No offense to Ms. Silverstein, but some of us have jobs.

Then there’s Jonathan Kuntz, who’s quoted as believing “the local reaction may be a version of the ‘there, but for the grace of God, go I.’" Well, again, no, but thank you for the extremely ugly insinuation, and when DID you stop beating your wife, Mr. Kuntz? Does it occur to ANY of these people that we’re not all sitting around in a clubhouse smoking crack, patting each other on the back and hoping not to get caught molesting children?

But there’s still the elephant in the room -- the petition. (There are actually TWO petitions, but they’re both making the same point.) The major thrust of the article -- that Hollywood is completely out of touch with mainstream America, that we’re rallying behind Polanski, that we’re all a bunch of sex-crazed degenerates eager to deflower your sons and daughters pretty much rests on these petitions.

In fact, it’s those petitions that seem to be fueling all the rage around this issue right now. Because some people have expressed support for Polanski, it’s assumed the rest of us agree, else we’d have come up with our own petition. All those Hollywood types defending that awful man, and no one standing up for the other side. It’s shameful.

The problem is, it all collapses if you actually look at the petitions. So Mr. Hollywood here did just that. I took a little time off from burning flags and pushing crack to schoolchildren and did the damn work, which is more than any of the people flogging this story can claim. I do things like that from time to time, particularly when I’m being confronted with assertions that fly in the face of all reason, and especially when those assertions imply that I’m some kind of moral deviant.

Between the two petitions, there are approximately 650 signatures. Of those 650, I noted everyone who could conceivably be considered a member of the Hollywood community. My rule was, basically, if you've done substantive and recognizable work for a Hollywood studio in the last four decades, you get counted. I guarantee you, some of these people would not be thrilled to be labeled Hollywood players, but I’m trying to be accommodating to the opposition here.

You know what I was left with? You know how many of those 650 people I was able to fit into a box labeled Hollywood?  Thirty-six names.

The Times refers to some of the people who signed the petition by name, and it’s the same names I’ve read in similar pieces the last day or so. They cite Martin Scorsese, David Lynch, Michael Mann, Mike Nichols, Woody Allen and Neil Jordan. Well, yes. Those gentlemen do seem to be on the list. The implication, of course, is that that’s a representative sampling of the petition signers. It’s not. It’s not even representative of the thirty-six.

There are maybe eight more names on the list that come close to the level of fame and achievement those folks enjoy. The rest of the names ... well, if you’re a hard-core movie fan, as I am, you’ll probably recognize most of them. But we’re talking foreign actors and directors who’ve done a small handful of American films, a couple mid-level producers, some writers and directors who have, as far as I know, been retired for decades, a composer or two, and others of that nature. Not exactly an overwhelming mountain of support.

Nonetheless, the Times describes the signers as “More than 100 industry leaders and prominent authors." This is a profoundly deceptive statement, bordering on being an outright lie. Obviously, you’re meant to interpret that the industry being led is Hollywood, but at most, there are fifteen names on the list that could possibly be defined as industry leaders, and that’s being generous. Hell, there aren’t even 100 Americans on the list. And if there’s an industry leader among Patrick Braoudé, Dominique Crevecoeur, Jean-Yves Chalangeas, Didier Martiny, Petter Skavlan, Alejandra Norambuena Skira, or Zdzicho Augustyniak, then it is some other country’s industry, and I’m not entirely sure that industry is film. 

Worse, this deceptive statement has been picked up and is spreading. At least one internet “news” source mangled it into “Over 100 Hollywood Celebs Sign Petition for Roman Polanski Release,” which isn’t even deceptive. It’s a ridiculous and bald-faced lie. But please, don’t take my word for it. The links to the petitions are below, and I urge you to take the time to do what I did.

But however you slice it, thirty six names... hell, I’ll spot you ten to compensate for my own ineptitude. FORTY six names of people who’ve worked in Hollywood is not the same thing as Hollywood, even if they all march in a straight line and speak in unison. It’s standard procedure for the entertainment media to engage in monolithic thinking. They do it every year at the Oscars, and it’s always fun to read what message we were sending via the Oscars when, really, we were all just voting for the work we thought was best, just like everyone else who watched at home with friends and wagered a buck each.

But if you HAVE to try to read some sort of monolithic movement into this petition, you might want to take it up with the French, because there’s hundreds of them on there. There’s also a significant number of Spanish petitioners. (You might want to take into account that the age of consent in Spain is 13 before you drag out the pitchforks and torches, though.) But as far as Hollywood’s concerned, we’re not rallying behind anyone, and it sure would be nice if folks could find a way of discussing this issue without creating ridiculous and childish caricatures of people who have nothing whatsoever to do with it.

Towards the end of the piece, we’re treated to this jaw-dropping bit of whimsy: “it's almost impossible to find anyone publicly condemning Polanski.” I’m compelled to point out that it’s not entirely easy finding people who support him, either. It’s so hard, in fact, that you have to do some serious number-fudging to make it look like you found any at all. And I have to wonder, did you ASK anyone? Because, as I said earlier, alerting the media that you don’t have a problem with a fugitive from justice being caught is not exactly normal behavior. That nobody does it is hardly evidence that everyone supports crime.

In the next day or so, there will be all sorts of petitions flying around town from people in response to this article, and all the other poorly reasoned anti-Hollywood rants that have arisen from this situation. Countless of my fellow filmmakers will attest to the fact that they think Polanski should be brought to America to face his punishment. It will make some difference, I’m sure, but the damage has been done. The stupid questions have already been asked, and cannot be un-asked. Anyone who doesn’t sign these petitions will now be suspect to all the lazy reporters, internet bloggers, conservative mouthpieces, and talk radio mouth-breathers who are so up in arms.

But some of us won’t sign the damn thing, because if we accede to the ludicrous demand that we sign petitions stating that it’s a good thing when wanted criminals are brought to justice, the next thing they’ll demand is that we take loyalty oaths. I don’t need to see Melissa Silverstein, Jonathan Kuntz or, frankly, ANYONE sign a petition telling me that they disapprove of molesting children. I don’t need them to swear under oath that they think it’s good for a fugitive from justice to be hauled in. I’ll take it on faith, because I assume that, in spite of their penchant for drama and their apparent need to demonize people they know nothing about, they’re mostly decent people.

It’d be lovely if they’d grant the same courtesy to me. 


File photo of Roman Polanski by Roberto Pfeil / Associated Press

 
Comments () | Archives (269)

The comments to this entry are closed.

Its not rape if she consented to it.

I'm just appauled that this wimp of a man does not have the
courage to just come back & do the time or whatever, community service, picking up trash along PCH in Malibu or
whatever.Chances are he will NOT recieve a harsh sentence,for
that matter if that was my daughter back then,justice would
be brief and fair.Just come back & put this all behind
you. Or might I word that differently, as such deviants' are
known to have other so-called pleasures in their "fun bag" of
tricks they may harbor.
Truthfully,
MC

This article is designed to take the focus off Hollywood's unfathomable support for a convicted pedophile and rapist and at the same time down play the seriousness of the crime in question. (Polanski raped and sodomized a 13 year old girl who he first drugged and plied with alcohol, it doesn't get much worse!)
The fear of a backlash against Hollywood and more importantly, a dent in profits is behind this cowardly puff piece.

"All of those filmmakers, along with Harvey Weinstein, live far, far away from Hollywood and, with occasional exceptions, make their movies outside of Hollywood as well."

I find this to be a disingenuous argument. "Hollywood" refers in this sense to a culture and an industry, not a geographic region. There are movies filmed in Canada, even right here in my state of North Carolina, which are still "Hollywood" movies b/c they come out of the Hollywood distribution network and employ the talent controlled by Hollywood. In this context, some of the people who signed that petition are heavy-hitters -- Weinstein in particular.

Further, I think the fact that directors and producers are signing on to protect Polanski puts a chill on actors and other people down the food chain who might otherwise speak out. The petition-signers are the people who have jobs to award.

Lastly, I don't think the argument is that every single person in Hollywood supports Polanski. Americans have common sense. The argument is that, what support Polanski has received for his indefensible actions, is to be found in Hollywood. He has no support anywhere else in America. So I don't think it's inaccurate to call Hollywood a "hotbed" of support for him.

I appreciate your setting the record straight. Like many others, I have heard or read the line that "Hollywood is behind Polanski" but the story did not interest me enough to look into it to find out why Hollywood is being so jaded. The media is pro at molding stories to fit whatever agenda they have and I am glad that someone took the time to make a clarification and I am even more glad that I came across such article.

"Its not rape if she consented to it."

Huh?

It was statutory rape. She was 13 and legally below the age of consent.

Additionally, he drugged her, so some would argue she was in no state to give consent, even if she was of age.

None of the facts of the crime are in dispute. Polanski's beef has been with the actions of the judge after Polanski pleaded guilty.

Good article, excellent letter. People are so quick to believe whatever semi-truth the US media conjures up. As for Polanski... well, presumably he'll get what's coming to him.

Pity the majority of commenters on this article are still pretty confused about the issue. =p

I feel awful for Mr. Kuntz. He must be suffering terribly from people using a comvenient shorthand term to describe the movie industry. Doing so does indeed lump him in with a convicted child rapist. I hope he lives through this experience intact. He certainly has a Hollywwood-sized ego, and a real sense of who is the victim here. Thank god he spoke up. I mean, he wouldn't sign his name to a petition in support of prosecuting Polanski, but he is here to defend some vague constituency of "other people who work in film but don't actually care one way or another."

Are any of you interested in Polanski's side of the story? Or do you all prefer to get on your moral high horses and bay for the man's blood while ignoring the possibility that he may be guilty of nothing more than having consensual sex once with a 13-year-old girl who by her own admission was already sexually experienced but by Californian law was underage? In his autobiography, "Roman by Polanski", he describes what happened:

"Then, very gently, I began to kiss and caress her. After this had gone on for some time, I led her over to the couch.

"There was no doubt about Sandra's [a pseudonym] experience and lack of inhibition. She spread herself and I entered her. She wasn't unresponsive. Yet, when I asked her softly if she was liking it, she resorted to her favorite expression: 'It's all right.'

"While we were still making love, I heard a car in the driveway. It seemed to pass the house, so we carried on.

"Suddenly, though, Sandra froze. The light on the phone had come on, which meant there was someone else in the house, making a call from another room. That stopped us both in our tracks, but it didn't suppress my desire for the girl. After whispering reassurances, Sandra gradually relaxed again. When it was all over, I opened the door a little and looked down the passage."

That's it. There is nothing, I might add, about drugging the girl beforehand, though he does mention that they had both had some champagne. He goes on to say he was "shocked and bewildered" the following day when he was arrested on a charge of rape. Having admired his work for more than 30 years and having also read a good deal about him, I feel I know something about his character, his tastes and inclinations, though I have never had the privilege of meeting him. I do not believe he would do what he was accused of. Nor do people who know him. And it is undeniably significant that in the whole of his 76 years no other woman, young or old, has ever accused him of molestation. What really clinches it for me, however, is that a medical examination of the girl, the findings of which can be read online, discovered no blood on her clothes or body, no anal lacerations and no sphincter tear - nothing, in short, of the kind one would expect if her story of being drugged, raped and sodomised while putting up "some" resistance and saying "no" repeatedly had a grain of truth in it.

Women sometimes make false allegations of rape out of malice or greed. I have personal experience of this. I once fell hook, line and sinker for a girlfriend's story of being in rent arrears, and - fool that I was - wrote her out cheque after cheque. The more I gave her, however, the more she asked for. And each time she asked, she assured me it would be "the very last time". After I had given her a total of 20,000 pounds, alarm bells began to ring in my head, and I refused to give her another penny. She then claimed I had brutally assaulted her on our last date. She had, she said, bruises and scratches all over her body and was thinking of reporting me to the police. For all I knew, she did have the injuries she spoke of - self-inflicted. I met her a few more times after that. What she didn't know was that I was now recording our conversations, and one day, while we were walking together along a busy street in North London, I managed to elicit from her a clear, unequivocal retraction of her allegation. So far as I know she never did go to the police, and five years on I still have that recording. If Polanski had a recording like that of his alleged victim, he might not be in prison now and might never have been sued by her for $500,000.

I do not believe I have ever before been so disgusted with journalists as over the way they have maligned Polanski these past few days. Almost to a man they have proved themselves true to type: the spiteful hack who cannot get his facts right and cares nothing for truth or justice or fair play. For example, though he was originally indicted on six counts - furnishing a controlled substance to a minor; committing a lewd or lascivious act; having unlawful sexual intercourse; perversion; sodomy; rape by use of drugs - the DA subsequently withdrew five of these charges, leaving only that of unlawful sexual intercourse. It was to this alone that Polanski pleaded guilty, though one would never know it from most of the recent stories about him.

Furthermore, since the girl was three weeks short of 14 at the time of the incident, Polanski is no more a "child molester" (as some people insist on dubbing him) than Edgar Allan Poe, Mayne Reid, Paul Gauguin, Charlie Chaplin or Oliver Reed, each of whom as a grown man either cohabited with or married a girl in her early or mid teens. Old goat might be a more fitting epithet. There is a world of difference. Besides, some 13-year-old girls are enough to make an old goat - or a Polanski - of any man. And if Californian law supposes, as it does, that a girl under 18 is incapable of giving her consent, it is in the immortal words of Mr Bumble "a ass - a idiot".

Most sickening of all is how some people give every impression of wanting to be his executioner. On internet forums one semiliterate moron after another writes with undisguised glee of the prospect of his spending the rest of his life in prison and there being beaten up and sodomised every day and perhaps, with a bit of luck, murdered. Some even demand that he be castrated. It is all disturbingly reminiscent of the witch-hunts of centuries ago, the tricoteuses who sat round the guillotine, the persecution of Oscar Wilde, the Nazi thugs who rounded up the Jews and sent them on a one-way journey to the gas chambers. It is a sad intimation that man is still the vicious, apelike creature he has always been, that civilisation is only a veneer and that the lynch mob may one day come down the street to get you for being different from the herd.

Eric Bond Hutton

Sorry I meant Mr. Olson, not Kuntz.

 
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