The Big Picture

Patrick Goldstein and James Rainey
on entertainment and media

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Is Roman Polanski really no different than Leni Riefenstahl?

February 16, 2010 |  1:08 pm

Right-wing pundits and bloggers are gearing up for more attacks on Roman Polanski, now that the director's new film, "The Ghost Writer," is edging close to its U.S. release this Friday, having just had its premiere at the Berlin Film Festival. (I've seen the film and it's actually a pretty absorbing, Hitchcockian thriller.) As as is customary in conservative circles these days, subtlety is not an option when launching an attack on anyone involved with Hollywood, least of all Polanski, who has become a favorite whipping boy for the right in particular because he seems to have a lot of liberal supporters.

Ghost_Writer_poster The latest salvo, from Big Hollywood's Jeffrey Jena, barely bothers to take umbrage with Polanski ("He's not a political prisoner or a dissident, he's a rapist") before getting to his real target -- the liberals who've been standing behind the filmmaker even though he's a fugitive from justice, having fled the U.S. more than three decades ago after pleading guilty to having unlawful sex with a 13-year-old girl. Jena manages to act as if Hollywood is simply swarming with sexual predators, saying that he's puzzled by why Hollywood liberals would "stand behind a pedophile. Maybe they're afraid to upset the applecart lest other famous deviant directors and producers would not hire them for future projects." 

Who those deviant directors are, he doesn't say. But Jena then proceeds to attack "Ghost Writer" co-stars Pierce Brosnan (whom he writes off as a "limousine liberal" because he once criticized George W. Bush) and Ewan McGregor for describing Polanski as a "maestro" who has an "alchemy with the camera." Brosnan added that in order to work with Polanski "you have to know your onions," presumably obscure Scottish slang for having to know what the hell you're doing. I suppose only a clueless conservative would be shocked that professional actors would praise a much-lauded Oscar-winning filmmaker, much less a filmmaker they'd just spent months working with on a movie. Apparently Jena has never been to a Hollywood press junket, where untold multitudes of actors, eager to talk up their latest project, have heaped just as many accolades on the likes of Michael Bay and Dennis Dugan.

Jena wishes that "just once if would be nice to hear a respected actor turn down a role in a Polanski film because they didn't want to be associated with a child rapist." And I wish that just once that a conservative pundit would remember that if you go around spending all your time trashing actors and filmmakers because you don't like their present-day politics or their long-ago personal transgressions, you're never, ever going to have much enjoyment at the movies.