Showtime will develop a film about the life of Roman Polanski as a potential directing vehicle for “XXX” helmer Rob Cohen.
Michael Halperin is writing the script and Billy Gerber is producing. Cohen will exec produce.
Polanski pic will follow the director’s life through the tragic murder of his wife, actress Sharon Tate; his direction of “Chinatown”; his decision to flee L.A. for Europe to avoid a prison stretch for statutory rape; and his Oscar win for directing “The Pianist.”
Cohen, who will shape the script with Halperin as the helmer readies the Columbia-based action film “Stealth” for a January start, said the approach in the Polanski film will echo the depiction of Bruce Lee in Cohen’s “Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story” and of Frank Sinatra in his HBO pic “The Rat Pack.”
“They were two very elusive subjects, but I felt both movies clarified the enlarged humanity of both men,” said Cohen. “I’ve always felt that Roman has never gotten a fair shot, and I wanted to be part of a movie that would clarify his situation in hopes that it might stimulate some help to get him cleared and able to work in Hollywood again. He is one of the great filmmakers of our time, and he should be able to come back.”
Cohen said he hasn’t approached Polanski; most of his life is an open book, anyway. “It’s all public domain, and if there is one thing about Roman, it’s that his stance in life has been to waive any right to privacy. He is the same man, after all, who brought a Life Magazine reporter to the house after the Tate murders and was photographed there, with blood still on the walls.”
The film will not be Polanski propaganda, either, Cohen said.
“We want to make a very provocative movie about an artist who has had a very colorful and tragic life, but who has shown courage and strength in continuing to persevere.”
Cohen’s involvement came about when he was seated in proximity to Gerber and Halperin at an eatery. They were discussing Polanski, and Cohen, who had met him and followed his case closely, joined in. Cohen felt Polanski fled only because the judge was overheard bragging that he was going to ignore a plea agreement and throw the book at the director. “He was also going to be sent back to Chino for more psychiatric evaluation, after he’d been there 42 days,” said Cohen. At the end of the lunch, Gerber asked Cohen to partner. They met at Showtime and made the deal.
Polanski was recently given his Oscar for “The Pianist” by Harrison Ford at the Deauville Film Festival in France.