Polanski libel suit brings out who's who of celebs, media

Now that addicts of hot court cases no longer have their fixes from Robert Blake, Scott Petersen and Michael Jackson, will they turn to Roman Polanski?

It’s possible. But the logistics behind the five-day trial are arguably more interesting than the subject matter.

On July 18 the London High Court will begin hearings in the filmmaker’s libel suit against Vanity Fair parent Conde Nast. A July 2002 article claimed Polanski propositioned a Swedish woman in Elaine’s eatery in New York shortly after the murder of his wife Sharon Tate in 1969.

The defendant is U.S.-based and Polanski lives in France, but the trial is being held in the U.K., where the law favors the plaintiff in libel cases.

Polanski will give testimony via closed-circuit TV from France; since he’s still a fugitive from U.S. law, he would be extradited if he set foot on British soil.

The director claims the article is a slur implying he was disloyal to the memory of his wife. Witnesses for the plaintiff include Debra Tate, who broke the news to Polanski that his wife had been murdered, and Mia Farrow, who starred in the helmer’s “Rosemary’s Baby” and was at Elaine’s on the night in question.

Witness statements have also come from Catherine Deneuve and Nastassja Kinski, though neither will appear in court.

Conde Nast will call Edward Perlberg and Lewis Lapham, two diners in the restaurant on the day of the alleged incident. Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter will not appear. Hearings are expected to run five days.

The case marks the first time in England that the person bringing the libel case will not attend the hearings in person.

The ruling allowing Polanski to give evidence via video link was granted by the House of Lords in February.

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