UPDATED: In the wake of French actress Valentine Monnier’s allegation of rape against Roman Polanski, the promotion of the director’s latest film, “An Officer and a Spy,” has been axed in France, but the movie’s premiere Tuesday night and its theatrical release are scheduled to go forward.
Real-life period drama “An Officer and a Spy” premiered Tuesday evening in Paris on the Champs Elysees. Polanski attended the premiere, along with the actors Jean Dujardin and Emmanuelle Seigner. A separate screening which was set to take place Tuesday evening in another part of Paris was disrupted by a protest staged by Femen activists.
Distributor Gaumont told Variety that it would press ahead with its plan to give the film a wide release across France starting Wednesday on 545 screens, despite the accusation against Polanski of sexual assault.
However, several promotional activities have been canceled following Monnier’s allegation last Friday that Polanski raped her at a ski chalet in Gstaad, Switzerland, in 1975, when she was just 18. Le Parisien newspaper, which published Monnier’s story, said it had spoken to several people whom the actress had told of the alleged incident shortly after it occurred.
Polanski denies the allegations, and his French attorney, Hervé Témime, said the filmmaker is considering legal action against Le Parisien.
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Polanski has already lived under the cloud of his 1977 conviction in California for statutory rape. Following the new allegation, several interviews planned in French media outlets with the stars of “An Officer and a Spy,” including Oscar-winning actor Jean Dujardin and Louis Garrel, have been canceled. Dujardin himself withdrew from participating in a primetime evening newscast Sunday to promote the film.
The French radio network France Inter, which is a media partner for the film, ditched its broadcast of a pre-recorded interview with Garrel, saying it was impossible to air the exchange since the question of Monnier’s accusation had not been raised at the time of its recording, according to Le Monde newspaper. Polanski’s wife, Emmanuelle Seigner, who also stars in “An Officer and a Spy,” canceled her appearance on the France Inter radio show Boomerang on Tuesday.
Another talk show on primetime France 5 from the French broadcasting group France Televisions called “C’est à vous” also canceled the airing of an interview with Garrel. The broadcaster’s spokesperson told Le Parisien that the “interview had been recorded on Wednesday and couldn’t be aired as is, considering the news.”
Polanski, who has been living in exile in France since fleeing the U.S. in 1978, has declined interview requests by the French media since Monnier’s accusation. Her allegation cannot result in any criminal charges because Switzerland’s 20-year statute of limitations for such cases has passed.
One of the priciest French films slated for release this year, “An Officer and A Spy” was financed with a budget of €22 million mainly out of France, where it received the financial backing of nearly every major French TV channel: France 2 and France 3 from the public broadcasting group France Televisions, as well as the country’s two big pay-TV channels, Canal Plus and OCS.
The film stars Dujardin as Georges Picquart, a French officer who defied orders and embarked on a mission to clear the name of Capt. Alfred Dreyfus, a French-Jewish officer who was unfairly accused of spying for Germany in the late 1890s. The movie world premiered at Venice and won the Grand Jury prize, in spite of the controversy surrounding the film’s selection for the Venice lineup.
Polanski has fueled the controversy over his new film by saying that he identifies to some extent with Dreyfus because he, too, has been unfairly treated by the media and in the court of public opinion.
Monnier’s accusation emerged the same week that French actress Adele Haenel accused French director Christophe Ruggia of having sexually harassed her when she was making her first film, “The Devils,” when she was just 12. Although France has been slow to embrace the #MeToo movement, Haenel’s testimony has had a strong effect on the French film industry. A number of French stars, including Marion Cotillard, and institutions such as UniFrance and the directors’ guild SRF, have expressed their support for Haenel.