'The Ghost Writer' Premieres in Berlin Is Roman Polanski's New Film Really about Him?

Roman Polanski's latest thriller, "The Ghost Writer," celebrates its world premiere in Berlin this week -- though without the director. Polanski was arrested in Switzerland last September over a 1977 case involving unlawful sex with a 13-year-old and remains there under house arrest. The film could be seen as a comment on his own situation.

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At the premiere of Roman Polanski's new film, "The Ghost Writer," there was no red carpet, fans or photographers. In fact, the screening was somewhat of a subdued affair held in Polanski's Swiss chalet, a wooden house on the outskirts of Gstaad, on January 17, a Sunday.

"Milky Way" is written in old German-style letters on the chalet's façade. Polanski had gotten a home cinema system installed there -- complete with a screen and projector -- to ensure that the sound and images were perfect. A few days earlier, his producer had sent him a DVD of the movie's final version from Paris.

Photo Gallery

10  Photos
Photo Gallery: Roman Polanski's "The Ghost Writer"

But Polanski didn't want to watch the film -- his film -- alone, so he invited a friend, British writer Robert Harris, over to Gstaad. Harris is the author of a number of bestsellers, including "Fatherland" and "Pompeii." Over the last three years, he's been Polanski's most important collaborator. Harris wrote the novel on which "The Ghost Writer" was based, and the two men penned the screenplay together.

Harris traveled from England especially for the screening. "I took a bottle of champagne with me which we opened when the film finished," he says. "With reason, I think, because under the most difficult circumstances, something was created."

This Friday, Harris will be traveling to attend yet another celebration for the film. This time it will be its official world premiere at the 60th Berlinale, the Berlin International Film Festival. "The Ghost Writer" is in competition for a Golden Bear, but it is not the festival's opening film. "People would have thought we were making a statement about something we don't want to get involved in," says Dieter Kosslick, the festival's director.

More than 2,000 guests are expected to attend the film's screening on Potsdamer Platz, including the movie's stars, Ewan McGregor and Pierce Brosnan, the former James Bond actor. But one person who won't be there is Polanski himself.

Criminal or Survivor?

On September 26, Polanski was arrested at Zurich Airport. The sins of the past had caught up with him in the form of an American arrest warrant issued more than 30 years ago. In 1977, a then-43-year-old Polanski had unlawful sex with 13-year-old Samantha Gailey. For 42 days, he was locked up in a state penitentiary in Chino, California, for psychological evaluation.

Eventually, everyone involved in the case -- including the lawyer representing the victim -- agreed that Polanski should be given a suspended sentence. But the judge changed his mind at the last moment. On January 31, 1978, a day before sentencing was due to take place, Polanski got on a one-way flight from Los Angeles to Europe. He has never returned to the United States -- not even to receive the Oscar he won for his Holocaust drama "The Pianist." It made no difference that his victim had publicly forgiven him and called for the case to be dropped.

For a long time, the sex scandal was seen as nothing more than another bizarre episode in the incredible life of Roman Polanski, a man considered one of the greatest geniuses of the cinematic genre, a master survivor who was born in Paris in 1933, grew up in Krakow, Poland, and later directed masterpieces, such as "Rosemary's Baby" and "Chinatown." The Nazis killed Polanski's mother in Auschwitz. In 1969, followers of the Satanist Charles Manson murdered his second wife, Sharon Tate, and their unborn child.

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