Outside of Hollywood, Tide Turns on Polanski

French officials back off as public sentiment clarifies

Thursday, Oct 1, 2009  |  Updated 10:00 AM CDT
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Outside of Hollywood, Tide Turns on Polanski

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French officials have retreated from their earlier condemnation of the U.S. for seeking to extradite Roman Polanski.

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Support for jailed movie director Roman Polanski may still be high among his Hollywood pals, but it is dwindling in France, where he lived for decades after fleeing the U.S. before he could be sentenced for raping a 13-year-old girl.

Polanski is "neither above nor below the law," a French government spokesman said. That was in stark contrast to earlier in the week, when a key member of President Nicolas Sarkozy's cabinet said the arrest in Switzerland and efforts to extradite Polanski to the U..S. were "frightening."

The 76-year-old director pleaded guilty in 1977 to having sex with a minor after plying her with champagne and Quaaludes. But he fled amid speculation the judge was going to toss the plea deal and give him hard time. Polanski, who holds both French and Polish citizenship, has continued to direct acclaimed films, including "The Pianist," while living as a fugitive in France, which has strong anti-extradition laws.

While several big-name Hollywood directors, including Woody Allen and Martin Scorsese, and well-known actors have called for Polanski's release, public sentiment is against him in the U.S., France and Poland. Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said his government will not try to block extradition, as was initially reported.

"The case involves a great director, but still, it is also a case of rape, of sex with a child," Tusk said.

Editorials in the Los Angeles Times and The New York Times have called for Polanski to be brought back to account for the rape.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said extradition to California from Switzerland, where Polanski is now being held, is a matter for judges, not diplomats.

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