There was a time, not long ago, when Roman Polanski was the toast of the film industry in France, where the director has lived since 1978, when he fled the United States before being convicted after pleading guilty to illegal crimes Having sex with a 13 year old girl.
Despite the scandal and ongoing legal troubles, the veteran auteur filmmaker has made a name for himself as a filmmaker in his adopted homeland, celebrated as a lifetime member of France’s famed Academie des Beaux Arts (Fine Arts Academy) and showered with half a dozen César Awards over the last three , including Best Director, are for his 2019 drama An Officer and a Spy.
But things are changing. The director’s recent César win, combined with more recent allegations of sexual misconduct, sparked outrage from French feminist groups and prompted the 21-member board of the organization that oversees the Césars to resign en masse. Polanski has denied the more recent misconduct allegations.
Even as the backlash mounted, “Officer and a Spy” became a smash hit in France, grossing more than $11 million.
But now the love for Roman seems to have stopped. The French haven’t rejected Polanski the way the US has shunned him, but the relationship is sour. Polanski declined an interview diversity for this article.
Polanski’s upcoming film The Palace, a black comedy set in a posh hotel in the Swiss Alps resort of Gstaad where he is currently filming, has been unable to find French financing, Polanski’s producer, Italian multi-hyphenated Luca Barbareschi notes , complained.
“[To shepherd ‘The Palace’] you need a lot of passion and a lot of patience,” Barbareschi said in his speech from Gstaad, where The Palace – which he says has a budget of 17 million euros ($17.8 million) – has been running for 15 weeks being filmed, plus two more to go (see photos from the set in this post).
Barbareschi, who also produced Officer and a Spy, says it was difficult to finance Palace, an Italian, Swiss and Polish co-production between his Eliseo Multimedia and RAI Cinema, Poland’s Lucky BOB and Swiss CAB. Some other investors disappeared after the film started shooting.
But he didn’t expect France to shut out Polanski and still hopes the French industry will embrace the film.
“I managed to get the production going for over a year without France because France didn’t want to invest a euro in Polanski,” says Barbareschi. “That really hurt me.”
The producer adds: “If this film is not released in France, it will be a crime.”
As well as France, Barbareschi, who personally invested more than €4m in The Palace that he must recover, also fears Polanski’s latest picture could be excluded elsewhere. Especially in English-speaking territories like the UK, North America and Australia, all of which refrained from releasing “Officer” in their cinemas.
“Considering that ‘An Officer and a Spy’ wasn’t played in any English-speaking country, it scares me,” he notes.
Paris-based Wild Bunch, which is selling The Palace, is showing a four-minute trailer to buyers in Cannes. They have already closed deals with unspecified distributors in Germany and Spain. Now they have to close more.
“The Palace” features an ensemble cast consisting of German actor Oliver Masucci (“Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore”); French star Fanny Ardant; Mikey Rourke; Monty Python star John Cleese; Portugal’s Joaquin De Almeida; Russia’s Viktor Donbronravov and Fortunato Cerlino (“Gomorrah”).
Penned by Polanski and Polish writer/director Jerzy Skolimowski (who attended the festival with «EO» but did not attend), the film is set in its entirety at Gstaad’s Palace Hotel on New Year’s Eve in less than 24 hours.
Similar to funding, casting The Palace has also been difficult. Several actors turned down roles because they feared working with Polanski would hurt their careers, although “nobody said so,” says Barbareschi, who stresses he’s happy with his cast.
“Every film has its karma. In the end we have the best cast I could have hoped for,” he says. Though “some defectors weren’t easy for Roman,” particularly from actors in minor roles.
More importantly, “They all love Roman and give him everything they have,” he notes.
The main below-the-line crew of “The Palace” consists of Oscar-winning music composer Alexandre Desplat, along with Polanski’s permanent cinematographer Pawel Edelman, editor Hervé de Luze and costume designer Carlo Poggioli (“The Young Pope”).
As for the film’s plot, the palatial hotel, which represents the pinnacle of Alpine luxury, “has always been a haven for the most privileged strata of society: aristocracy, artists and celebrities, entrepreneurs and financiers, hustlers, scammers and wannabes,” says Polanski in his notes.
And now the biggest New Year’s Eve ball in history is taking place here.
The film is described as “a comedy that reveals the naivety, hedonism, corruption and social injustice that are at the root of the world’s current problems”. The narrative “weaves multiple storylines and spans the social spectrum,” the notes read. The Palace has been touted as “above all a provocative comedy — sometimes bitter, sometimes frivolous and eccentric, that will leave the viewer with a lingering question: What went wrong?”
The rollout plan for The Palace is for a Europe-wide theatrical release in November.
But we’ll have to wait and see how big the audience is.