Sunday, September 27, 2009

The day I asked Roman Polanski why he might want to return to the U.S.

Nineteen Eighty-Six was was a very good year for U.S. journalists at the Cannes Film Festival -- provided, of course, you had the testicular fortitude to be there. Coming so soon after the U.S. bombing of Libya, the festival was viewed by many -- mostly, it should be noted, by those who had never actually visited the festival before -- as a perfect target for terrorists seeking payback. Which explains why so many American movie stars, moviemakers and movie critics were conspicuous by their absence during the event, making it much easier for those of us who were there to get good quote from the notables in attendance.

Which, it turn, may explain why Roman Polanski was so generous with his time during my extended interview with him at Cannes that year. He was there to promote Pirates -- one of his lesser films, to be sure -- and I was grateful for the chance to speak with him for the Houston Post. Our conversation continued much longer than I expected -- in part, I suspect, because there were fewer than expected U.S. journalists on hand to request face time -- and he actually insisted that I stay a bit longer after I voiced my concern that, hey, maybe I'd already taken up too much of his time. Maybe he was amused by the fact that a quote from my favorable review of his autobiography ("Cover to cover, Roman is as riveting a story as you're likely find!") had been prominently blurbed on the then-recent paperback edition. ("You're absolutely right, Joe," he cheerfully scribbled below the quote, above his autograph.) Or maybe he enjoyed our seriocomic riffing about whole celebrity interview process. ("Yeah, Roman, I'll probably be doing this once a week at the Old Film Critics Home..." "And I'll come by to be interviewed by all of you after I can't make movies anymore.") Or perhaps...

Today, as I heard of Polanski's arrest in Switzerland, I found myself remembering our 1986 chat. And recalling that, after hearing some loose talk at Cannes '86 about his possible return to the United States, I was emboldened to ask just why he would want to risk arrest, or worse, for such a sentimental journey. I had my own theory. Apparently, I was right. You can read the relevant half of a two-part Houston Post interview here.

1 comment:

J. said...

Really interesting. Thanks for linking to the article.