Originally published in Le Nouvel Observateur, April 13 1984
Translated by Paul Cronin and Remi Guillochon
Giesbert: But surely you brought the rape case on yourself?
Polanski: It began when Vogue Hommes asked me to do something for them and I suggested a series of photos of teenage girls. Soon afterwards someone told me of a young girl who had the look I was after. She wanted to be a model and had already done some TV commercials. In my book I call her Sandra. While passing through Los Angeles to prepare a film, I went to see her.
G: You took some photos of her on the Mulholland hills and then in Jack Nicholson's villa. You drank some champagne, you went for a swim in the pool, and then...
P: I feel that you're uncomfortable asking your questions. But do go on.
G: Do you regret having made love to this young girl?
P: I regret everything I had to go through afterwards.
G: She was thirteen years old.
P: She was about to turn fourteen. Three weeks later to be exact.
G: That's no excuse.
P: If you had seen her, you would have thought she was at least eighteen years old.
G: You pleaded guilty to statuatory rape?
P: So that the case could continue behind closed doors.
G: Do you feel like the victim of a judiciary error?
P: The young girl admitted in front of a tribunal that she'd already had intercourse with other people before meeting me, though the tribunal wasn't concerned about these other men. When Mr. Smith or Mr. Brown sleeps with fourteen year-old adolescents who look eighteen, it doesn't interest anyone. But when a famous film director does, the law and the press sound the alarm. It seems that I was the only one -- or nearly the only one -- to have found myself before a judge.
G: You hit rock bottom when you were jailed for several weeks in Chino Californian penitentiary.
P: Being in jail was an interesting experience. To be honest I found life as a convict fascinating. I got a much stronger understanding of why the people we call re-offenders, once released, look for new ways to get back behind bars. Since then, like those guys, I've found myself feeling nostalgic for the time I spent in there.
G: That's masochism!
P: What does a sailor miss when he finds himself back on dry land? The solitude and the rocking movemnt of the waves. Well, it's the same thing for an ex-con. He misses the boredom, the routine, and the little dramas.
G: You ended up leaving the United States. Does it upset you not being able to return?
P: California is too removed from my own word. I'm basically European, and everything I love is here in Paris. I don't know of any other city in the world where you can see so much -- all the exhibitions, films, concerts, fashion shows. But what makes me sad, naturally, is that France's creativity is not what it used to be. Each nation has its cycles, I think. Right now France is clearly on the crest of the wave. It's not talent that's lacking, more ambition.
G: You have been chased by fate since your birth. Will there ever be any respite?
P: I've always hoped so. I've always considered myself a nomad, but now I don't want to move anymore. I find the idea of spending a weekend in the countryside unappealing.