Since Argento went public with her allegations against Weinstein in October, a lot has been written about how the film industry will no longer cover up abuse. But I ask her how it feels to see Polanski, a convicted sex offender, still held up as a celebrated director, and what it says about the industry’s true feelings about women and girls. “It speaks terribly of the industry,” she replies. “It’s shocking that people like Polanski are still revered, celebrated by actors and fellow film-makers and cinematheques around the world who continue to not only promote their work, but also to work with them. I hope the tide is finally turning.”
While researching this article I had a couple of off-the-record discussions with actors and film-makers about their true feelings about Polanski. One admitted they regretted their previous support, given the new allegations, but couldn’t bring themselves to say so publicly. But mainly I heard people insist their friend is not a rapist. They trotted out the familiar defences: the Holocaust and Sharon Tate, of course. “It was a long time ago” was another one, as was: “He’s served his time.” (Legal experts say if he were tried for that crime today he would likely get three years in jail.) Two said to me that it was a “special situation” because “the girl had been up for it” (this was a common theory at the time. The probation report described Gailey as “physically mature” and “willing”). “Samantha has said that the trauma she has experienced in the past few decades has had a greater impact on her than the original crime,” one said to me, which is doubtless true. But Gailey wouldn’t have had to endure any attention if Polanski hadn’t raped her.
It’s remarkable how much energy Polanski’s supporters have expended defending him, given that the director himself has always been extremely clear about why he did what he did: he is sexually attracted to ‘young girls’, and he has never seen this as a problem.