Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Roman Polanski


In 1977 Roman Polanski was on top of the world. In the eight years since the brutal murder of his wife, Sharon Tate, in the Manson Family murders, Polanski, a celebrated film director, had experienced a series of professional triumphs. He'd directed Rosemary's Baby and Chinatown, and received Academy Award nominations and numerous other critical accolades.

Roman Polanski in 1970
Roman Polanski in 1970

While he hadn't found someone to take Tate's place in his love life, he was still enjoying the fruits of being a relatively young man with money, charisma and talent all to burn, often seen squiring pretty and interchangeable model-actress types to party after party in Los Angeles, London, and Paris, where he split his time.

But that year, his world came crashing down when he was accused of six felonies: furnishing Quaaludes to a minor, unlawful sexual intercourse, rape by use of drugs, oral copulation, sodomy, and child molestation.

Few people in Hollywood have found themselves at the center of a furor that captivates the world and overtakes the media as thoroughly as the Manson murders did. Roman Polanski, then, joins an even more exclusive club: he was the center of such a media firestorm not once, but twice.

The case had all the hallmarks of a sleazy exploitation film.

There was the glamorous setting: a famous actor's house (in this case, Polanski's friend, Jack Nicholson, who was not home at the time of the incident.)

There was the famous director and a nubile, aspiring actress-model and an ambitious — some might even say complicit — mom.

There was a Jacuzzi.

There were drugs — Quaaludes.

There was booze: champagne, of course.

And there was a premise: a photo shoot.

The script almost writes itself.

But this was not the plot of a tawdry B-movie, nor even some nihilist parody directed by Polanski, starring one of his many beautiful actresses. It was his real life, but it would rival the most sordid scenes he would ever direct.

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