Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Roman Polanski

The Media Frenzy

It would be hard, though, for him to convince the press of his side of things. Roman Polanski had never been fond of the press and had always had a tenuous relationship with them — especially after Sharon Tate's murder. During the aftermath of her murder, and during the Manson Family trials, he was aghast when the press sometimes treated him poorly, instead of showing sympathy. Outrageous tabloid tales made it into even the most respectable of venues, including Life magazine. "I drink Sharon's blood," he scoffed, when some press reports depicted the couple as wild and crazy and, perhaps, somehow deserving of a twisted, bleak fate. ("Live Freaky, Die Freaky" was one of the headlines.) Later, he successfully sued Vanity Fair for libel.

During the Manson Family legal proceedings, he gave a press conference excoriating the media, and accused the press of fabricating reports for "selfish reasons." They "wrote horrible things about my wife," he said, tearfully. "The last few years I spent with her were the only time of true happiness in my life."

Roman Polanski
Roman Polanski

But Polanski's avant-garde contempt for the middlebrow and traditional which had made him a successful director now boomeranged. In the early days of the legal proceedings, Johnny Carson's monologue, a reliable barometer of public opinion gave a clear indication that the media were not going to wink at the bad boy's mischief this time. Polanski's next movie would be called, joshed the comedian, "Close Encounters with the Third Grade."

"Polanski the Predator," was swiftly becoming the default media narrative.

In many ways he was a perfect media villain. A foreigner, who looked kind of funny with a weaselly or ferret-like appearance, he was short, he was cocky, and continued to go about his business as if nothing of significance had happened. His nonchalance infuriated people, including, eventually the judge in the case. "I am not guilty, so why should I act guilty?" he would say. He was not known for his modesty and he was considered an extremely demanding and frustrating perfectionist on the set.

"Roman was the perfect villain. He was a foreigner. He had a thick accent. He made lots of money in the movie business," said producer Daniel Melnick in Wanted and Desired.

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