A New Assignment and Casting
Polanski had finished working on an ill-received movie, The Tenant, when he got a call from Vogue Hommes magazine. The magazine was a precursor to the lad magazines of today, such as Maxim or FHM. Scantily clad pictures of girls were a commonplace feature. Polanski had shot a cover photo of his rumored paramour Nastassia Kinski, then 15, for French Vogue in 1976, and editor Gerald Azaria asked Polanski to do something similar for Vogue Hommes.
Polanski explained to the editor that he would be aiming to portray these adolescent girls — "as they really are" in the world: "Sexy, pert and thoroughly human."
By adolescents, he and the magazine reportedly understood this to mean 13 or 14-year-old girls. In the sexually anarchic 1970s, this was a proposal which could pass as relatively unexceptionable.
Assignment in hand, he now sought subjects. He met with Henri Sera, a friend and an aspiring singer. A year prior, he and Henri had met a woman named Susan at On the Rox, the upstairs bar inside the Roxy Theatre on the Sunset Strip which was frequented by celebrities like John Belushi, John Lennon and Alice Cooper.
After that meeting, Sera had begun dating one of the woman's daughters, and suggested to Polanski that the younger sister, Samantha Jane Gailey, would be perfect for the shoot. She was an aspiring model and actress.
It was a familiar situation for the director. In Europe, he had met Kinski under similar circumstances — her mother had introduced him to the nubile, aspiring model and actress. His photos had helped launch Kinski's career, and he cast her in the lead role in his controversial Tess.