Film director Roman Polanski is threatening to sue the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences after it voted to expel him from its ranks, arguing that the move was illegal and demanding a fair hearing.
In a letter sent to the academy this week, a copy of which was obtained by AFP, Polanski’s attorney Harland Braun said the body that hands out the Oscars had failed to follow proper procedure in deciding to expel his client without a hearing, as required by law.
“We are not here contesting the merits of the expulsion decision, but rather your organization’s blatant disregard of its own Standards of Conduct in, as well its violations of the standards required by California Corporations Code, Section 7341,” California-based Braun wrote in the letter sent on Tuesday.
He added that the 84-year-old Oscar-winning director of “Rosemary’s Baby” had “acknowledged his legal and moral responsibility” in the 1977 sexual assault case against then 13-year-old Samantha Geimer and that she had accepted his apology and appeared in court to support him.
The academy’s board of governors, which includes some of the biggest names in the industry -- among them Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks -- last week voted to expel Polanski and disgraced comedian Bill Cosby.
New standards of conduct
The decision was in line with the organization’s new standards of conduct adopted following the sexual harassment scandals that have shaken the industry and given rise to the #MeToo movement.
Braun said the only notice Polanski had received from the academy was an unsigned letter informing him he was expelled.
“I hope that the Academy understands Mr Polanski only asks for a fair hearing to present his side of all the issues which will also provide members who support expulsion a forum (to) argue their position,” Braun said in his letter addressed to the academy’s president John Bailey.
Bailey could not be immediately reached for comment on Wednesday.
Polanski, who lives in France, this week dismissed the #MeToo Movement as “mass hysteria” and “hypocrisy” in an interview with Newsweek Polska.
“I think this is the kind of mass hysteria that occurs in society from time to time,” Polanski, who holds dual Polish and French citizenship, told the weekly when asked what he thinks of the movie industry’s recent reckoning with sexual misconduct.
“Sometimes it’s very dramatic, like the French Revolution or the St Bartholomew’s Day massacre in France, or sometimes it’s less bloody, like 1968 in Poland or McCarthyism in the US,” he added.
“Everyone is trying to back this movement, mainly out of fear... I think it’s total hypocrisy.”
Polanski in 1977 pleaded guilty to unlawful sex with Geimer.
However, he fled the United States after learning that the judge in the case planned to sentence him to a harsher prison term than that agreed upon in a plea deal.