“It’s an unpleasant memory… [but] I can live with it”
In 1977 Roman Polanski was a successful film director, living in America. He suggested that he photograph “sexy, pert and thoroughly human” teenage girls for Vogue Hommes. A friend passed him the number of Samantha Jane Geimer (then known as Samantha Galley), the 13-year-old sister of his current girlfriend.
After a brief meeting in February 1977 Polanski took the girl to the hills in San Fernando where he photographed her in various outfits and topless. At 4pm on 10 March 1977 Polanski returned for a second shoot and then drove Samantha to the Mullholland Drive home of the actress Jacqueline Bisset for more photographs. On the journey Samantha told Polanski that she loved champagne and Quaaludes and that she had lost her virginity aged eight. Polanski took some pictures by Bisset’s swimming pool. Realizing that he needed more shots, Polanski moved to the home of Jack Nicholson, also on Mullholland Drive. Both Nicholson and his then girlfriend, Anjelica Huston, were away from home.
Polanski took more pictures of the teenager and according to him she was happy to be seen naked. He then took more photographs in Nicholson’s Jacuzzi and then went for a swim after which Samantha told him that her asthma was giving her problems. They went into Nicholson’s television room where they had sex.
The next day the Los Angeles police arrested Polanski for rape. Polanski was initially charged with furnishing a controlled substance — methaqualone — to a minor, committing a lewd or lascivious act upon a child under 14, perversion, sodomy, engaging in unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor and rape by use of drugs. His lawyer plea-bargained to the lesser charge of engaging in unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor after Polanski pleaded guilty on 9 August 1977 — the ninth anniversary of the death of his second wife Sharon Tate (search the related post).
12850 Mullholland Drive, Los Angeles, California, USA
Thursday 10 March 1977
On 1 February 1978 Polanski fled to London and the next day to France, where he has remained ever since because he has French citizenship (he was born in Paris) and because that country does not extradite its own citizens.
In 2003 Samantha Geimer said, “Straight up, what he did to me was wrong. But I wish he would return to America so the whole ordeal can be put to rest for both of us. I’m sure if he could go back, he wouldn’t do it again. He made a terrible mistake but he’s paid for it.” Five years later, she added, “I think he’s sorry, I think he knows it was wrong. I don’t think he’s a danger to society. I don’t think he needs to be locked up forever and no one has ever come out ever besides me – and accused him of anything. It was 30 years ago now. It’s an unpleasant memory… [but] I can live with it.”