Roman Polanski’s Italian producer, Luca Barbareschi, took the opportunity at the Venice press conference for “The Palace,” Polanski’s latest black comedy, to criticize U.S. streamers for not supporting the controversial director. Barbareschi pointed out that Polanski’s back catalog, which includes films such as “Chinatown,” “The Ghostwriter,” and “Rosemary’s Baby,” is available on many U.S. platforms, yet the streamers have not invested in his latest production.
Barbareschi questioned why major platforms like Paramount+, Amazon, and Netflix, who are making millions from Polanski’s older movies, have not chosen to produce his new film. “The Palace” is set at Switzerland’s Gstaad Palace luxury hotel and examines the interactions between the hotel’s serving staff and the phenomenally wealthy guests in the run-up to a New Year’s Eve party to ring in the new millennium. The film boasts an ensemble cast including Mickey Rourke, John Cleese, Fanny Ardant, Oliver Masucci, Joaquim de Almeida, and Milan Peschel.
However, Barbareschi revealed that financing for the €21 million ($22 million) movie was “very difficult” to secure. Polanski’s controversial reputation has made it challenging to attract financial support. While several European distributors have pre-bought the film, securing a deal in France has proven unusually difficult. French distributors, a reliable market for Polanski films, have passed on “The Palace.”
This rejection from his home country is unprecedented for the director. Polanski, who currently lives in France, has consistently enjoyed box office success there. His last feature, “An Officer and a Spy,” grossed nearly $12 million in France. However, the premiere of “Officer and a Spy” in 2019 brought renewed attention to the director’s past.
In 1978, Polanski pleaded guilty to having unlawful sex with a 13-year-old girl. Before he could be sentenced, he fled the country and has remained a fugitive from U.S. justice ever since. Despite the controversy surrounding his personal life, “An Officer and a Spy” won the Grand Jury prize at the Venice Film Festival and Polanski himself went on to win Best Director at the 2020 Cesar Awards, France’s equivalent of the Oscars.
However, his Cesar win was met with backlash. French actor Adele Haenel, the star of “Portrait of a Lady on Fire,” walked out of the ceremony in protest, triggering an industry outcry over the decision. The public outcry and continued controversy surrounding Polanski have led many distributors to be cautious about acquiring his films.
As a result, “An Officer and a Spy” was not released in any English-speaking countries. Similarly, “The Palace” currently has no distribution in place for the U.S. or the U.K. The controversy surrounding Polanski has made it difficult for his work to find an audience beyond those willing to overlook his personal history.
Despite the challenges, Barbareschi remains optimistic. He believes in the quality of Polanski’s work and hopes that the film will eventually find distribution in France and other territories. Barbareschi reminded the press that Polanski is a seasoned filmmaker with an impressive body of work and that it’s unjust for his latest film to be disregarded due to his personal controversies.
Luca Barbareschi’s criticism of U.S. streamers for not supporting Polanski’s latest film speaks to the ongoing debate surrounding the separation of art and artist. While Polanski’s personal actions are undeniably troubling, his contributions to cinema cannot be ignored. Whether or not Polanski’s work should continue to be celebrated and promoted is a question that remains contentious and subjective.
Ultimately, it will be up to distributors and audiences to decide whether they are willing to separate the art from the artist and support the release of “The Palace” and future Polanski projects. In the ever-evolving landscape of the film industry, the debate surrounding controversial filmmakers will undoubtedly continue, challenging the notion of who deserves opportunities and who should be left behind in the realm of cinema.