Polanski went on to Hollywood in 1968 and that year made his American debut with the horror classic Rosemary's Baby, his greatest commercial success. In 1969 his pregnant wife, Sharon Tate, and a group of their friends were murdered by members of the Charles Manson
family. Subsequently, Polanski settled in France but returned to the States to make the award-winning noir detective thriller Chinatown (1974). After pleading guilty to statutory rape in 1977, he fled (1978) before sentencing to France, where he had become (1976) a citizen, and has not returned to the United States. In 2009 he was arrested in Switzerland on an outstanding warrant arising from the case and placed under house arrest, but he was not extradited (2010) and was released. A request for extradition from Poland was also denied (2015–16).
Polanski's subsequent films include Tess (1980), based on a Thomas Hardy novel; the thriller Frantic (1988); the erotically compelling Bitter Moon (1992); and Death and the Maiden (1994), based on an Ariel Dorfman play. After a few largely forgettable films, he directed The Pianist (2002), a brooding, intimate, and fear-haunted drama based on the true story of a Holocaust survivor, for which Polanski received an Academy Award. His next major film was The Ghost Writer (2010), a moody contemporary political thriller that combines menace with irony. He also has acted in and written screenplays for a number of his films.
See his autobiography (1984); biographies by T. Kiernan (1981), V. W. Wexman (1985), and C. Sandford (2008); studies by I. Butler (1970), B. Leaming (1981), J. Parker (1993), and D. Bird (2001); A. Corcetti, dir., Roman Polanski: Reflections of Darkness (documentary, 2000); M. Zenovich, dir., Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired (documentary, 2008).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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