Polanski Won a Big Award. They Stood Up–but Not to Clap

Actresses walk out after Polanski, accused of child rape in '70s, wins best director at Cesars in France
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 29, 2020 8:30 AM CST
Polanski Won a Big Award. They Stood Up–but Not to Clap
Noemie Merlant, left, and Adele Haenel pose for photographers during the Cesar Awards ceremony on Friday in Paris. The two actresses walked out of the ceremony after Roman Polanski won best director for "An Officer and a Spy."   (AP Photo/Michel Euler)

(Newser) – France had its version of the Academy Awards Friday night, and, not surprisingly, there was some controversy surrounding Roman Polanski. The 86-year-old director—who didn't attend the Cesars because he was afraid he'd be "lynched," per Reuters—won big, taking home best director for his film An Officer and a Spy, which also won for best costume design and best adaptation. But when some in the audience stood up after his best director award was announced, it wasn't to give him a standing ovation. Instead, multiple actresses walked out, speaking out about the director's win despite the fact that he fled the US decades ago after being convicted of raping a 13-year-old girl. Among those who left in protest: Adele Haenel and Noemie Merlant, stars of the recently released Portrait of a Lady on Fire.

Haenel herself has had a #MeToo accusation, alleging that director Christophe Ruggia sexually abused her when she was a child actress. "Distinguishing Polanski is spitting in the face of all victims," she told the New York Times earlier this month. "It means raping women isn't that bad." The entire 21-person board that oversees the Cesar Awards resigned earlier this month after backlash at Polanski's 12 total nominations. One person sticking up for Polanski: French actress Brigitte Bardot. "We should be thankful that Polanski is alive and saving French cinema from mediocrity," she said on Twitter before the Cesars, per Reuters. "I judge him by his talent, not his private life." Variety notes that because this year's awards were so politically fired up, several French actors and directors were no-shows for the ceremony or declined to present awards. (Read more Roman Polanski stories.)

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