Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 22 May 2019

Roman Polanski files court case against Oscars body to win back membership

The disgraced director was expelled from the Oscars organisation after sexual abuse allegations came to light

Roman Polanski is suing to get back in to the Academy as a member, after being ousted due to sexual misconduct allegations. AFP
Roman Polanski is suing to get back in to the Academy as a member, after being ousted due to sexual misconduct allegations. AFP

Roman Polanski asked a judge on Friday to restore his membership in the organisation that bestows the Academy Awards nearly a year after he was expelled from it for sexual misconduct.

Lawyers for the 85-year-old fugitive director petitioned Los Angeles Superior Court to compel the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to make him a member in good standing again.

In May, the academy made the rare move of expelling Polanski and Bill Cosby, months after ending the membership of disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein.

Polanski appealed the decision, and in January the academy rejected his appeal.

In this combination photo, Bill Cosby speaks to an audience on the campus of University of the District of Columbia in Washington on May 16, 2006 , left, and director Roman Polanski appears at the photo call for the film, "Based On A True Story," at the 70th international film festival, Cannes, southern France on May 27, 2017. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Board of Governors has voted to expel Cosby and Polanski from its membership. The film academy said Thursday that its board of governors met Tuesday night and voted on their status in accordance with their Standards of Conduct. (AP Photo)
Bill Cosby and Polanski have both had their Academy memberships revoked. AP Photo

'Fair and reasonable'

Friday's five-page filing states that by not giving Polanski sufficient notice of his expulsion, and not giving he or his lawyer to argue his case in person during the appeal, the academy "failed to comply with its own rules, policies and regulations."

The academy responded with a brief statement saying, "The procedures taken to expel Mr. Polanski were fair and reasonable. The Academy stands behind its decision as appropriate."

The filing also alleges that the expulsion violated a California law that requires corporations to give a fair hearing before removing a member, calling it a "prejudicial abuse of discretion."

Polanski's attorney Harland Braun said at the time that Polanski was "blindsided" by his removal, and learned of it through media reports.

The filing says that the Academy's decision is final and the director has no recourse for reconsideration outside of the courts.

Support for Polanski

Samantha Geimer, a woman who was abused by Polanski when she was 13 years old, told The Blast that she believes the disgraced director should be reinstated into the Academy as a member. While she's been outspoken about the situation that occurred in 1977, she said she believes he's "served his time", and they've both suffered enough over the incident.

“I agree that it doesn’t sound like they followed the rules when they expelled him,” she said, adding he should be reinstated “if that’s what he wants”.

Remains a fugitive

Polanski, who won a best director Oscar for The Pianist in 2003, remains a fugitive after pleading guilty to unlawful relations with a minor in 1977 and fleeing the United States the following year. He has been living in Europe since.

He had been an Academy member for nearly 50 years at the time of his expulsion, and his films had been nominated for 28 Oscars.

But he had long been one of the organisation's more divisive members. At the 2003 ceremony, Polanski's win – his first – received a standing ovation. He was not in attendance. He'd previously been nominated for writing his adaptation of Rosemary's Baby, and directing Chinatown and Tess.

Polanski's ousting from the group means he can no longer vote for nominees and winners, but he and his films can still win Oscars.

'Compromise the integrity'

After expelling Weinstein, the Academy implemented revised standards of conduct for its more than 8,400 members. The standards said the organisation is no place for "people who abuse their status, power or influence in a manner that violates standards of decency."

The code allowed the academy's board to suspend or expel those who violate the code of conduct or who "compromise the integrity" of the academy.

There have been no reports of Weinstein or Cosby appealing their expulsions from the academy.

Before Weinstein, only one person is thought to have been expelled from the Academy: Carmine Caridi, a character actor who had his membership revoked in 2004 for lending DVD screeners of films in contention for Oscars.

Updated: April 22, 2019 01:27 AM

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