Biography of Roman Polanski

Roman Polanski was born in Paris in 1933, the son of a French woman and a Polish-Jewish man. The family lived in Krakow in 1936 when the Nazi party began systematically rounding up Jewish families and placing them in ghettoes. He witnessed his father being taken away by Nazi soldiers. Polanski did not escape the Krakow ghettoes until 1943, when he was taken in by a Polish Catholic family and passed himself off as a Catholic.

Polanski's first feature-length film was the Polish-language thriller Knife in the Water (1962), one of the only significant Polish post-war films not explicitly about World War II. His next feature film was the English-language Repulsion (1965), starring Catherine Deneuve as a traumatized Belgian woman who slowly goes insane while left alone inside her apartment. Polanski made two more English-language films—Cul-de-sac (1965) and The Fearless Vampire Killers (1967)—before Paramount executive Robert Evans approached him with the opportunity to direct a Hollywood script of his choice. Responding strongly to Ira Levin's 1967 horror novel Rosemary's Baby, Polanski wrote a 272-page screenplay treatment of the novel over approximately a month, for which he would later be nominated for an Academy Award.

Polanski's most lauded Hollywood films are probably Chinatown (1974), nominated for eleven Academy Awards, and The Pianist (2002), for which Polanski won the Academy Award for Best Director. In 1969, Polanski's wife Sharon Tate was murdered along with four others by followers of Charles Manson in his Los Angeles Home while he was out of town. In 1977, Polanski was arrested at the home of Jack Nicholson for the sexual assault of a thirteen-year old girl he was tasked with photographing for Vogue magazine. In 1978, Polanski fled the United States and has not returned since.


Study Guides on Works by Roman Polanski

What does Chinatown have in common with such disparate and seemingly dissimilar films like All the President’s Men, Three Days of the Condor and Blow-Out? The answer is that each of those film fits within a category—more of a socially relevant...

The Pianist has a deep connection for director Roman Polanski as he escaped the Kraków Ghetto after his mother's death. He was separated from his father during the war and lived on a farm in Poland in hiding while his father endured the Nazi camp...

Rosemary's Baby is a 1968 psychological horror film directed by Roman Polanski, with a screenplay adapted from Ira Levin's best's selling 1967 novel of the same name. It was Polanski's first feature to be distributed by a major Hollywood studio...