Biography of Roman Polanski

Roman Polanski is a French-Polish director. He has been nominated for several Academy Awards, won the César Award in France, and the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival. While he is a celebrated filmmaker, his reputation as an artist has more recently been overshadowed by his arrest for drugging and raping a minor.

Polanski was born in Paris to a Jewish father and a Russian Roman Catholic mother. After a brief time in Paris, the Polanskis moved to Krakow in Poland, where they were ghettoized along with other Jewish families during the German Nazi occupation. This experience was extremely impactful for the young Polanski, who would one day use many of his experiences to inform his filmmaking.

Polanski was very interested in filmmaking at a very young age. His favorite film was Odd Man Out, from 1947, made by Carol Reed. After a brief acting career, Polanski made his first film, Knife in the Water, which brought him international attention. In 1965, he made Repulsion, starring Catherine Deneuve. In 1966, he made Cul-de-sac, and in 1967, he made The Fearless Vampire Killers/Dance of the Vampires.

Polanski's first American film is perhaps his most famous, 1968's Rosemary's Baby, starring Mia Farrow and John Cassavetes, about a young woman in New York who gets impregnated by the devil. In 1969, Roman Polanski's wife, Sharon Tate, was murdered at his home in Los Angeles by the followers of Charles Manson, while Polanski was in London shooting a film. In 1970, Polanski made a film of Macbeth, in 1973, he made What?, and in 1974 he made Chinatown, which was nominated for 11 Academy Awards.

In 1979, he made Tess, in memory of Sharon Tate, who suggested that Tess of the d'Urbervilles would make a great film. Throughout the 1980s, he directed Pirates, Frantic, Bitter Moon, Death and the Maiden, The Ninth Gate, The Pianist, which won the Palme d'Or at Cannes and earned Polanski Best Director at the Academy Awards. In 2005, Polanski made an adaptation of Oliver Twist, followed by The Ghost Writer, Carnage, Venus in Fur, Based on a True Story, and An Officer and a Spy.

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 is a 2002 film by Roman Polanski based on the true story of Wladyslaw Szpilman's survival during the German occupation of Warsaw in 1942. It was directed by Roman Polanski and written by Ronald Harwood, and it met with widespread...

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...