Cannes Film Festival 2013: Jackie Stewart backs Roman Polanski, saying: 'He will always be a friend'

As the controversial director re-releases his 1971 Formula One documentary, its racing-driver star offers his support

Cannes

Sir Jackie Stewart has defended his long-standing friendship with Roman Polanski ahead of the controversial director’s appearance at the Cannes Film Festival this week. In an interview with The Independent, the Scottish Formula One racing champion told how he had stood by the film-maker throughout his court cases concerning his unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor.

“I don’t think you ever should turn your back on a friend,” Stewart said. “The moral side of it I don’t want to comment on. That is Roman’s own business. But I’ve always felt him as a friend and he will always be a friend.”

Stewart and Polanski – the director whose films include Rosemary’s Baby and Chinatown, will be on the red carpet at the festival on Wednesday for the premiere of Weekend of a Champion, a restored and updated version of a documentary Polanski made about Stewart’s attempt to win the Monaco Grand Prix in 1971.

The pair first met when the director was living in London in the late 1960s with his then wife, the American actress Sharon Tate. Polanski occasionally used to watch Stewart race. Stewart had dinner with Polanski and Tate the evening before Tate, too pregnant to fly, left for the US on the Queen Elizabeth II ship. A few weeks later she was murdered in Los Angeles by members of the Charles Manson gang.

Stewart said stars from the world of entertainment and racing went well together: “When you’re at the very top of your game, whether you’re an entertainer or a sportsperson, somehow it is different from being a businessman,” he said.

“There’s an allure about it ... The very good people are very nice to share time with. I admire Roman’s skills. When you meet someone who’s awfully good at what they do and you’re doing something they admire, I think you share an affinity in stretching for excellence – taking that extra step to make something particularly good.”

Weekend of a Champion was produced by Polanski and directed by Frank Simon. However, Stewart remembers that Polanski shot most of the documentary himself. It was also Polanski who decided to revisit the film now. “He’s a brilliant man,” Stewart added. “As a film director and even producer, he is one of the greats of his time … Roman is a stimulating man. He has a fascinating mind.”

The period in which the film is set was one of the most deadly times in Formula One, with drivers such as Jim Clark, Jochen Rindt, Piers Courage and Francois Cevert dying on the track.

“The 1971 Monaco Grand Prix was in the middle of what was by far the most dangerous period in the history of Formula One,” said Stewart. “It was from 1968 till 1973 which happened to be my top, halcyon years. In those days, if you raced for five years, there was a two out of three chance you were going to die – a one out of three that you were going to live.”

Stewart speculates that it was partly the high stakes that made the sport so fascinating and exciting to outsiders like Polanski. “The drivers today are every bit as good as any driver of the past. Fernando Alonso is as good as I ever was, or Niki Lauda was, or Jim Clark was, or Stirling Moss, or Fangio oranybody else. The animal is the same type of person.”

Weekend of a Champion comes three years after the success of the documentary Senna, about the Brazilian motor-racing legend Ayrton Senna.

Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
The party's over: Paul Higgins and Stella Gonet in 'Hope' at the Royal Court

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll as Agnes Brown in the 2014 Mrs Brown's Boys Christmas special

Broadcaster unveils Christmas schedule

TV
Arts and Entertainment
'Irritatingly Disneyfied': fashion vlogger Zoella

books
Arts and Entertainment
Matthew Bell in the new BBC series Posh People: Inside Tatler

Review: Posh journalists just can't get enough of each other

TV
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Look out: Broad shoulders take Idris Elba’s DCI John Luther a long way
tvIdris Elba will appear in two special episodes for the BBC next year
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift is dominating album and singles charts worldwide

music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Kieron Richardson plays gay character Ste Hay in Channel 4 soap Hollyoaks

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Midge Ure and Sir Bob Geldof outside the Notting Hill recording studios for Band Aid 30

music
Arts and Entertainment
Look out: Broad shoulders take Idris Elba’s DCI John Luther a long way
tvIdris Elba will appear in two special episodes for the BBC next year
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden and Edwina Currie are joining the I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! camp
tvThe two new contestants will join the 'I'm A Celebrity' camp after Gemma Collins' surprise exit
News
The late Jimmy Ruffin, pictured in 1974
people
News
Northern Uproar, pictured in 1996
people

Jeff Fletcher found fame in 1990s

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the new Paddington bear review

Review: Paddingtonfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Tony stares at the 'Daddy Big Ears' drawing his abducted son Oliver drew for him in The Missing
tvReview: But we're no closer to the truth in 'The Missing'
Arts and Entertainment
Henry Marsh said he was rather 'pleased' at the nomination
booksHenry Marsh's 'Do No Harm' takes doctors off their pedestal
Arts and Entertainment
All in a day's work: the players in the forthcoming 'Posh People: Inside Tatler'

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne plays Stephen Hawking in new biopic The Imitation Game

'At times I thought he was me'

film
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
One Direction go Fourth: The boys pose on the cover of their new album Four

Review: One Direction, Four

music
Arts and Entertainment
'Game of Thrones' writer George RR Martin

Review: The World of Ice and Fire

books
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Bean will play 'extraordinary hero' Inspector John Marlott in The Frankenstein Chronicles
tvHow long before he gets killed off?
Arts and Entertainment
Some like it hot: Blaise Bellville

music
Arts and Entertainment
A costume worn by model Kate Moss for the 2013 photograph

art
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Len Goodman appeared to mutter the F-word after Simon Webbe's Strictly performance

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T makes his long-awaited return to the London stage
musicReview: Alexandra Palace, London
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

    Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
    Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

    Putin’s far-right ambition

    Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
    Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

    Escape to Moominland

    What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
    Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

    24-Hour party person

    Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
    Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

    A taste for rebellion

    US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches
    Colouring books for adults: How the French are going crazy for Crayolas

    Colouring books for adults

    How the French are going crazy for Crayolas
    Jack Thorne's play 'Hope': What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

    What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

    Playwright Jack Thorne's latest work 'Hope' poses the question to audiences
    Ed Harcourt on Romeo Beckham and life as a court composer at Burberry

    Call me Ed Mozart

    Paloma Faith, Lana del Ray... Romeo Beckham. Ed Harcourt has proved that he can write for them all. But it took a personal crisis to turn him from indie star to writer-for-hire
    10 best stocking fillers for foodies

    Festive treats: 10 best stocking fillers for foodies

    From boozy milk to wasabi, give the food-lover in your life some extra-special, unusual treats to wake up to on Christmas morning
    'I have an age of attraction that starts as low as four': How do you deal with a paedophile who has never committed a crime?

    'I am a paedophile'

    Is our approach to sex offenders helping to create more victims?
    How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

    How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

    Serco given Yarl’s Wood immigration contract despite ‘vast failings’
    Green Party on the march in Bristol: From a lost deposit to victory

    From a lost deposit to victory

    Green Party on the march in Bristol
    Putting the grot right into Santa's grotto

    Winter blunderlands

    Putting the grot into grotto
    'It just came to us, why not do it naked?' London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital

    'It just came to us, why not do it naked?'

    London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital
    In a world of Saudi bullying, right-wing Israeli ministers and the twilight of Obama, Iran is looking like a possible policeman of the Gulf

    Iran is shifting from pariah to possible future policeman of the Gulf

    Robert Fisk on our crisis with Iran