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.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Freeman as Lester Nygaard in the TV adaptation of 'Fargo'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward Theatre
theatreReview: Shakespeare in Love has moments of sheer stage poetry mixed with effervescent fun
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules

film
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'

film
Arts and Entertainment
<p><strong>2008</strong></p>
<p>Troubled actor Robert Downey Jr cements his comeback from drug problems by bagging the lead role in Iron Man. Two further films follow</p>

film
Arts and Entertainment

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Tycoons' text: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both cite John Brookes' 'Business Adventures' as their favourite book

books
Arts and Entertainment
Panic! In The Disco's Brendon Urie performs on stage

music
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Radio 4's Today programme host Evan Davis has been announced as the new face of Newsnight

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams performing on the Main Stage at the Wireless Festival in Finsbury Park, north London

music
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Mathison returns to the field in the fourth season of Showtime's Homeland

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Crowds soak up the atmosphere at Latitude Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Meyne Wyatt and Caren Pistorus arrive for the AACTA Aawrds in Sydney, Australia

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rick Astley's original music video for 'Never Gonna Give You Up' has been removed from YouTube

music
Arts and Entertainment
Quentin Blake's 'Artists on the beach'

Artists unveils new exhibition inspired by Hastings beach

art
Arts and Entertainment
MusicFans were left disappointed after technical issues
Arts and Entertainment
'Girl with a Pearl Earring' by Johannes Vermeer, c. 1665
artWhat is it about the period that so enthrals novelists?
Arts and Entertainment
Into the woods: The Merry Wives of Windsor at Petersfield
theatreOpen-air productions are the cue for better box-office receipts, new audiences, more interesting artistic challenges – and a picnic
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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.

    Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

    Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

    The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

    Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

    Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
    German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

    Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

    Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
    BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

    BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

    The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
    Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

    Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

    Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
    How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

    Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

    Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
    Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

    Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

    Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
    10 best reed diffusers

    Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

    Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

    Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

    There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
    Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

    Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

    It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
    Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

    Screwing your way to the top?

    Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
    Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

    Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

    Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

    The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

    Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
    US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

    Meet the US Army's shooting star

    Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform