Robert Harris says he won't change position on Roman Polanski 'because the fashion has changed'

'Morally, I don't see why I should change my position,' says writer 

Clarisse Loughrey
Sunday 24 June 2018 15:06 BST
Robert Harris on working with Roman Polanski again

Author Robert Harris has said he will not change his position on working with Roman Polanski “because the fashion has changed”.

In 1977, the filmmaker was charged with five counts of unlawful sexual intercourse against a 13-year-old. Facing potential imprisonment and deportation, he moved in 1978 to France, where he could not be extradited.

He and Harris have a history of collaboration – one the author was asked if he would consider renewing in the light of the #MeToo movement that saw a number of prominent male figures in Hollywood and other industries accused of sexual harassment and assault.

“The culture has completely changed,” Harris said.

“And so the question is: ‘Do you then say, OK fine, I follow the culture.’ Or do I say: ‘Well, he hasn’t done anything since then. He won the Oscar, he got a standing ovation in Los Angeles.’

“The zeitgeist has changed. Do you change with it? I don’t know, to be honest with you. Morally, I don’t see why I should change my position because the fashion has changed.”

Harris, who was speaking to The Andrew Marr Show, is best known for his historical fiction. He penned a screenplay adaptation in 2007 of his most famous novel, Pompeii, for Polanski to direct, having previously admitted the director’s film Chinatown had been a major inspiration for the book.

After the project was cancelled, Polanski and Harris co-wrote an adaptation of Harris’ bestseller The Ghost, called The Ghost Writer in the US, which went on to star Ewan McGregor, Olivia Williams, Pierce Brosnan and Kim Cattrall.

The film premiered at the Berlin Film Festival in 2010, where Polanski won the Silver Bear for Best Director.

Harris was inspired to write his novel An Officer and a Spy because of Polanski’s own interest in the Dreyfus affair; in 2012, he had penned a screenplay adaptation which Polanski was also to direct, though the project fell through.

Harris also said that, at the time of making The Ghost: “Nobody said to me: ‘Oh my god, you mustn’t go and work with him.’ Not a soul.

“And he would be having dinner with the French president, and he was travelling all over the world. Only to Britain and America could he not come.”

In response to Harris’s comments, broadcaster Kay Burley wrote on Twitter: “Polanski admitted unlawful sex with a 13-year-old girl in 1977. Was it ‘the fashion’ then? Don’t think so,” while others criticised Marr for not challenging Harris’s comments.

Harris’s comments come after another leading British author, Ian McEwan, attracted controversy for saying he would “withhold judgment” on film producer Harvey Weinstein, who has faced a slew of sexual assault allegations.

McEwan said last month that while Weinstein appeared to be a “moral monster”, he wanted to maintain a “degree of scepticism” about the accusations until they had been heard in court.

Weinstein has denied charges of rape and sexual assault.

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