‘Polanski abused me at 16’ claims Charlotte Lewis
But her story does not square with earlier interviews given after filming ‘Pirates’
Friends and supporters of the film director Roman Polanski have leapt to his defence after a little-known British actress, Charlotte Lewis, claimed at a press conference in Los Angeles that Polanski sexually abused her when she was 16 years old and seeking a part in his 1986 film, Pirates.
She made the claim in the light of Polanski's attempt to resist extradition from Switzerland to the US where he still faces sentencing for a 1977 underage sex case.
Lewis said she wanted to tell her story because it showed that the earlier case, involving the 13-year-old American girl Samantha Geimer, was not an isolated incident, as his lawyers have claimed.
"Mr Polanski knew I was only 16 years old when he met me and forced himself upon me in his apartment in Paris," Lewis said. "He took advantage of me and I have lived with the effects of his behaviour ever since it occurred."
Lewis, now 42 and living in north London with her son, claims she travelled to France with an older girlfriend, Eliza, to meet Polanski in 1983. He had already been living in exile in Paris for more than five years following the Geimer incident.
According to Lewis, Polanski invited the two young women for drinks at his home on the Avenue Montaigne. He then insisted that they check out of their hotel because it was, in his view, substandard, and move into a neighbouring apartment he owned.
After dinner, claims Lewis, her friend went back to the apartment while she stayed chatting with the director in his living room. "We were drinking Moet and Chandon, I'll never forget that," Lewis told the Mail on Sunday following Friday's press conference. "I still can't drink that champagne to this day."
She claims Polanski asked her to stay the night with him. "He tried to kiss me and touch my breasts," said Lewis. "I pulled away and told him that I had a boyfriend, which wasn't true. It was an excuse, but he didn't care.
"He just said very coldly, 'If you're not a big enough girl to have sex with me, you're not big enough to do the screen test. I must sleep with every actress that I work with, that's how I get to know them, how I mould them'."
Lewis said she cried and insisted she didn't want to sleep with him. "He was 50 and I found him disgusting... He was short and stout and very strong."
However, having conferred with her friend Eliza, and feeling concerned that she was letting a professional opportunity slip away, she decided to go back. "Roman opened the door and led me to the bedroom," she claimed. They spent the night together.
Lewis says she has given her story to investigators involved in the ongoing attempt to extradite Polanski from Switzerland, where he has been held under house arrest in Gstaad since local police arrested him at Zurich airport in September 2009.
However, Lewis's story does not square with previous interviews she has given about the making of Pirates and her friendship with the director.
In 1986, for instance, at the time of the film's release, she said of
Polanski: "I found him very attractive, I'd love to have had a romantic relationship with him and a physical one. You can't help falling in love with him. But he didn't want me that way."
By 1999 she had changed her story somewhat. She claimed that she had had a relationship with Polanski but said it began after she had been been cast in the film.
"I wanted him probably more than he wanted me," she told her interviewer, saying that she and Polanski were lovers for six months before they began filming Pirates. According to the Mail on Sunday, she claimed afterwards that she had been misquoted.
Her new version of events has prompted the media to ask whether her relatively unsuccessful career following Pirates might have needed a boost. Sporadic roles have included a part opposite Eddie Murphy in the forgettable film The Golden Child and one episode of Seinfeld, and nothing since Hey DJ in 2003.
One member of the media asked at Friday's press conference whether she was "shopping for a book deal". Her lawyer, the LA celebrity attorney Gloria Allred, who has been in the headlines recently representing two of Tiger Woods's former mistresses, Rachel Uchitel and Joslyn James, replied simply: "Next question".
Lewis's allegations have got short shrift from Polanski's supporters in Paris. The French philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy rejected them out of hand and France's Culture Minister, Frederic Mitterrand, dismissed them as "pseudo accusations".
Woody Allen, in Cannes for the premiere of his new film, You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger, was asked by the French radio station RTL about the latest claims against his fellow director. He replied: "He's an artist, he's a nice person, he did something wrong and he paid for it.
"They [his critics] are not happy unless he pays the rest of his life. They would be happy if they could execute him in a firing squad... Enough is enough." ·
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