LOS ANGELES – Oscar-nominated director Roman Polanski may be living in exile, but many in Tinseltown want him to come back stateside to claim credit for his recent work.
His latest film, The Pianist, has garnered rave reviews as well as Oscar nods for best picture and best director. Now, there seems to be a movement to get the moviemaker -- who has been a fugitive since 1977 when he fled the country following a statutory rape conviction -- back to the U.S. to revel in his success in time for the Academy Awards on March 24.
Even Samantha Geimer, the victim of the statutory rape – now a grown mother of three – has spoken out in support of the director.
"No one needs to worry about me.... Mr. Polanski and his film should be honored according to the quality of the work," Geimer wrote in the Los Angeles Times. "I think that the Academy members should vote for the movies they feel deserve it. Not for people they feel are popular."
And some say this support has opened the way for the Academy to cast their Oscar vote for the director.
"Geimer, in fact, has paved the way for Academy Award voters to feel better about voting for a fugitive from the law," wrote foxnews.com's Roger Friedman.
But some Americans aren't as forgiving as Hollywood's elite.
“Yes he’s a fabulous director, you can’t deny that, but then again Adolf Hitler was a fabulous statistician,” said Mark Ellington, a movie fan and law firm manager in Portland, Ore. “There are some things that are forgivable and other things that are not."
Despite his outlaw status, supporters in Hollywood have been rallying around Polanski.
"I would like him to be here but you know it's something out of my hands," The Pianist star Adrien Brody said at the Director's Guild of America Awards last weekend.
And Ron Howard, who directed last year's best picture Oscar winner, A Beautiful Mind, also missed Polanski's presence at the awards.
"I wish he could be here," he said. "He's a brilliant filmmaker and I have a lot of respect for that, but he does have a very legitimate legal predicament and he has to resolve that."
The Guild passed over the fugitive filmmaker for its top honor, which went to Chicago director Rob Marshall, but Polanski did speak at the event via satellite, which some critics say is an example of Hollywood going soft on its own.
"People stood around in awe listening to him…going on and on about his work as a creator," said Tina Dirmann, staff reporter for US Weekly. "[They were] saying, 'He's a genius, he's…created this masterpiece of a film.' Obviously there's a little sympathy out there for him, and admiration."
But Polanski, known for such film classics as Chinatown and Rosemary's Baby, won't be coming to the party – unless he wants to go to jail. Authorities have said they're prepared to arrest the director if he sets foot on U.S. soil.
And many think Polanski should be punished to the full extent of the law.
"Polanski not only broke the law, he also violated the most precious thing in our society, a child," said Michelle D. Miller of Cincinnati, OH in an e-mail to foxnews.com. "His was an extremely ugly crime and Mr. Polanski should pay the price."
The controversy all started in 1977 when Polanski, then 43, was indicted on six criminal counts relating to having sexual relations with the then 13-year-old Samantha Geimer.
Polanski pleaded guilty to one charge of unlawful sexual intercourse. The director had completed 42 days of court-ordered psychiatric observation at a California prison and had been released on bail pending sentencing when he fled to France, where he's lived ever since.
While he can't return to see if the Academy gives him a golden statuette, Polanski is still in the running, although many insiders say Polanski and The Pianist are longshots for the Oscar.
Whether he wins are not, many are not ready to forgive Polanski for his criminal past -- and are appalled at the swelling of support for him.
"I for one will not support Mr. Polanski, nor his ridiculous and misguided friends with my entertainment dollars," said Miller.
Fox News' Amy C. Sims contributed to this report.