The woman Roman Polanski raped 26 years ago may be the key to his getting an Academy Award this year.
Samantha Geimer, whom Polanski had sex with when she was 13 and he was 43, has gone on a public campaign recently to tell her side of the story. A few weeks ago, Geimer did Good Morning America with Diane Sawyer. On Sunday, she wrote an op-ed piece for the Los Angeles Times. On Monday night, she appeared on Larry King Live.
In all instances, Geimer insisted that what happened between them should not affect what people think of Polanski's movie, The Pianist. Her theme: separate the man from the heinous act, even though the heinous act happened to Geimer at such a tender age.
That's pretty magnanimous, huh?
It was only Feb. 2, three weeks ago, that Geimer participated anonymously in another story in the Los Angeles Times on the same subject. So what's the upside for a 39-year-old mother of three to out herself as Polanski's victim?
I asked her lawyer Larry Silver that yesterday. I pointed out to him that Geimer in fact had done a similar round of publicity in 1997, even though there was no Polanski movie that year.
Silver said, "There appears to be intense curiosity about her. She feels the district attorney ought to abide by the plea bargain agreement and the deal we made years ago. She felt sort of tired of always responding to questions. She said, 'If I feed the interest, maybe it will go away.'"
Silver insists that Geimer has received no payments from anyone for her publicity, although she has been reimbursed for travel expenses. At the Los Angeles Times, one source told me Geimer would be paid for her op-ed piece. Silver says that isn't so.
But Geimer, in fact, has paved the way for Academy Award voters to feel better about voting for a fugitive from the law. When I raised that issue, Silver said, "I can't help that." He says that both Larry King and the Los Angeles Times reached out to Geimer; it wasn't something she solicited. "In fact, they wanted to run the op-ed piece without her name. It took an act of Congress there to get her name on it."
Geimer's actions come at a propitious time for Polanski. The Pianist just won the British Academy Award. He's also been nominated for a Directors Guild Award. On Saturday afternoon, he'll speak to the members of the Guild via satellite before their evening awards ceremony.
Yesterday, Oscar ballots were mailed to Academy members who may be swayed by Geimer.
A CNN spokesman says of their interview, "It was booked for many months before it happened, and had nothing to do with the Oscars." I'm told the Larry King interview was actually meant to come off two weeks ago, but had to be postponed. It's a coincidence, maintain one and all, that the op-ed piece and the TV appearance broke as the Oscar ballots were arriving in voters' mailboxes.
For the record, I know the folks at Focus Features (formerly USA Studios) and they seem to be genuinely mystified by Geimer's actions. It doesn't quite make sense to them either that a mother of three would voluntarily go into the press to discuss her rape -- and pretty much absolve her rapist.
This could result in an upset win for Polanski over Martin Scorsese, whom Miramax is pushing hard to win his first Academy Award (for Gangs of New York).
(In the interest of full disclosure, Miramax is releasing a documentary I co-produced, called Only the Strong Survive on May 2. I also often accept invitations from Focus Features to sit at various industry events. I have also talked to both directors this year. Talking to Polanski was a special thrill, since Chinatown is one my of all time favorite films.)
Friends of Polanski have been trying to help him come back to the United States for years, however. Jack Nicholson's friend, Harry Gittes, the producer of About Schmidt, recently told me for an interview in the new Red Carpet magazine, "Jack is a real good buddy of his. Jack has tried quite a few times to get him back in here. On the golf course and at parties. He's talked to the district attorney."
Warren Beatty is another friend who has tried to help Polanski. And Barry Diller, who sold USA to Universal and still has a hand in the company that's now Focus, was a young Paramount executive when Polanski had his monumental achievement with Chinatown in 1974.
By the way, no matter what Geimer says, the Los Angeles district attorney remains steadfast. If Polanski returns to the U.S., he will be arrested instantly.
Back to the Grammys: I failed to mention my passing conversation with Yoko Ono, who was sitting in the 15th row on the aisle at Madison Square Garden. She was one of several guests who were never identified throughout the evening, including Willem Dafoe, Gavin Rossdale, and Gwyneth Paltrow.
I asked Ono what she thought of the anti-war statements that were being threatened for the evening.
"I took out an ad in the New York Times last week," Ono said. "I'm going to be doing more things like that, to get the word out. Give peace a chance."
There's been a lot of confusion about soft rocker John Mayer since the Grammy show. For one thing, he appeared during his performance in jeans and a T-shirt, giving that "Everyman" look, which the kids like. Backstage, however, Mayer changed into a drop dead gorgeous black-on-black tuxedo.
I don't know the designer, but it was a big deal, let me tell you. Also, for the record, Mayer is not 16 years old. In his acceptance speech, he said something that made people think he was a teenager. I think he meant in his heart, he's a teenager. But he's 26, thank you.
I like Mayer, by the way, but if you want a shock, get a Michael Franks album from the late '70s. Franks was John Mayer before there was John Mayer. And he had catchier songs.