Roman Polanski thanks the Academy. The ''Pianist'' director sends a belated statement from Paris, since his statutory rape case kept him from attending the Oscars

By Gary Susman
Updated March 25, 2003 at 05:00 AM EST
Roman Polanski: Anatoly Maltsev/AFP/Newscom

Roman Polanski, whose Best Director win was one of the biggest surprises of Oscar night, gave a brief, heartfelt acceptance speech — a day late, and from thousands of miles away from Hollywood. ”I am deeply moved to be rewarded for the work which relates to the events so close to my own life, the events that led me to comprehend that art can transform pain. I believe this still holds true today,” he said in a statement. ”My most heartfelt thanks to the members of the Academy for this wonderful award.”

Of course, Polanski couldn’t attend the ceremony, since he’d have been arrested as soon as he set foot in the United States on charges of statutory rape dating back 25 years. He watched the Oscar show from a suite in the Plaza Hotel in Paris, according to Variety gossip columnist Army Archerd, but he almost missed his own party when his 5-year-old son Elvis took a spill and had to be taken to the hospital to get his forehead stitched up. Nor could he receive congratulations from well-wishers, as his answering machine was broken.

Polanski’s victory (and those of ”Pianist” star Adrien Brody and screenwriter Ronald Harwood) meant that Oscar voters were able to separate the filmmaker’s accomplishment from his sordid past, the film’s distributor told the New York Times. ”The two things are completely unrelated,” said James Schamus on Monday. ”What the academy did last night was recognize the greatest achievement in directing this year. They did not pass judgment on any other aspect of Roman Polanski.”