In 1997, the filmmaker was charged with five counts of unlawful sexual intercourse against a 13-year-old. Since he faced potential imprisonment and deportation, he fled to France in 1978 where he couldn’t be extradited.
On 26 September 2009, the director was arrested and detained while in Switzerland at the request of US authorities. Portman was one of a number of Hollywood figures - including Martin Scorsese, Woody Allen, and Emma Thompson - who signed a petition calling for his release.
Polanski was jailed in Switzerland for two months, before being put under house arrest at his home in Gstaad; Swiss authorities eventually rejected the request for extradition, releasing Polanski from custody.
In an interview with Buzzfeed, Portman stated that she deeply regrets signing the petition, adding: “I take responsibility for not thinking about it enough. Someone I respected gave it to me, and said, ‘I signed this. Will you too?” And I was like, sure. It was a mistake.”
“The thing I feel like I gained from it is empathy towards people who have made mistakes. We lived in a different world, and that doesn’t excuse anything. But you can have your eyes opened and completely change the way you want to live. My eyes were not open.”
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