Roman Polanski’s Italian producer Luca Barbareschi got emotional at the press conference for “The Palace,” a black comedy that is the director’s new work and premieres at the Venice Film Festival today.
“It’s been very difficult to make this film,” said Barbareschi, a multi-hyphenate who also stars in “The Palace.” “Polanski is not easy [to finance]” he added, noting that “there is a hole – France – in the middle of this film,” since French companies refused to participate in its production.
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Polanski’s previous film, “An Officer and a Spy,” a period drama about the Dreyfus affair, scooped the Grand Jury Prize at Venice, won best director at the Cesar Awards and was one of the highest grossing French films of 2019. But the film’s Cesar win sparked such a massive scandal in France that it prompted a complete overhaul of the leadership of the awards org.
Now that “The Palace” got made, “We are hoping that the movie will be released in France, because it would be a damage for France [not to have it],” Barbareschi also lamented.
“Hopefully the movie will be bought. I’m seeing the head of Pathè next week; so I hope we will get some good news,” he added. Contacted by Variety, most major French distributors said they were not interested in buying Polanski’s film, pretexting they already have full slates.
“The Palace,” which has a €21 ($22 million) budget, is being sold internationally by French sales company Goodfellas, formerly known as Wild Bunch. They have announced sales to several European territories, including Spain (Vértigo Films), Germany (Weltkino), and Greece (Spentzos), even before its Lido bow.
Barbareschi also said he was also hoping “The Palace” will get a U.S. release and blasted the U.S. streamers for not coming on board the film.
“I don’t understand why all the platforms: Paramount+, Amazon, Netflix, have Polanski’s [older movies] that are making millions for them,” he said. “Why won’t they produce Polanski’s new movie?”
“The Palace,” which is penned by Polanski and Polish writer/director Jerzy Skolimowski, takes place on the eve of the new millennium in a posh hotel in the Swiss resort of Gstaad, where Polanski has a home. It revolves around the dynamics between the hotel’s serving staff and the filthy rich guests staying there in the run-up to a New Year party to usher in the new millennium of 2000. The ensemble cast includes Mickey Rourke, John Cleese and Fanny Ardant.
Barbareschi, who also produced Polanski’s “Officer and a Spy,” which bowed in Venice in 2019, mounted Polanski’s latest work as a co-production between his Eliseo Multimedia banner and Italy’s RAI Cinema, Poland’s Lucky Bob, France’s Rp Productions, Switzerland’s CAB Productions, and Belgium’s AgentDouble.
As the press conference was ending he shouted: “Viva Polanski!”
Polanski, who will turn 90 in August, fled the U.S. in 1978 after pleading guilty to having unlawful sex with a 13-year-old girl. He led a relatively tranquil life in France for decades until he came back into the global spotlight in 2019 with the Lido premiere of “An Officer and a Spy” and scooped the Grand Jury Prize.
Shortly after the Venice bow of “Officer and a Spy,” Polanski faced new allegations of sexual misconduct, which he denies. When he went on to win best director at France’s Cesar Awards, the country’s equivalent of the Oscars, in 2020, industry outcry prompted a complete overhaul of the leadership of the awards org. The scandal sparked the birth of France’s own #MeToo movement, spearheaded by French actor Adele Haenel, the star of “Portrait of a Lady on Fire,” who walked out of the Cesar ceremony upon hearing Polanski’s name.
“An Officer and a Spy” has not played in any English-speaking countries.
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