Polish-born French film director, screenwriter, and actor.
Born in Paris to Polish parents, Polanski grew up in Poland (his parents having returned there when he was three) but later became a French citizen. His films undoubtedly reflect the fear and insecurity of his traumatic childhood. His parents were incarcerated in German concentration camps, where his mother subsequently died, and the eight-year-old Polanski was left to fend for himself, drifting from family to family. After the war, reunited with his father, he returned to Kraców and at fourteen began his acting career in the theatre. He attended the film school of Łódź and appeared in such films as Pokolenie (1954; A Generation) and Lotna (1959). He also directed several shorts, one of which, Two Men and a Wardrobe (1958), won the competition for experimental films at the World's Fair, Brussels.
His first feature film as director was Knife in the Water (1962), which won a prize at the Venice Film Festival. Since then he has worked abroad, directing such notable films as Repulsion (1965) and Cul de Sac (1966), both of which won prizes at the Berlin Film Festival, Rosemary's Baby (1968), and Macbeth (1971). For Chinatown (1974) he received a Society of Film and TV Arts best director award and for Tess (1979) the Golden Globe. He left the USA for France in 1977 after being charged with a sexual offence against an underaged girl. His subsequent films include Pirates (1985), Frantic (1988), Bitter Moon (1992), and Death and the Maiden (1994). In 1981 he directed and starred in his own Warsaw production of Peter Shaffer's play Amadeus.
Polanski's second wife, actress Sharon Tate (1943–69), whom he married in 1968, died tragically, the victim of a bizarre murder.
Subjects: Contemporary History (Post 1945).