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Biography #2 (for The Pianist)

Born in Paris to Polish parents, Roman Polanski was raised and educated in Poland.

He made his stage acting debut at the age of 14, and performed on the radio show The Merry Gang. Also in his teens, he appeared in several Polish feature films, including Andrzej Wajda's Generation.

He attended art school in Cracow and the National Film School in Lodz, where he directed several short films, including Two Men and a Wardrobe (1958) and When Angels Fall (1959). These short films garnered him awards at various film festivals.

His feature film directorial debut was Knife in the Water (1962), which won the Critics' Prize at the Venice International Film Festival, was nominated for an Academy Award as Best Foreign-Language Film, and made the cover of Time.

Journeying to England, Polanski made his first English-language feature, Repulsion (1965), starring Catherine Deneuve. The film earned the Silver Bear Award at the Berlin International Film Festival, while Polanski's next British feature, Cul-de-Sac (1966) won the Golden Bear Award at the same festival the following year.

He played a lead role in his next British film, The Fearless Vampire Killers (1967), before coming to America to make Rosemary's Baby (1968), starring Mia Farrow. That film brought him an Academy Award nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay and earned Ruth Gordon the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress.

Polanski returned to Europe to direct Jon Finch and Francesca Annis in his adaptation (co-written with Kenneth Tynan) of Shakespeare's Macbeth (1971). His next film, What? (1972; a.k.a. Diary of Forbidden Dreams) starred Marcello Mastroianni.

He went back to Hollywood to make Chinatown (1974), which won the Golden Globe Award for Best Picture [Drama]. Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway starred in the film, which was nominated for 11 Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director, winning Best Original Screenplay for Robert Towne's script.

Back in Europe, Polanski next helmed The Tenant (1976), in which he starred with Isabelle Adjani; and Tess (1979), which was adapted from Thomas Hardy's Tess of the D'Urbervilles. The film, starring Nastassja Kinski, earned 6 Academy Award nominations, including one for Best Director. It won 3 Oscars: Cinematography, Art Direction, and Costume Design.

His autobiography, Roman by Polanski, published in 1984, was a best-seller in several languages.

Polanski subsequently directed Pirates (1986), starring Walter Matthau; and Frantic (1988), starring Harrison Ford and Emmanuelle Seigner.

Seigner also starred for him, alongside Peter Coyote, Hugh Grant, and Kristin Scott Thomas, in Bitter Moon (1992). Later in the decade, he made Death and the Maiden (1994), starring Sigourney Weaver, Ben Kingsley, and Stuart Wilson; and The Ninth Gate (1999), starring Johnny Depp, Lena Olin, and Seigner.

In addition to directing for the screen, Polanski has directed stage and opera productions. He directed Alban Berg's Lulu, at the Spoleto Festival; Verdi's Rigoletto, at the Munich Opera; and Offenbach's Tales of Hoffmann, at the Paris Opera Bastille.

In 1981, he directed and starred in a production of Peter Shaffer's Amadeus that was first staged in Warsaw and then in Paris. In 1988, he played the lead role in Steven Berkoff's stage adaptation of Franz Kafka's Metamorphosis. In 1996, he directed Fanny Ardant in a production of Terrence McNally's Master Class.

Also in 1996, Polanski directed a musical comedy production, Tanz Der Vampire, in Vienna, which was based in part on his 1967 movie The Fearless Vampire Killers.

In a rare latter-day lead acting role, Polanski starred opposite Gerard Depardieu in Giuseppe Tornatore's A Pure Formality (1994). He also recently starred in Andrzej Wajda's Zemsta [The Vengeance] (2002).

He became a member of the Institute De France's Académie Des Beaux-Arts in 1999 (succeeding the late Marcel Carné). He is the 2002 recipient of the Golden Scepter, awarded by the Foundation of Polish Culture.

Bio courtesy Focus Features for "The Pianist" (01-Jan-2003)


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