Roman Polański is one of the most prominent film directors and producers of the modern age. The Pianist is just one of his many successful movies in his career that won three Academy Awards, one of which was for Best Director.
Adrien Brody giving Roman Polanski his jacket, Cannes 2002
Born in Paris in 1933, Polański’s father was Jewish and his mother was half-Jewish. Even though his parents were Polish-Jewish, they lived in France at the time but decided to move back to Poland in 1937 when Polański was only four. After Poland was invaded by the Nazis in 1939, his family was forced to live in the Kraków Ghetto; eventually, both of his parents were taken to different camps.
Polański spent the biggest part of his childhood years alone, struggling to survive the war and pretending to be of Polish heritage so he could survive. After briefly attending school, he was expelled and wasn’t allowed to return to school. The horrors he witnessed during his childhood have largely influenced both his personal and professional life later on.
His father managed to survive the war but his mother didn’t – in fact, he used the memory of his mother as a physical model for one of his movie characters. He also has a half-sister from his mother’s previous marriage, Annette, who somehow managed to survive the Holocaust as well though stayed living in France afterward.
Another event that deeply impacted him – besides growing up during the Holocaust – was the murder of his second wife in 1969, Sharon Tate, who was pregnant at the time. Polański himself described the time with her as the best years of his life.
Polański’s fascination with the cinema began early in his life. After the war ended, he’d used whatever money he had to attend movie nights at his local cinema. His first feature-length movie was Knife in the Water and it earned him a nomination for Best Foreign Language Movie at the Academy Awards. Other popular movies include Rosemary’s Baby, Macbeth, and Chinatown that got nominated for eleven Academy Awards. Later on, he directed Tess, The Ghost Writer, and Oliver Twist. He’s received nominations and awards on notable ceremonies such as the Golden Globe, BAFTA, Césars and a Palme d’Or of the Cannes Film Festival in France.
Having filmed on various locations around the world, he’s earned himself the reputation of an international filmmaker.