The French actress Emmanuelle Seigner has rejected an invitation to become a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences – the body that votes for the Oscars – to protest against its treatment of her husband, the Oscar-winning director Roman Polanski.
Polanski – and the comic actor Bill Cosby – were the first people ever to be expelled from the Academy, because of convictions for sexual offences. The pair were kicked out of the organisation for breaching a new code of conduct, introduced in response to the #MeToo campaign, prompted by allegations of sexual assault against the disgraced producer Harvey Weinstein – a code of conduct brought in decades after they committed their offences.
In 1977, Polanski – who’s now 84 – struck a plea bargain with the authorities in Los Angeles, under which he admitted to unlawful sex with a 13 year old girl; he was told by the judge that the six weeks he’d spent in custody for psychiatric evaluation was all the time he would have to serve, but he fled the country when he was told that the judge had changed his mind and would send him to prison for decades. The director has not returned to the US since then, because he’ll face arrest.
Seigner was one of 928 people invited to join the Academy last month. Since the earlier #OscarsSoWhite campaign, the Academy has pledged to increase the diversity of its membership by ensuring that larger proportions of its new members are women or from ethnic minority backgrounds.
But writing in a French newspaper, Le Journal du Dimanche, the actress – who’s starred in a number of her husband’s films, including Frantic and Based on a True Story – accused the Academy of insufferable hypocrisy. “How can I ignore the fact that a few weeks go, the Academy expelled my husband, Roman Polanski, in an attempt to appease the zeitgeist – the very same Academy which in 2002 awarded him an Oscar for The Pianist! A curious case of amnesia!” she argued. “The Academy probably thinks I am enough of a spineless, social climbing actress that I would forget that I have been married for the past 29 years to one of the world’s greatest directors,” she continued.
Seigner said she felt offended by the offer to join the Academy, so soon after her husband was expelled. “As for the members of the Academy, I have only one thing to say to them,” she concluded. “This is one woman you won’t have.”