When In Roman:
Column Inches #13 in Hollywood

by Tony Phillips

Vanity Fair honch Graydon Carter does such a wonderful job talking out of both sides of his mouth, it wouldn’t come as a surprise to learn a tech from Bose takes care of his dental needs. In his letter introducing this month’s issue, fronted by a topless Paris Hilton, Carter dishes his defense of a UK libel suit brought on by Academy Award-winner Roman Polanski for a profile of New York eatery Elaine’s in which Carter’s writer claimed Polanski used the restaurant as a venue to hit on a model en route to his wife Sharon Tate’s funeral in Los Angeles.

Carter reports Polanski won his suit, but in a remarkable show of sour grapes exhumes the decades-old scandal in which Polanski plead guilty to having unlawful intercourse with a female under the age of 18, fleeing the US before sentencing. Carter asserts anyone with a skeleton of such magnitude in their closet must also have a rep incapable of being further besmirched. Great, can’t wait for their next Michael Jackson cover.

The galling part is Carter then gushes over Hilton, taking credit for introducing her to the world — stomach in, tits out— in the pages of his magazine! Excuse me, but how old was the teenage Paris then exactly? Certainly “under the age of 18.” And what exactly did Hilton mean when referring to her own 2003 sex scandal, “I don't even really remember filming it,” adding, “I was so out of it in that tape.” Forget about Elaine’s, where’s the 5,000 word Vanity Fair celebration of Quaaludes already?

A much more balanced portrait of Polanski emerged over lunch with his Academy Award-winning screenwriter of The Pianist, Ronald Harwood, who swung through town with the rest of the Oliver Twist posse, sans Polanski, of course, to talk about his adaptation of the Charles Dickens’ classic charting a homeless ragamuffin Michael Jackson, and children of all ages, can enjoy.

“He calls me ‘the writer’ and always agrees with me,” Harwood says of Polanski, which is always very dodgy. He says everything in extremes. ‘That’s terrible! That’s great!’ But all in the same inflections,” Harwood relays, dropping his own South African-born, London-stewed accent and giving Polanski’s thick Eastern European one a go.

Harwood rose to prominence chronicling his indenture to Sir Donald Wolfit, which he turned into a book, play and Oscar-nominated screenplay The Dresser. His work adapting Dickens happened in a slightly different fashion. “One day Roman phoned from a restaurant in Paris,” Harwood remembers, “and said, ‘What about Oliver Twist?’ He’d been reading it to his children. He’s got to be with it for two-and-a-half-years, so he has to be excited about it. But Roman told me he has to get an erection when he reads it.”

“He’s had an extraordinary life,” Harwood continues, “this little boy who escaped the ghetto in Krakow and didn’t know he was Jewish until after the war. There are certain echoes in this I can’t help feeling have something profoundly to do with him.”

Before losing our erection, we sat down with another director ex-pating in Paris, Lausanne-based Lionel Baier, as he readied gay festival hit Garcon Stupide for release. We have Baier to thank for the summer’s first film about a chocolate factory worker who doesn’t look like Anna Wintour.

Baier, in fact, hasn’t seen Charlie and the Chocolate Factory yet and says, “I put the chocolate factory in the film because Pierre actually works there.” Pierre would be Pierre Chatagny, the titular “stupid boy” who tracked Baier down after a newspaper interview revealed he wanted non-professional actors for his next film. So much for stupid. “He was too young at the time,” the director laughs, “but he was persistent.”

Another full-time Parisian director who would also cop to persistent is Francois Ozon, the enfant terrible behind 8 Women, Under The Sand and the recent, reverse-divorce chronicle 5x2. Ozon came through town for his career retrospective at Queen’s Museum of the Moving Image. “It’s very strange for me because I feel young,” says the director still this side of 40, “I don’t have the feeling that it’s the end of my career. Usually a retrospective is when you’re dead.”

And Ozon is anything but, having just shown his latest feature, Le Temps qui reste, with the inimitable Jean Moreau, to raves in Cannes. One could mistake him for a Heidi Slimane model if he wasn’t behind the camera. So, any truth to 5x2 being born of his own recent breakup? “I leaved a big separation just before the film,” Ozon reveals, “so maybe it helped me.” Or maybe we can help him? “No,” the short-tied, long-cuffed fashionista laughed, “I am no more single.”

“There are no unreachable actors in France,” claim Parisian-based husband and husband team Olivier Ducastel and Jacques Martineau, readying their NewFest winner Cote d’Azur for release. Olivier relays the story of a friend who just cast France’s answer to Robert De Niro, Daniel Auteuil, while Jacques begins to goof on Julia Roberts, neither of whom appear in their frothy summer romance.

“What can we say?” Olivier asks of all the outdoor sex permeating both Cote and past festival hit Adventures of Felix.“It’s ideal.” As to the division of labor between this working pair, Jacques jokes, “He does the cooking and I clean up the house.” He takes a writerly beat before adding, “I’m the writer.” Taking in his taller, blonder partner, the more intense Olivier adds, “He’s the writer, but I’m the one that says, ‘You should write!’ He’s a little lazy.” Not exactly disagreeing, Jacques sums, “Laziness is a very important part of the process.”