Tuesday, July 19, 2005

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Mia Farrow Backs Polanski in Libel Suit Against Vanity Fair

July 19 (Bloomberg) -- Actress Mia Farrow today denied that Roman Polanski tried to seduce a woman at a New York restaurant days after the murder of his wife and unborn child, telling a London court the film director was ``unable to talk about anything'' but the brutal slayings.

Polanski is suing Conde Nast Publications Inc. for libel at the High Court over an article printed by its Vanity Fair magazine, which reported that he told a ``Swedish beauty'' he would ``make another Sharon Tate out of her'' during an August, 1969 dinner with Farrow. Tate, also an actress, was murdered by followers of cult leader Charles Manson earlier that month.

Farrow, the star of films including ``Hannah and Her Sisters'' and ``Rosemary's Baby'' and the former long-term companion of director Woody Allen, today testified that Polanski had ``paid no attention'' to two women flirting with him at the bar before their meal at Elaine's restaurant on New York's Upper East Side.

``I remember it because I remember thinking how inappropriate it was,'' Farrow, 60, told the court. She said the memory of the evening was ``scalded in her mind'' and that the two spent most of their time walking the city's streets, talking about the ``brutality'' of the murders and crime scene details.

Polanski, 71, has appeared in the case via video-link from Paris, where he lives, due to concern that he would be extradited to the U.S. on child sex crime charges if he enters Britain. The director, whose films include ``Chinatown'' and ``The Pianist,'' left the U.S. in 1977 after pleading guilty to underage sex with a 13-year-old girl. He hasn't been sentenced for that offence and, as a French citizen, can't be extradited from France to the U.S.

Polanski yesterday told the court that the article was an ``abominable lie'' and an affront to his honor and the memory of his late wife.

Manson's `Family'

Tate and four of her friends were killed by members of Manson's ``family'' in Bel Air, California while Polanski was in London. Tate was about eight months pregnant at the time. Manson, 70, was convicted of murder in 1971 and is still imprisoned at Corcoran State Prison in California.

Conde Nast, based in New York, denies wrongdoing and is contesting the claim on the grounds that the facts of the story are mostly accurate. Graydon Carter, Vanity Fair's editor, has been present at the trial, which began yesterday.

Polanski yesterday testified that he and Tate, who married in 1968, didn't have an exclusive relationship and that he had casual sex with multiple other women while they were together. He also said that he slept with someone about four weeks after her death. Still, he said the couple had a ``very happy marriage.''


Farrow today testified that she didn't view Polanski's promiscuity as ``disrespectful'' to Tate, saying that there was a ``big distinction'' for men between relationships and having sex.

``I could never pass judgment on someone in that frame of mind that seeks comfort in any way that couldn't harm anyone,'' she said.

The Vanity Fair article, published in July 2002, gives an account of an alleged meeting between Polanski and Lewis Lapham, the editor of Harper's literary magazine, at Elaine's while Polanski was on his way back to Tate's Los Angeles burial.

Polanski focused his ``Polish charm'' on the female companion of a friend of Lapham's, the article said. ``I watched as he slid his hand inside her thigh and began a long, honeyed spiel which ended with the promise `And I will make another Sharon Tate out of you,''' the magazine quotes Lapham as saying.

Farrow today rejected the magazine's account, saying that Polanski was clearly ``suffering from the loss of love'' and despair during the dinner.

``He was in very bad shape,'' Farrow told the court. ``All of his friends wanted to be with him to support him.''

Conde Nast accepts that the alleged incident didn't occur on the way to Tate's burial in mid August, but later that same month. Polanski's travel records show that he travel directly from London to Tate's funeral in Los Angeles, his lawyers told the court.

The case, in front of a jury of nine men and three women, is currently scheduled to conclude this week.

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