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Photos: Roman Polanski’s life, career

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  1. Love lost

    Roman Polanski, the French film director of Polish origin, poses with his wife, American actress Sharon Tate, in London in the 1960s. In 1969, a pregnant Tate was murdered by followers of Charles Manson. (AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. French legend

    Polanski, left, is seen with French actress Catherine Deneuve and producer Eugene Gutowski in London on Aug. 17, 1964. Deneuve was about to star in Polanski's film "Repulsion." (Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Hollywood mark

    Actress Mia Farrow stars in Polanski's 1968 film "Rosemary's Baby." The director established his reputation as a major commercial filmmaker with the success of the film about a woman whose pregnancy is awash in horror and satanic doings. Polanski's screenplay adaptation earned him an Academy Award nomination. (Paramount Pictures via Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Violent Shakespeare

    Polanski, left, takes part in a news conference with Playboy founder Hugh Hefner on Aug. 2, 1970, concerning their planned film production of Shakespeare's "Macbeth." The bleak and violent film was Polanski's first feature following his wife's murder. (Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Behind the camera

    Polanski is seen on location shooting Shakespeare's 'Macbeth' in Northumberland, England, in 1970. (Ian Tyas / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Major success

    Actress Faye Dunaway takes instructions from Polanski on the set of "Chinatown." Polanski returned to Hollywood in 1973 to make the classic detective story. A major critical and box office succes in the summer of 1974, the film was nominated for 11 Academy Awards. Stars Jack Nicholson and Dunaway both received Oscar nominations for their roles, but screenwriter Robert Towne won the lone Oscar for the film. (Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Legal trouble

    Polanski leaves court in Santa Monica, Calif., in September 1977. The director was accused of raping a 13-year-old girl he photographed during a modeling session at Nicholson's home in Los Angeles. In a deal with prosecutors, Polanski pled guilty to one of six charges against him, unlawful sexual intercourse, and was sent to prison for 42 days of psychological evaluation. Faced with the prospect of further prison time, Polanski fled the country in 1978, living as an exile in France. (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Another thriller

    Polanski's film career grew fitful as financing became harder to securein the early '80s. He remained busy with theater and opera productions in Europe but proved he could still land major film stars with 1988's "Frantic," starring Harrison Ford and Emmanuelle Seigner, whom Polanski would marry in 1989. (Warner Bros. Pictures) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Cannes carpet

    Polanski and Seigner arrive at the gala screening of his film "The Pianist" during the 55th Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, France, on May 24, 2002. The couple have two children together. (Francois Guillot / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Oscar winner

    "The Pianist" tells the story of Wladyslaw Szpilman, a Polish pianist (played by Adrien Brody) who, during World War II, lived in the Warsaw ghettos. He escaped from Nazi concentration camps, and, thanks to music, lived to tell about it. The film is based on Szpilman's memoir, published in 1946. Brody won an Oscar for his role. (Studio Canal) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. His story

    Polanski celebrates after being awarded the Golden Palm for "The Pianist" during the closing ceremony of the Cannes Film Festival on May 26, 2002. The story "was something I know about, remember very well, something that could help me recreate the events without talking about myself," Polanski said at Cannes. (Olivier Laban-Mattei / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Special delivery

    Polanski, right, shows off his Academy Award for best director for "The Pianist" which he received from Harrison Ford during the American Film festival in Deauville, France, on Sept. 7, 2003. Polanski could not receive the award at the actual Oscar ceremony because he was still wanted in the United States. (Mychele Daniau / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. His own 'Twist'

    Polanski followed "The Pianist" with the 2005 Charles Dickens adaptation, "Oliver Twist." (TriStar Pictures) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Something to sink his teeth into

    Polanski poses with an actor during a news conference to present his musical "Dance of the Vampires" in Berlin, Germany, on Oct. 11, 2006. (Arnd Wiegmann / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Enough is enough

    Polanski angrily leaves a news conference at the 60th Cannes Film Festival on May 20, 2007, during a gathering of equally renowned peers. The director told journalists that their questions about an anthology of short films the filmmakers had all worked on were pathetic. (Fred Dufour / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Wave for 'W.'

    Polanski waves on the red carpet before a screening of director Oliver Stone's film "W." at the Turin Film Festival in Turin, Italy, on Nov. 21, 2008. (Massimo Pinca / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. New documentary

    Polanski is seen in Oberhausen, Germany, on Sept. 29, 2008. That year, the Emmy-winning documentary "Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired" debuts at the Sundance Film Festival, reigniting the debate over the case against the director. The documentary uncovers new information about actions by the late Judge Laurence J. Rittenband, suggesting he inappropriately consulted with a prosecutor not assigned to the case. (Roberto Pfeil / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Still shooting

    Polanski is seen during the shooting of his film "The Ghost" in List on Sylt, Germany, on Feb. 23, 2009. The story centers on a ghostwriter who is hired to complete the memoirs of a former British prime minister. He uncovers secrets that put his own life in jeopardy. Most of the story takes place in an oceanfront house during the middle of winter. (Georg Supanz / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
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updated 9/29/2009 6:54:56 PM ET 2009-09-29T22:54:56

Roman Polanski's legal team fired the first shot Tuesday in a lengthy battle over his possible extradition to the United States, asking a Swiss court to release the famous filmmaker from prison immediately.

The Swiss Federal Criminal Court announced the filing and said a decision would be made "within the next weeks," but experts said a swift release was unlikely, and it appeared that the 76-year-old director could remain in jail for at least a few months.

Even if the court rules in Polanski's favor, the decision would probably be appealed immediately by the Swiss government, extending his incarceration in a Zurich cell.

Meanwhile in Poland, the prime minister urged restraint after two days of heated calls from government officials for Polanski's release. French leaders who had also been outspoken in support of the filmmaker said their consul had visited him in detention.

Authorities in Los Angeles consider Polanski a convicted felon and a fugitive, and Switzerland says there has been an international arrest warrant out on him since 2005.

Polanski was accused of plying a 13-year-old girl with champagne and Quaaludes during a modeling shoot in 1977 and raping her. He was initially indicted on six felony counts, including rape by use of drugs, child molesting and sodomy.

Facing life in prison if convicted, he agreed to plead guilty to the lesser charge of unlawful sexual intercourse.

In exchange, the judge agreed to drop the remaining charges and commute his sentence to the 42 days already served. But Polanski fled the country Feb. 1, 1978, the day he was scheduled to be sentenced, after learning that the judge told lawyers he planned to tack on more prison time.

Experts predicted that Polanski had little hope of winning his freedom in Switzerland. On top of the court proceedings his team initiated Tuesday, Polanski will also have to face a formal U.S. extradition request that has not yet been received by the Swiss. Washington can wait until late November to make its filing.

The criminal court will decide on the legality of the American request for Polanski's apprehension. The Justice Ministry and Polanski could later seek to overturn any decision at Switzerland's highest court, the Federal Tribunal.

"We will examine the ruling and then decide what we will do," Swiss Justice Ministry spokesman Guido Balmer told The Associated Press. He refused to speculate on how long Polanski would remain in jail.

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While the director's lawyers were hoping he could get out on bail or under house arrest, a former Zurich prosecutor said Polanski had no chance of an immediate release. Dieter Jann said extradition would be hard to fight, and he thought Switzerland had followed procedures correctly.

French divided over Polanski
Polanski, a dual Polish and French citizen, directed "Chinatown," "Rosemary's Baby" and "The Pianist," for which he won a best-director Oscar. He was arrested Saturday as he arrived in Zurich to receive an award from a film festival.

While initial French support for Polanski seemed strong, it became clear on Tuesday that many in France opposed the government's position.

Marc Laffineur, vice president of the National Assembly and a member of President Nicolas Sarkozy's center-right party, criticized government ministers for speaking out too quickly in the filmmaker's defense, saying the charges against Polanski should not be taken lightly. Several other top politicians spoke out, too.

Poland's Prime Minister Donald Tusk also weighed in, urging his Cabinet ministers to exercise calm and reminding them that it is a "case of rape and of punishment for having sex with a child."

The request filed Tuesday by the director's newly hired Swiss lawyers was accompanied by proposals for bail and "guarantees," Polanski's French attorney Herve Temime said. He would not elaborate, but added that house arrest at the director's chalet in Gstaad was one option.

The Swiss Justice Ministry did not rule out the possibility that Polanski could be released on bail under strict conditions, but said house arrest had never happened before in a similar case.

"In most cases the imprisoned person has to remain in detention for the whole process," explained Peter Cosandey, another former Zurich prosecutor.

"The chances that he will be exempted from prison are rather small," he added, because Polanski is not a Swiss citizen or a permanent resident and had already jumped bail years ago in the United States.

Polanski's victim, Samantha Geimer, who long ago publicly identified herself, has joined in Polanski's bid for dismissal. She testified at the time that Polanski forced himself on her — which he acknowledged in his guilty plea — but has said she forgives him and wants the ordeal over.

Polanski's lawyers recently filed for dismissal, based on misconduct allegations in a 2008 HBO documentary that suggested behind-the-scenes manipulations by the now-deceased judge and a prosecutor not assigned to the case.

The judge handling the request acknowledged "substantial misconduct" in the original case, but dismissed the defense filing earlier this year because Polanski was a fugitive; it's now in the hands of an appeals court.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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