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Hollywood not ready for Polanski

Los Angeles, Feb. 26 (Reuters): Top film honours from Britain and France, and a remarkable plea from the woman at the heart of a 1970s sex scandal, have turned director Roman Polanski from a once-vilified fugitive into a surprise contender for next month’s Oscars.

But although he may be Europe’s movie darling, Hollywood could take a while longer before writing the happy ending to Polanski’s tortured career.

“I think there is a feeling in the Academy (of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences) that it is time to welcome this guy back, that he is one of the great directors, and that the past is the past,” said Dennis Broe, associate professor of media arts at New York’s Long Island University.

“But although I think Polanski’s nomination is being taken seriously, I don’t think it will go further than that this year although it lays the groundwork for an eventual actual return,” Broe said.

Polanski’s searing Holocaust drama The Pianist won best film and best director awards at both Britain’s Bafta and France’s Cesar annual awards at the weekend, beating stiff competition from feel-good musical Chicago and the emotional drama The Hours.

But the Oscars are a different story, movie experts say, complicated by Polanski’s status as a man who fled the country in 1978 before being sentenced for having sex with a 13-year-old girl. Now 69, and a French citizen, he faces arrest if he sets foot in the US and is not expected to return for the March 23 Oscar ceremony.

The Pianist has more of a European sensibility about it than the traditional Hollywood film. The classic Oscar winner has major star names and box office potential.

The Pianist would be the lowest grossing movie in the history of best pictures if it won,” said Oscar historian Tom O’Neil.

“By every measure, Chicago is way out front. But this is a quirky dark horse that could actually pull off a shock,” he said.

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