In a 2003 interview, Quentin Tarantino tried to justify Roman Polanski’s rape of a 13-year-old girl, opining that it was not actually rape and that the girl “wanted to have it.”
Tarantino, the acclaimed director of Pulp Fiction and Inglourious Basterds, told radio host Howard Stern in 2003 that what Polanski did in 1977 was “not quite the same thing” as rape because the sex (which Polanski has admitted to) wasn’t physically violent.
This is, of course, counter to the US legal definition of rape, which includes all nonconsensual penetration and doesn’t require physical violence, as well as the fact that a 13-year-old girl cannot legally consent to sexual intercourse. The interview was brought back to light yesterday by Jezebel in the midst of a social media backlash against Tarantino for his role in a car crash that badly injured actress Uma Thurman on the set of Kill Bill (paywall).
Three years after Polanski’s film Chinatown was nominated for 11 Academy Awards, the French-Polish filmmaker was photographing the then-13-year-old Samantha Geimer for the French edition of Vogue magazine when, she said, he drugged and raped her. Geimer testified in court that Polanski gave her alcohol and quaaludes before having sex with her, and that he continued despite her repeated pleas for him to stop. (Polanski has long claimed the incident was consensual.) Polanski was charged in 1978 with five offenses, including rape by use of drugs. He pled guilty to a lesser charge of “unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor” but fled the US before he could be sentenced. He has remained in Europe since.
None of those facts were of much consequence to Tarantino, who breathlessly leapt to Polanski’s defense when talking to Stern. ”Look, she was down with it,” Tarantino said.
Tarantino explained that he believed Polanski’s story over Geimer’s, finding it more likely. ”The situation was not that she was against all this,” he said. “She was down to party with Roman.”
“She was 13, she doesn’t get to say she was down with the party,” Stern’s co-host Robin Quivers replied.
“I don’t believe that’s rape,” Tarantino added. “I mean not at 13, not for these 13-year-old party girls.”
In the years since Polanski’s conviction, at least four other women have come forward and said they were raped by Polanski when they were underage. Tarantino’s interview with Stern was conducted before those other allegations were made. Quartz’s attempts to reach Tarantino for comment were unsuccessful.
Last week, the New York Times published an interview with Thurman, a frequent star of Tarantino’s films, who said she felt pressured to perform a car stunt on the film Kill Bill despite her discomfort with the idea. “Quentin came in my trailer and didn’t like to hear no, like any director,” she told the Times. “He was furious because I’d cost them a lot of time.” Thurman ended up crashing the car into a tree, severely injuring her neck
In an interview with Deadline, Tarantino disputed that he was angry, but said that convincing Thurman to do the stunt was “the biggest regret of my life.” Last year, Tarantino also apologized for not speaking out about the allegations against the film mogul Harvey Weinstein, his frequent business partner and a producer on Kill Bill.