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Polanski to shoot film on 19th-century Dreyfus Affair

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Roman Polanski REUTERS/Kacper Pempel/File Photo

Roman Polanski is to direct a film about France's most famous miscarriage of justice, the Dreyfus Affair. The Polish-born film-maker, who has been a fugitive from the US since admitting the statutory rape of a 13-year-old girl in 1977, has picked French Oscar-winner Jean Dujardin to star in the tale of anti-Semitism and espionage in the 19th century.


The film is to be in French and entitled J'Accuse (I Accuse), after the open letter novelist Emile Zola published in the French press defending Alfred Dreyfus, the Jewish captain who had been sent to the Devil's Island penal colony off French Guiana after being wrongly found guilty of spying for the German general staff.

Zola's stance earned him a conviction for libel that forced him into exile in Britain for 10 months.

But Dujardin will play neither Zola nor Dreyfus but Lieutenant-Colonel Georges Picard, the "forgotten hero" of the Dreyfus affair, according to the producers.

Picard was the counter-espionage officer who eventually cleared Dreyfus's name, despite the French general staff's efforts to discredit his findings and an anti-Semitic hue and cry against the convicted captain.

He went on to become war minister in 1906 in a government led by Georges Clémenceau, who would go on to lead France during World War I.

The film's working title in English is The Dreyfus Affair.

The script has been written by British novelist Robert Harris, the author of a novel based on the case and worked with Polanski on the critically acclaimed Ghost Writer in 2010.

Looking for extras

Producers Légende Films confirmed that shooting would begin soon around Paris and began advertising for extras on Thursday for scenes to be filmed at the end of November.

Dreyfus will be played by French actor Louis Garrel and Bond villain Mathieu Amalric and Polanski's wife Emmanuelle Seigner will also have parts.

Polanski has wanted to make film of the story "not as a costume drama but as a spy thriller" for several years.

The story is "absolutely pertinent for today's world - a witch-hunt against a minority, paranoia about security, secret military courts and intelligence services out of control, lying governments and an enraged press", he said in 2012.

Tarantino film on Manson murders

Last year a US judge rejected a motion by the 85-year-old director that sought assurances that he would not be jailed due to the rape conviction if he returns to the US.

And feminists inspired by the #Metoo movement demonstrated outside a retrospective of his work.

He is to be played by Polish actor Rafal Zawierucha in Quentin Tarantino's new film, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, about the Manson Family murders in Los Angeles in the late 1960s.

Members of the group killed his actress wife Sharon Tate, who was eight-and-a-half months pregnant at the time, in their home in 1969.