“The Ghost Writer” reaped a leading seven nominations at the European Film Awards, including a bid for helmer Roman Polanski. The political thriller, based on the Robert Harris bestseller, pits a struggling writer (Best Actor nominee Ewan McGregor) against a former British PM (Pierce Brosnan).
The film unspooled last winter, and earned generally good reviews, meriting 77 at Meta Critic and 80 with the top tier at Rotten Tomatoes. Among the most enthusiastic reviewers was Roger Ebert (Chicago Sun-Times) who hailed the film as, “the work of a man who knows how to direct a thriller. Smooth, calm, confident, it builds suspense instead of depending on shock and action.” Also impressed was John Anderson (Wall Street Journal) who found the film, “so rich you may feel you paid too little for your ticket when the whole thing meets its very Polanski-ish climax.”
On Sept. 17, the international critics group FIPRESCI bestowed the Best Picture prize on “The Ghost Writer” at the San Sebastian film festival. Polanski, who lives in exile in France, did not travel to the Spanish city to collect the prize, leaving that to the film’s female star, Olivia Williams. It was his trip to Switzerland last fall to accept the lifetime achievement award from the Zurich film festival that landed the director in jail as part of an ongoing extradition effort by the United States stemming from his 1977 arrest for sexual assault.
Polanski’s notoriety did not stop the academy from honoring him in 2002 for his direction of “The Pianist.” He edged out DGA champ Rob Marshall (“Chicago”) and Golden Globe winner Martin Scorsese (“The Gangs of New York”) for the Oscar. While Polanski was a DGA nominee that year, he was snubbed by the Globes. He had won with the HFPA back in 1974 for “Chinatown” but lost the Oscar race to Francis Ford Coppola (“The Godfather, Part II”) and was a contender at both in 1980 for “Tess” though Robert Redford prevailed for his directorial debut (“Ordinary People”).
Photo: Roman Polanski and Ewan McGregor on the set of “The Ghost Writer” (Summit Entertainment)