VIM/Sipa USA
Stephanie Petit
January 24, 2017 04:19 PM

Roman Polanski has bowed out of presiding over the César Awards, the French equivalent of the Oscars, after his appointment to the prestigious role sparked outrage.

According to a statement from Polanski’s lawyer Herve Temime obtained by the Associated Press, the Rosemary’s Baby director stepped down “so as not to disrupt the Césars ceremony, which should be devoted to cinema and not to the designation of its president.”

A women’s rights group called Osez le Feminisme organized protests, started a petition that garnered over 60,000 signatures and threatened to boycott the ceremony due to the 83-year-old director’s admission that he had sex with a 13-year-old girl in 1977, a charge he is still wanted by authorities in the United States for.

Polanski fled to France in 1978 after he thought a judge was going to drop a plea deal which allowed him to serve just 42 days. He has lived in European countries since, despite American authorities’ efforts to extradite him.

Polanski’s longtime friend Thierry Fremaux, director of the Cannes Film Festival, said on RTL radio Tuesday that the filmmaker is devastated by the renewed criticism.

Adrien Brody, who won an Oscar for his work with the filmmaker in 2002’s The Pianistoffered his take earlier this year on whether a director’s personal life can be separated from their art.

“Life is very complicated,” Brody said. “I look to collaborate with artistic people and to go into an endeavor without judgment and to hopefully be treated with the same. It’s an artistic pursuit, and Polanski for instance had a very complicated and difficult life. It would be unfair of me to delve into something as complicated as the past that was brought up in the media.”

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