Roman Polanski : Quotes

Normal love isn't interesting. I assure you that it's incredibly boring.

My films are the expression of momentary desires. I follow my instincts, but in a disciplined way.

[on filmmaking] "You have to show violence the way it is. If you don't show it realistically, then that's immoral and harmful. If you don't upset people, then that's obscenity."

[on his style of filmmaking] "I don't really know what is shocking. When you tell the story of a man who is beheaded, you have to show how they cut off his head. If you don't, it's like telling a dirty joke and leaving out the punch line."

The best films are because of nobody but the director.

I can only say that whatever my life and work have been, I'm not envious of anyone, and this is my biggest satisfaction.

Whenever I get happy, I always have a terrible feeling.

Cinema should make you forget you are sitting in a theater.

If ever I see one of my films on television, I have a hard time sitting through it, because it seems like all the sins of youth. Truly, I don't think I did my picture yet. I don't feel like I did anything that was totally satisfying to me.

In Paris, one is always reminded of being a foreigner. If you park your car wrong, it is not the fact that it's on the sidewalk that matters, but the fact that you speak with an accent.

[on Fran├žois Truffaut, Claude Lelouch, and Jean-Luc Godard] People like Truffaut, Lelouch and Godard are like little kids playing at being revolutionaries. I've passed through this stage. I lived in a country where these things happened seriously.

Every failure made me more confident. Because I wanted even more to achieve as revenge. To show that I could.

Every film I make represents a departure for me. You see, it takes so long to make a film. By the time you get to the next one you're already a different man. You've grown up by one or two years.

[To the press after the murder of his wife Sharon Tate in 1969] ...All of you know how beautiful she was, but few of you know how good she was.

Hollywood is like that: a spoiled brat that screams for possession of a toy and then tosses it out of the baby buggy.

[on "Oliver Twist"] I would never think of doing a movie for children if I did not have any. A lot of things in the film I know about. I relate to all the sufferings much more now that I have kids. I see it from the outside now. And before, I didn't. Children have this capacity for resistance, and they accept things as they are, maybe because they have no other reference. They are somehow more flexible; they adapt much faster than adults. My children like coming to the set of my movies, they know what I am doing, they live around all that, but the result of all this work is something so remote from their world they can't identify with it. I wanted something they could, so I started looking for subjects that would be suitable. It's for them, so they will be able to remember the movie years from now when I won't be around.

I am not a fortune teller. I would like to be judged for my work, and not for my life. If there is any possibility of changing your destiny, it may be only in your creative life, certainly not in your life, period.

A lot has changed for me. My life has improved. It's not only children, but the relationship with my wife is the best thing that ever happened to me.

First comes my love of my work [in movies], but secondary to the creation itself is the need to get laid.

[on Jack Nicholson] Jack! You see how angry he gets in a scene? Unbelievably scary! He can not stop, he goes into a kind of it, you dunno whether he is acting any more!

[on Harrison Ford] Often when Harrison read a line, it was a different reading than I anticipated, but it worked. Somehow, it was more inspiring or original than what I had in mind.

[on Faye Dunaway] She was a gigantic pain in the ass. She demonstrated certifiable proof of insanity.

You make films for people, so you enjoy it when it's a success. Who wants an empty theatre? But you can't think of that when you're doing it because you have to satisfy your own artistic taste, and not trying to extrapolate it, asking whether they're going to like it or not, because it doesn't work this way, unfortunately.

It's getting more and more difficult to make an ambitious and original film. There are less and less independent producers or independent companies and an increasing number of corporations who are more interested in balance sheets than in artistic achievement. They want to make a killing each time they produce a film. They're only interested in the lowest common denominator because they're trying to reach the widest audience. And you get some kind of entropy. That's the danger; they look more alike, those films. The style is all melting and it all looks the same. Even young directors - for most of them their only standard of achievement is how well their films do on the first weekend or whatever. It worries me. But then, from time to time, you have a film like "The Usual Suspects" or "Pulp Fiction", which I enjoyed very much. Whenever you do something new or original, people run to see it because it's different. Then, if it happens to be successful, the studios rush to imitate it. It becomes commonplace right away. But it's been like that before, I think. Now, the stakes are so gigantic that they cut each other's throats. So if most of the films are failures, then those that succeed so spectacularly, so commercially, become the norm. It's like a roulette for the studios. The problem with it is that it becomes more and more of a committee. Before, you dealt with the studio. It had one or two persons and now you have masses of executives who have to justify their existence and write so-called "creative notes" and have creative meetings. They obsess about the word creative probably because they aren't.

[on casting Mia Farrow in "Rosemary's Baby"] She has a neurotic quality, good for Rosemary. Only nuts are interesting people.

[on aborted film The Double with John Travolta] So many people had put so much effort into that project when all of a sudden everything fell apart. Pierre Guffroy, my longtime production designer, cried when we tore down the set. Travolta claimed I'd changed the script without him agreeing. Besides the fact that it was within my rights to do so, the whole thing was a joke. On the other hand, looking back, it was probably a good thing in the end because of all the special effects needed. It required a lot of patience and I don't think Travolta would have been up to it. Stars are an audience attraction, though that doesn't make their wages any less obscene. How can Travolta - who gets $20 million - risk such silly behaviour? But there are plenty of counterexamples, like Sigourney Weaver who asked for a third of her usual fee for "Death and the Maiden" and Johnny Depp who was very disciplined when we made "The Ninth Gate".

The older I get, the harder I find it to decide what I should do next. As a young man I was much more innocent. Life seemed endless and I simply said, "Okay: I'm doing this film. Period." Time has taught me that I have to assume all the responsibilities when I embark on one of these adventures, and today I ask myself, "Do I really have the perseverance? Can I handle everything getting on my nerves?" Making films is a battle and sometimes you get tired of fighting. I simply want to produce good work, and that's why I have to think I'm the best. Of course this isn't easy because it's not necessarily true. But you won't win if you think you're a loser.

"The Ninth Gate" is fun, it's nice, I think it's a good movie, but after all, what is it about? It's like every other movie that is made nowadays. It may be different in style, but it doesn't make any important statement. It was something that could be done quickly, I needed work, I had to do something. It was too long a time since my last film and a lot of projects were canceled.

Evil and the Devil are two different things. The Devil is how humans like to imagine evil, with horns and a tail. Evil is part of our personality. I've never believed in occultism or the Devil, and I'm not at all religious. I'd rather read science books than something about occultism. When it comes to cinema, evil is simply a form of entertainment to me.

The world isn't getting any better, which is quite alienating. Scientific progress seems to amplify rather than lessen our problems. Inventions proliferate, the economy booms, but people suffer ever more. I think there are simply too many people. Progress can't keep up with the growing population, although we like to believe otherwise. [1999]

There are differences between making films in the US and Europe; in America the opportunities are grander but the films are more formulaic and less artistic.

[on "Frantic"] The idea was to make a film about the things I know - to show my Paris. I wanted to get rid of everything that was too obviously quaintly Parisian and tried to show the town of today. It was the way I see it and not as Americans might imagine it to be. Having as a theme an American in Paris, I wanted to dispel the idea and tradition of "Irma la Douce" and "Moulin Rouge" which still perseveres, and I wanted to create a new idea of an American here.

[advice to aspiring filmmakers] It's a question of patience and perseverance. You can't teach talent, but you can tell someone how to sustain the adversity which is an enemy constantly on set. Whatever type of film you make, it requires a crew, it requires financing, it requires a lot of people around you. And those people - even if they are all with you, even if they are all friendly, and even if they agree with the final result - they still have their personal agendas. They see things differently than you do.. They have families and children and girlfriends and they're horny. So what you really need is to be patient and to be able to stand all those problems.

[on "Weekend of a Champion"] The reason I made the film was first because I wanted to make a film about a friend, about Jackie Stewart specifically, and two because I like Formula 1 very much and I thought it was a very cinematic, very visual kind of sport. And it was not really being filmed that much because there was no television every week where you could watch the Formula 1 races. I never considered myself talented in this direction. I didn't consider myself a director of documentaries particularly in that period. Documentaries were not as frequently successful as they are now - there are many more of them now because of the television. You see many more documentaries in theaters. In those times it was very, very seldom that you could hope to have any kind of success with a documentary in a general theatrical release.

[on "Bitter Moon"] The fact that sexual attraction wanes, that's what fascinated me. That has nothing to do with love, which can actually deepen as sex declines. The premise of the film is that love cannot last forever in its true intensity. It must bleed or end tragically. If it has peaks, it must have lows. I hadn't done a movie like this for a long time, and I felt strongly not only that I'd like to do it, but that people who know my work were somehow expecting me to return to this kind of material. I wasn't making it to shock. Maybe I had a little bit of this desire when I was young. I don't have any of those needs now, and even when I was beginning, the main thing for me was to tell the story and if the story required violent images or nudity, I would use them for telling it. I didn't have much money, so we worked hard and were under tremendous pressure, but I did what I wanted and nobody interfered with the result.

Films are films, life is life.

Never pull a hair from Faye Dunaway's head. Pull it from somebody else's head.

The first time that I felt that I really had got it technically smooth was "Rosemary's Baby". The first time I made a film that would make me happy because I felt the humour and the tone the way I like it was "The Fearless Vampire Killers: Vampires 101". "Chinatown" was the first film where I had no struggle throughout the production because I was totally supported by the producer and had everything at my disposal; I was like a racing driver with a bunch of people standing around you and just ready to respond to every gesture.

I'm happy when I find a subject that excites me, that gives me a reason to make a film; and I'm still happy when I'm making it because this is my real and true profession.

[on "Pirates"] To make a costume picture on a sound stage is bad enough. To do it on the deck of a galleon is terrible. I thought of building part of a boat, and also using models and interior sets. Then we decided it was easier to just build the whole boat. The boat is the set. Fine, except that it must also float, and the sails had to be unfurled, and taken up and down, and behind us was the canopy of sky, which would be blue in one shot and cloudy in the next. The wind comes from nowhere and first you see the town in the background, then the sand, then the sea. Nothing matches between one shot and the next. And then you have to think about the beards, and the swords, and the wigs! The wigs and the wigs, and Walter Matthau's wooden leg. And if there was to be an explosion, then you think about the beards and the wigs and the leg and the explosion and the wind and the sky, and it drives you crazy. Each shot was like tearing a fish out of a shark's mouth. It is easy to be perfect when no one disturbs you. On the sound stage, you control everything. So you can be patient. On a boat, however, providence may have other plans for you. It was a nightmare from beginning to end. Every day something new would go wrong. I should have got a special award just for finishing it.

[interview from 1976] Attention to detail is something that I have been always very fond of, even when I was doing my first little films at the film school, and even before then when I used to go the cinema, the films that really interested me as the viewer were the ones which had tremendous attention to detail. I think that detail creates atmosphere; and now when I go the cinema sometimes a little detail which is wrong can throw me completely off. When I see a film, let's say, which happens in the 30s and suddenly I see men with long hair - that spoils the film for me completely because I know that people didn't wear this type of hairdo until only 10 or 15 years ago. It's a question of honesty, of not only the film director but any other artist or writer, this attention to detail. In literature, when the writer knows the subject he is writing about, it becomes twice as interesting.

[on working with John Travolta on aborted film The Double] There were changes in the script, but they were not that dramatic. The problem was that Travolta resented any kind of comment. He seemed to have some kind of inferiority complex, perhaps from some period of his life when he was not justly dealt with. During the third read-through, about a week before we were supposed to start shooting, there was a heated conversation between us. I made some comment about his line-readings in a scene - I said something like, "That's not how I heard it in my mind" - and he said, "Well, that's how I heard it." I said, "Well, there may be as many ideas of how this scene should be dealt with as there are people in the world. Who takes the final decision? I'm here to direct." And we started arguing. It was not a fight but it was quite uneasy, as when people don't say exactly what's on their mind. He is more a passive-aggressive person, he does not come right out and say, "You asshole!" Maybe in the readings I should have just sat there and listened without reacting, just to get him acclimatised. But from what I had seen of him, I thought he was a real pro, and with pros, you know, you work without thinking of all this sensitivity. You just give direction and sometimes you show what you want that's different. I've never known any instance of an actor walking out like this so close to filming. The fact is, if you are an actor and people depend on you, you cannot just bolt like that.

To me, "Rosemary's Baby" is not an entirely serious movie - it can be interpreted two ways. I shot it in such a way that you could consider her as a person with problems and imagining it all. I made it more ambiguous than the book and that's why I never showed the baby.

[on Mia Farrow in "Rosemary's Baby"] I had only seen her on the cover of Life. To be honest, I was not enthusiastic about her until we started to work. Then I discovered, somewhat to my surprise, that she is a brilliant actress. This is one of the most difficult woman's parts I can imagine.

[2014] I never really imagined how one can retire. What do you do? Gardening? No, I feel really happy when I'm working. I think the best moments in my life are when I work. It was my passion when I was a young man, and it remains my passion. I feel probably the way a carpenter feels when he's making a beautiful chair and seeing the result of his work. The work itself is satisfying, the process of getting the result.

[on attracting an audience] One can create the most marvellous things, but if they are not accepted, it's a tragedy. It's like Van Gogh, who sold only one painting, and in fact to his brother, I believe. This great painter, who is my absolute favourite, lived his life for us, not for himself. I don't have this ambition; I would like to share my view of the world with others.

[on "Carnage"] With each film, I need an artistic challenge so I don't get bored! I like to tackle challenges. On this film, it was telling a story that takes place in real time and in a confined space. I've made films before in an enclosed space, but not as rigorously self-contained, so this was a new experience. When I was a teenager, I was really struck by Laurence Olivier's "Hamlet", with its strange castle full of stairs, terraces and corridors, and also by Carol Reed's fabulous "Odd Man Out" with James Mason. It's a film with such a strong impact that I often tried to imitate it later. In fact, my first film, "Knife in the Water" was filmed on a boat with three people. So I wasn't afraid of the constraints of a confined space like an apartment. I find it really exciting, in fact, even if it isn't easy. Because there were no ellipses, you couldn't put something in a different place from one shot to another. If someone put a glass on the table it had to be there throughout the picture unless we see it being moved in the action.

[2000 interview] I don't think I made my movie yet. I don't have one that would give me a real satisfaction. I would not put any one of them on my gravestone.

[2007 interview] I think my best work is "The Pianist". I think if I were asked what cans of which movies do I want deposited on my tomb, I would say The Pianist. But next probably is "Chinatown".