GSTAAD, Switzerland, Nov. 30, 2009 -- Today, the up-market ski resort of Gstaad saw the first snowfall of the season and the sudden arrival of an ever-growing press pack, all headed for the luxurious home of director Roman Polanski.
Here at the rather quaintly named Milky Way chalet is where the Academy award-winning director will serve out the terms of his house arrest while awaiting possible extradition to the U.S., bringing to an end a 31-year stint as a fugitive, on the run from American authorities for having unlawful sex with a 13 year-old girl in 1977.
Over the weekend, a security van was seen at the chalet, installing devices to ensure Polanski does not bolt from his home. He will be required to wear a tagging device so he can be monitored and will sound an alarm to the authorities is he does try to flee.
Once the $4.5 million bail is paid to secure the transfer, the 76-year-old filmmaker will be allowed to conduct his personal affairs as he pleases – provided he does not leave the confines of his home
In addition to the bail money, Polanski will have to cough-up an additional $2,000 for the installation of security devices as well as a monthly charge of $200 for the upkeep of his detention.
His present abode, a simple cell in a prison just outside of Zurich, could not be more different from the well-appointed three-story home he has made here in the Swiss Alps. Gstaad has long been famed as a place where the international jet-set congregate every year for skiing, schmoozing and lavish parties, taking place behind the closed doors of the magnificent chalets that grace the picturesque mountains.
The 19,000-square-foot property, which includes a garden, is nestled along a private road with a view of the surrounding countryside and snow-capped mountains. He will have access to e-mail, be able to make private phone calls, work on film projects and even host parties. He will also be able to enjoy the company of his family and friends.
What he won't have is police protection to stop any on-lookers approaching.
Polanski Draws Support From Locals and Others
"Only if Mr. Polanski feels that he is under threat will there be the extra protection offered," Swiss Federal Justice office spokesman Folco Galli, told ABC News. "Otherwise it is up to him to arrange extra security."
But it's not likely that he will be the focus of locals' attentions. Here in Gstaad, Polanski is very much an admired and respected figure and the announcement of his arrest drew shock and outrage. The president of the Saanen-Gstaad community, Aldo Kropf, told the local press that he would not rule out adding extra measures to keep out members of the press and would get the local government to close the road leading to Polanski's house if there were any complaints.
The director of Saanenland Tourism, Roger Seifritz, also pledged discretion and staunch support for the filmmaker and his family, in a local magazine, urging people to show "thought and responsibility" when dealing with outsiders or the press.
And it's not just glitzy Gstaad that Polanski draws support from… in a recent interview with a French publication, his sister-in-law, Mathilde Seigner, credited French President Nicolas Sarkozy with helping to obtain the release of the filmmaker from the Swiss prison.
"The president has been very effective," Seigner told Le Parisien newspaper, without going into any details. Polanski took refuge in France after fleeing the U.S. but President Sarkozy was widely criticized for condemning the arrest in September this year since many felt that it was about time that the director faced-up to his criminal past.
Polanski has long accused the judge and prosecutors back in 1978 of acting improperly in the case. His lawyers will argue for the case to be dismissed before a California appeals court on Dec. 10.