, of Polish descent. Polanski was born in Paris
on August 18, 1933
, but his family moved back to Poland
a few years later. They were Jewish, and when Nazi Germany took the area over, the family was forced into the Jewish ghetto
. Later, his parents were taken to a concentration camp
, but the boy escaped with his father's help. He survived the war with some help from local Catholic
families, but his mother died in Auschwitz
. Roman himself, besides living without his parents, had such experiences as being used for idle target practice by German soldiers.
His father survived the war and remarried, and wanted to send Roman to technical school. However, Roman had learned the possibility of escape from unpleasant reality through absorbing himself in movies. He started film school in 1950, appearing as an actor in others' work as well as making his own short films. In 1954 he was accepted into the city of Lodz's prestigious State Film School. After this he made several short films which attracted attention for the black humor and won him several awards. In 1962, the first full-length feature he directed, "Noz w Wodzie" (Knife in the Water), got him nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign-Language Film.
After that, Polanski moved to England and made a few films, including Repulsion starring Catherine Deneuve. In 1968, he made his first Hollywood film, the horror movie Rosemary's Baby. In 1969, though, Polanski's pregnant wife Sharon Tate was murdered by Charles Manson's followers the Manson family in Los Angeles; the next film two years later, a version of William Shakespeare's Macbeth, has a level of violence that has been said to reflect the grieving, outraged feelings of the widower over the murder.
In 1974, Polanski's best-known film, Chinatown (with Jack Nicholson) came out to great acclaim. However, his following films didn't reach the same level of success. Pleading guilty to having sex with a thirteen-year-old girl in 1977 and fleeing the U.S. to avoid the consequences didn't help his reputation any either. However, his movie adaptation of Tess of the D'Urbevilles got him a Best Director Oscar nomination in 1979.
Polanski continues to make movies and to act in others' work. He has become a French citizen, and published an autobiography in 1984 called Roman. He has two children with his second wife, actress Emmanuelle Seigner (who appeared in his movie Bitter Moon).