GSTAAD, SWITZERLAND -- Roman Polanski, the Oscar-winning director currently living in his Swiss chalet under house arrest, is undergoing a vigorous training regime in hopes of participating in an Ironman triathlon.
The 78-year-old director has been forced to stay at his house as he awaits extradition to the United States. But Polanski's limited confines have not hindered his intense training schedule, which includes six hours of training per day, including several hours of running on a treadmill, and 1.5 hours each of cycling and swimming. In order to accommodate Polanski's fitness needs, he is reportedly having a lap pool built underground, as his existing pool is better suited for recreation than serious exercise. In order to expedite construction, crews have been working around the clock, according to his neighbors in the pricey Alpine neighborhood, who say that trucks have been seen removing "mounds of dirt" on a nightly basis.
News of Polanski's triathlon training surprised at least one of his friends. "Roman's idea of exercise is going to the wine cellar to grab another bottle of Chateau L'Evangile Pomerol, at least it was when I saw him last year. He's got that French attitude of, 'Everything in moderation.' I can't see him swimming a couple miles, biking 100 miles, and then running a marathon."
Polanski said that his newfound enthusiasm for exercise came about during his recent imprisonment in the Swiss jail when he had time to think about his priorities and decided to focus on fitness. The interview with Polanski, by telephone, was interrupted at various points by the roar of a tractor dirt scoop and the noisier scenes from "Shawshank Redemption," an Oscar-nominated film with Tim Robbins playing an unjustly jailed prisoner that was playing in the background. Polanski said that he hoped to participate in an Ironman triathlon once "his legal misunderstandings" have passed.
The Oscar-winning director pled guilty in 1978 to unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor, but fled the United States after it appeared likely he would have to serve additional jail time. Polanski – a French citizen – has his primary residence in France, and has been protected from extradition to the United States. He was arrested in September when he came to Switzerland to accept a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Zurich Film Festival.
Polanski has come to Switzerland numerous times before, but the arrest warrant appeared to have gained additional urgency when the director's legal team requested a dismissal of the charges, saying that the Los Angeles-based prosecutors had never made a legitimate effort to apprehend him in the past three decades. (After the arrest, a spokesman for Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley refuted that charge, saying that they had given as much effort to bringing Polanski to justice as they did to pursuing decades-old drive-by shootings in South Central Los Angeles.)
A number of prominent figures in the arts and political communities quickly protested Polanski's arrest, including French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Hollywood directors such as Woody Allen, David Lynch and Martin Scorsese.
Although initially refused bail by Switzerland's Federal Criminal Court due to his flight risk, Polanski was released on $4.5 million bail in late November after the court deemed that would be sufficient deterrent to his fleeing again. In addition to the bail, which he would forfeit if he fled, he transferred his travel and identification documents. Polanski also must wear an electronic bracelet, and his house has been outfitted with an electronic monitoring system. His legal team has been lobbying hard to prevent his extradition to the United States, and legal experts say the wrangling could take months before a decision is made.
Some critics of Polanski's release said that the prospect of losing the bail money – which he had to pay in full – would be no financial hardship given the director's wealthy friends, and is an insufficient deterrent to flight. But Herve Temime, Polanski's lawyer, rejected as "outrageous" a rumor that Hollywood luminaries had been hosting underground "Free Willy" parties to raise $4.5 million and said that the director's family had been forced to regift swag acquired over the years in lieu of buying new Christmas presents as evidence of Polanski's financial duress.
"My client has suffered enough," Temime said, in an interview in his office, as he hastily covered a Google Maps printout showing the walking route from Gstaad to French border town Les Rousses as 135 kilometers as well as weather reports for Southwest Switzerland in April. "I believe Mr. Polanski will be released, but in the meantime he will fully comply with Swiss law."