He acquired fame in the 1960's and 70s after directing numerous acclaimed films, including Repulsion and Chinatown. His films frequently deal with dark themes, including Satanism (as seen in Rosemary's baby), adultery and murder. His films frequently included sexual perversions, including extended scenes of transvestism in The Tenant.
In 1969, while Polanski was on a business trip to London, his 8-months pregnant wife, Sharon Tate, and their unborn baby were brutally murdered by members of the Manson Family cult.
In 1978 he pleaded guilty to "unlawful sexual intercourse" with a thirteen-year-old girl. He fled the country immediately afterwards and prior to sentencing to avoid imprisonment. For almost thirty years he lived comfortably in France, which refused to extradite him to the United States, where he remained free from legal consequences.
Polanski has escaped from being extradited several times: May 1978 in London, December 1986 in Canada, 1988 in Germany, Denmark, Sweden and Brazil. In June 1994, a request for arrest was made to France. In October 2005, while Polanski were in Thailand, a folder is passed to Interpol; no effect. In 2007, the filmmaker traveled in Israel; the Hebrew State requested more information to the Los Angeles Attorney, when the documents arrived, the filmmaker had gone.
In 2002, Polanski released The Pianist, an acclaimed film about Polish-born pianist Władysław Szpilman and his experiences during the Holocaust. The film won the 2003 Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival and both the BAFTA and Academy Award for Best Directing. Polanski did not attend the ceremony, due to the charges against him, so actor Harrison Ford accepted the Oscar on Polanski's behalf.
In 2009, while in Switzerland, he was arrested by Swiss authorities and held pending extradition to the United States to face the charges stemming from his 1977 arrest.