Roman Polansky was born in Paris in 1933. Unfortunately his Polish father brought the family back to Warsaw in time for World War Two and the invasion by Germany. His beloved mother was the first to be carted off to the death camps. His father cut a hole in the barbwire, shoved Roman through, and told the child to run for his life. Therefore, at a very young age he was on his own, surviving through the kindness of strangers and his own wits. When the war was over, he pretty much was still on his own doing whatever he liked from the age of 14 as his father had remarried and Roman did not want to share that life with a step-mother.
He loved the movies and gained access to the Polish film world and eventually started making films as a student. In 1958 he made Two Men and a Wardrobe a very clever movie that starts with two men coming out of the ocean carrying a wardrobe and trying to find their way in life carrying it all over. Eventually the men find life too difficult and unaccepting and return to the ocean still carrying the wardrobe. After this successful effort, he married an actress and moved to Paris. His wife's career took off but his didn't and she divorced Polansky. He returned to Poland and directed Knife in the Water which the Polish Communist Party felt was decadent trash but which was shown outside Poland to very high acclaim. The film received an Academy Award Nomination for best foreign film and Polansky then moves to London where he directs Repulsion.
His first major Hollywood film, Rosemary's Baby, was a smashing success and in 1968 received numerous awards. He then married his girlfriend, Sharon Tate, with the wedding reception held at the Playboy Mansion. He was very happily married, a devoted husband---but still not a faithful one. Sharon got pregnant and when she was 8 months pregnant, the infamous Charlie Manson group murdered her along with others. She was stabbed 16 times.
Polansky's next film was a very bloody version of Macbeth, which was not commercially successful. He returned to Hollywood at age 40 to direct Chinatown, which established him as one of the greatest directors as this film is a masterpiece. It was Polansky who changed the ending from one where the bad guy gets killed to where the bad guy wins. He then returns to Paris and directs The Tenant and gets involved with a 15 year old Natasia Kinski. Then back in Hollywood he gets involved with Samantha Gailey, who was even younger than Kinski, and was charged with drugging and raping her. In 1978, the day before his sentencing, he flees to Paris and now cannot set foot in the United States or countries such as Great Britain where they would extradite him back to the United States to go to prison.
He continues to direct films such as Tess and Frantic.
At age 60 his first child is born by his latest young actress wife and he has settled into living in Europe.
Those who know him find him to be shy and endearing. Some see him as being uncomfortable with mature women and seeks out "children" as a way of being in control, maintaining power in the relationship.
However, you may see him, either as a great artist or a disturbed person who should be locked up, he has great skill as a cinematic artist. He has the whole film in his mind and knows exactly how to put it together into a masterpiece. He also understands those who are mentally unstable, perhaps because he is unstable himself.
He is, above all, able to weather great catastrophes in his life and continue to be productive. I would argue that the thing that makes him able to do this, at least in part, is his work. Through it he is able to not only make a good living but to express his pain and his genius.
He not only is a great director but a skilled actor both in films and on the stage.