For years we didn’t believe her when she said he had raped her, and then an interview appeared with Roman Polanski “calling her a liar”. “That was the last straw,” said Charlotte Lewis before the Parisian court which is trying the Franco-Polish director for defamation. It is Roman Polanski who is on trial on Tuesday, but the 90-year-old multi-award-winning director, accused of rape and sexual assault by around ten women, is absent, only represented by his lawyers. So all eyes in the room are on Charlotte Lewis, the very fine 56-year-old woman, dressed all in black, who came from the United Kingdom and “determined to go all the way,” she told the court via a interpreter.

In the early 1980s, the actress tells the bar, she was 16 years old and working as a model in London. “People ask me if I want to act in a film, if I want to meet Roman Polanski.” Arriving in Paris with Karen, another older model, she is installed in a small hotel that Roman Polanski “does not find great”, so he installs them in his apartment. “We went to dinner, we went back to the apartment, Karen went to bed and left me alone with Roman. And that’s when he raped me,” describes Charlotte Lewis on the stand.

“And yet,” explains the actress’s lawyer Me Benjamin Chouai, Charlotte Lewis then leaves to shoot in Pirates with the director, promotes the film, “smiles for the photo”. “Why don’t you denounce him?,” said the lawyer. “I didn’t know that what had happened to me was rape, I knew it was wrong, but I couldn’t put a name to it,” explains the woman who was only a teenager at the time. “He wasn’t horrible, he didn’t beat me… and we started working together. I respected him, he was kind to me, he told me which books to read,” continues Charlotte Lewis. She publicly denounced these facts for the first time in 2010, in the United States, where Roman Polanski has been considered a fugitive since the 1970s after a conviction for “illegal sexual relations” with a 13-year-old minor.

What follows is more difficult to follow and the dialogue with the court becomes complicated: Charlotte Lewis is angry but not necessarily against Roman Polanski, wants to respond quickly, alternately interrupts the president or the interpreter who is painfully trying to translate her. “Slow down Charlotte,” her lawyer regularly asks her behind her back.

The bottom line, she said, is that “people don’t believe” the accusations she made in 2010, and her life is becoming hell. Notably because of an old article published in a British tabloid 10 years earlier and unearthed according to her by the philosopher and writer Bernard-Henri Lévy on his site. In this article, quotes – false according to her – make her say that she was a prostitute at 14, that she dreamed of being Roman Polanski’s “mistress”.

“It’s like I was thrown under a bus, I experienced a smear campaign. It almost destroyed my life,” says Charlotte Lewis, who evokes, between sobs of anger, the people who stare at her in the street, the birthday parties to which her son is no longer invited, her online referencing systematically linked to “prostitute 14 years”.

“Do you regret having spoken?”, asks his lawyer. “Yes, I would have preferred not to say anything. Today, if a woman comes to me and tells me she was raped and asks me if she should reveal it, I will tell her: no. Draw a line under all that, go on with your life,” she says in a harsh tone.

So this interview with Roman Polanski at Paris Match – in 2019 – in which he speaks of “odious lies”, evokes the need to “question psychologists” on the Charlotte Lewis case, it’s “the last straw” , she says. “You see, the first quality of a good liar is an excellent memory. Charlotte Lewis is always mentioned in the list of my accusers without ever pointing out (her) contradictions,” declared the director, referring to the old tabloid article.

The hearing continues Tuesday evening with the hearing of the author of the article, who was cited by Roman Polanski’s defense.