By Marcin Goclowski
WARSAW (Reuters) - Roman Polanski wants to shoot a movie in his native Poland about the 19th-century Dreyfus Affair if the director gets assurances that he will have no legal problems stemming from a 1977 sex crime conviction in the United States, associates said.
Polanski, 80, spent part of his childhood in the Polish city of Krakow, where he aims to film, until it was occupied by Nazi German forces. He escaped Krakow's Jewish ghetto but his mother died in the nearby Auschwitz concentration camp.
After World War Two he returned to Krakow, and later emigrated.
"Roman Polanski is considering filming in Poland about the Dreyfus Affair," Jerzy Stachowicz, Polanski's Polish attorney, told Reuters, referring to the 19th-century case of French military officer Alfred Dreyfus.
Dreyfus was an artillery officer of Jewish heritage whose conviction on trumped-up treason charges was criticized as having been motivated by anti-Semitism. The case created a schism in French society and he was later exonerated.
The Polish Film Institute said that Polanski had rented an apartment in Krakow, had visited the city and taken his family to the former camp at Auschwitz, which is now a museum.
At a news conference in Krakow this week, Robert Benmussa, a producer who worked with Polanski on the 2002 Oscar-winning movie "The Pianist," said a final decision had not yet been made on whether to go ahead with the project.
"We have to be sure that filming will not be interrupted for legal reasons," Benmussa said.
Polanski, director of such classics as "Rosemary's Baby" and "Chinatown", pleaded guilty in 1977 to having unlawful sex with 13-year-old Samantha Geimer during a photoshoot, fueled by champagne and drugs.
Polanski served 42 days in jail as part of a 90-day plea bargain in 1977. He fled the United States in 1978, believing the judge hearing his case could overrule the deal and put him in jail for years.
In 2009, Polanski was arrested in the Swiss city of Zurich on a 31-year-old U.S. warrant and placed under house arrest. He was freed in 2010 after the Swiss authorities decided not to extradite him to the United States.
A spokeswoman for Poland's justice ministry declined to comment on whether Polanski would be extradited. Under Polish law, if the United States filed a request for extradition to Poland, a court would rule on the request and the court's decision could still be overruled by the justice minister.
Polanski has influential supporters in Poland.
Asked about the director on Thursday, Lecher Walesa, a former Polish president and leader of the Solidarity trade union movement, said he did not want to see Polanski re-arrested.
"It would be a pity, because he's a regular guy, I know him," Walesa told reporters.
(Additional reporting by Magdalena Kolodziej; Editing by Christian Lowe, Michael Roddy and Mark Heinrich)