Director Roman Polanski was arrested in Switzerland as he arrived in the country for a film festival and could be extradited to the United States to face 32-year-old charges of having sex with a 13-year-old girl, The Associated Press reported Sunday.
Watch the film about the case, Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired
Polanski, director of such acclaimed films as Rosemary's Baby, Chinatown and The Pianist, was scheduled to receive an honorary award at the Zurich Film Festival. The Swiss Justice Ministry said in a statement that U.S. authorities have sought the 76-year-old's arrest since 2005.
''There was a valid arrest request and we knew when he was coming,'' ministry spokesman Guido Balmer told The Associated Press. ''That's why he was taken into custody.''
The U.S. would now need to make a formal extradition request, Balmer told the AP.
Read Polanski's life story
Polanski fled the U.S. in 1978, one year after pleading guilty to unlawful sexual intercourse with the underage girl, because the judge in the case planned to renege on the plea agreement. The girl said he plied her with champagne and half a Quaalude during a photo shoot at Jack Nicholson's house while the actor was away.
Polanski lives in France, where he has continued to make successful films, including The Pianist, for which he won a directing Oscar. He did not return to the U.S. to accept the award.
French Culture Minister Frederic Mitterrand said he "strongly regrets that a new ordeal is being inflicted on someone who has already experienced so many of them.''
Polanski escaped Krakow's Jewish ghetto as a child, and his mother died at the Auschwitz Nazi death camp. His wife, Sharon Tate, was murdered by followers of Charles Manson in 1969, when she was eight months pregnant.
Polanski's victim, Samantha Geimer, has joined Polanski in trying to have the charges dismissed, saying she wants the case to end. She sued the director and reached an undisclosed settlement.