Roman Polanski, testifying on the first day of his libel lawsuit against the publishers of Vanity Fair, said Monday he had been the victim of an "abominable lie."
The Oscar-winning director is suing Conde Nast over a 2002 article that said he seduced a woman on the way to the funeral of his wife, Sharon Tate. Tate, who was pregnant, was killed by followers of serial killer Charles Manson in Los Angeles in 1969.
His lawyer, John Kelsey-Fry, asked Polanski, who testified by video link from France, "Is it true that you tried to pick up or seduce a girl by exploiting the name of your late wife, who had just been murdered?" The director replied: "It is an abominable lie."
Polanski told the High Court the article was "the worst thing ever written about me."
"It is obvious that it's not true. I don't think you could find a man who could behave in such a way, but I think it was particularly hurtful as it dishonors my memory of Sharon," the 71-year-old filmmaker said.
The Vanity Fair article claimed Polanski went to Elaine's restaurant in New York City and sat next to a woman, "inundating her with his Polish charm."
The article said Polanski promised the woman: "I will make another Sharon Tate out of you."
Kelsey-Fry said Polanski was seeking damages "sufficient to bring home the falsity" of the article, but did not mention a figure.
Mia Farrow, who starred in Polanski's 1968 film, "Rosemary's Baby," was expected to testify Tuesday on his behalf, Kelsey-Fry said.
Farrow will testify that she recalls going to the restaurant with Polanski and that they discussed how distressed he was over his wife's slaying, the lawyer said. Polanski's case is that the alleged seduction incident never happened at all, he said.
Conde Nast, which is based in the United States, is contesting the lawsuit. Libel actions concerning the international media are often brought in British courts because they are considered friendlier to claimants than U.S. courts.
Polanski, who won an Oscar in 2003 for "The Pianist," has lived in France since fleeing child-sex charges in the United States in 1978. He was unwilling to come to Britain for fear of being arrested and extradited to the United States.
The case went ahead after Polanski won a ruling from the House of Lords, Britain's highest court, saying he could testify by video link.
Polanski was outside the United States at the time of Tate's murder. He flew straight to Los Angeles to arrange her burial on Aug. 13, 1969, and only went to Elaine's after the funeral, Kelsey-Fry said.
Kelsey-Fry said Conde Nast had accepted that the incident didn't happen on the way to the funeral. Its case is that the events occurred two weeks or so later, and that the article was substantially true.
Polanski's films also include "Tess" and "Chinatown."