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06 Dec 2010

Roman Polanski's thriller The Ghost Writer was the toast of the European Film Awards, winning six prizes including best film and best director.

The 77-year-old did not attend the ceremony in Estonia, appearing instead via internet video software Skype.

"You have rewarded a truly European venture," he said from his Paris home.

Scotland's Ewan McGregor was named best actor for his role in the film as a writer hired to "ghost" the memoirs of a former British prime minister.

The Trainspotting star sent a pre-recorded message from the Thailand set of his latest project asking anyone who knew him at the event to contact him if he won.

"I'll be asleep when the award is presented and it'd be great to find out I've won when I wake up," the 39-year-old continued.

As well as receiving the director prize, Polanski was also honoured for the screenplay he co-wrote with British novelist Robert Harris.

Other prizes for The Ghost Writer - released as The Ghost in the UK - came for its music score and production design.

Polanski was working on the film at the time of his arrest in Switzerland last year on a US arrest warrant relating to his 1977 conviction for unlawful sex with a 13-year-old girl.

The Rosemary's Baby director spent nine months in jail and under house arrest before Swiss authorities decided, in July, not to extradite him to the US, where he remains a wanted man.
Post-production trauma

Polanski's awards were accepted at the ceremony in Tallinn by The Ghost Writer's British co-producer Timothy Burrill.

"Obviously I'm thrilled for Roman," he told the BBC News website after the event in Estonia's chilly capital city.

"He went through a period of trauma during post-production on the film, and the fact he was editing it from jail did not make it any easier."

However, Burrill played down the suggestion that The Ghost Writer's success represented a vote of solidarity for Polanski following his recent legal travails.

"I don't think people think like that," he said. "I think people just like the film."

His sentiments were echoed by its German production designer Albrecht Konrad, who said Polanski's movie was "a film first of all, a piece of craftsmanship".

"I wouldn't say yes and I wouldn't say no," he said when asked whether off-screen events had swayed the voting. "That's not for me to answer."
British nominations

The Ghost Writer had been nominated for eight awards in all, more than any other title at this year's gala.

The other main recipient was Israeli war film Lebanon, which was presented with a prize for its cinematography and a "discovery" award for its writer-director Samuel Moaz.

Britain's Lesley Manville missed out on the best actress prize for her performance in Mike Leigh's Another Year, a gong won last year by her compatriot Kate Winslet for The Reader.

Lifetime achievement honours went to German actor Bruno Ganz and the Lebanese composer Gabriel Yared.

The latter, best known for his collaborations with Anthony Minghella, received his prize from the late director's widow Carolyn Choa and French actress Juliette Binoche.

The prize for European animated feature film went to The Illusionist, a UK-French co-production about a French conjuror on tour in Scotland.

Presented annually by the European Film Academy, the awards are decided by its 2,300 members and were first staged in 1988.

Next year's awards will be held in Berlin, with Valetta in Malta confirmed as the host city for the 2012 event.

Polanski's use of Skype was welcomed by locals, the popular application having initially been developed by a trio of Estonian programmers.

The ceremony was co-hosted by German comedienne Anke Engelke and Estonian actor Mart Avandi.


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