Roman Polanski attends a news conference during the Cannes Film Festival, on May 27, 2017, in Cannes, France.

Roman Polanski attends a news conference during the Cannes Film Festival, on May 27, 2017, in Cannes, France. (Jean-Marc Haedrich/Abaca Press/TNS)

Admitted rapist Roman Polanski's latest film, "An Officer and a Spy," earned 12 nominations at the 2020 Cesar Awards, which are the highest honor for cinema in France.

But after controversy over the nominations, the entire 21-person board of the Cesar Academy, which distributes the awards, announced their resignation on Thursday night, effective after the awards ceremony on Feb. 28.

The board had faced a backlash and calls to boycott this year's awards after the nominations were unveiled and Polanski's movie received more than any other, including nods for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor and Best Adapted Screenplay.

Polanski has been exiled from the U.S. since 1978, when he fled sentencing after pleading guilty to unlawful sex with a 13-year-old. Polanski, now 86, was 43 when he committed the statutory rape.

Reaction to the crime in the film industry was muted at most for decades. At the 2003 Oscars, Polanski won Best Director for "The Pianist" and, when he was arrested while trying to enter Switzerland in 2009, colleagues like Martin Scorsese, Wes Anderson, David Lynch, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Alfonso Cuaron, and Woody Allen came to his defense. (He was later released from custody.)

Only since the beginning of #MeToo has the rape come under more scrutiny, with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences expelling the director along with Bill Cosby in 2018.

Although the nominations for "An Officer and a Spy" came from the votes of the Cesar Academy's thousands of members, critics have argued that the nominations highlight a need for more gender parity and diversity in the voters, as well as increased transparency, and all-around reform for the operation. In their statement, the board said that their resignation was made to "honor those men and women who made cinema happen in 2019, to find calm and ensure that the festival of film remains just that, a festival".

"This collective decision will allow complete renewal of the board," it added.

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