Polanski presents a series of ghost and shadow figures: Lang's original ghostwriter, who is found dead — washed up on a nearby beach, his successor who seems fated to follow the clues the first ghost has left behind, the prime minister's wife who is the real power behind the throne, a college professor and old classmate of Lang's who seems inexplicably sinister. Harris, who cowrote the script with Polanski, has stated in an interview that Blair had ostensibly been a ghostwriter to President Bush when giving public reasons for invading Iraq. There are shadows within shadows.
There is a scene in the middle of the film, when Lang, surrounded by advisors, learns that he has been accused of war crimes and can no longer go home to London or any country that is part of the International Criminal Court. Frustrated, he asks, "Where can I go?" and is informed that he can remain in the U.S., or travel to China, India, and maybe a few places in Africa — all countries who are not members of the Court or its jurisdiction. Polanski is definitely pointing to his own situation, but the self-reference, which could have been maudlin, isn't. It is a grim fact of both Polanski's and Brosnan's character's existence that they have been living like quasi-prisoners for years. As beautiful as the beachfront island estate is where Lang resides, it is also a bunker.
In 1977 Polanski pled guilty to a single count of having unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor, Samantha Geimer, who was 13 years old at the time. Polanski admitted to having sex with the girl, and did 42 days in prison for the crime, but fled the U.S. before final sentencing, as he was convinced the judge in the case would not give him a fair hearing. He has lived as a fugitive ever since, initially fleeing to France, where he became a citizen, and was protected from extradition to the U.S. Geimer has long since moved on from the original crime and just wants the courts and the media to leave her family and even Polanski free to lead their lives, as she feels they have both been misused by the legal system.
Polanski also has a house in Switzerland, and was able to come and go until September 2009, when the U.S. insisted he be put under house-arrest awaiting extradition. Many in the film industry, including Woody Allen, Wong Kar Waï, Patrice Leconte, David Lynch, Michael Mann, Tilda Swinton, Wim Wenders, and Tom Twyker signed a petition protesting the director's arrest. The U.S.'s extradition request was ultimately rejected by the Swiss and Polanski is once again "free."