Mindhunter creator David Fincher will team with the original writer of the Hollywood classic Chinatown for a prequel series establishing the character of Jake Gittes, Jack Nicholson’s character in the film. Robert Towne, who won an Oscar for writing the original film, will pair with Fincher (who has been twice nominated for an Oscar and took home a BAFTA for directing The Social Network) on the project, which will mark another series from the filmmaker behind both Mindhunter and House of Cards. He is also known for directing Se7en, Fight Club, Gone Girl, and The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. Towne previously wrote a Chinatown sequel, The Two Jakes, and has worked on projects like Shampoo, the first two Mission: Impossible movies, and The Last Detail.
In addition to The Two Jakes, star Jack Nicholson once claimed that Towne had planned to make a third Chinatown movie, but Towne denies that. Either way, the world of the film — widely regarded as one of the best Hollywood screenplays of all time — has remained closed since.
Per Deadline, who broke the news, “The script will focus on the life of private investigator Jake Gittes (played by Jack Nicholson in the original film) before the events of Chinatown as he tackles cases involving L.A.’s one percent, endemic corruption, infrastructure and natural resources. Towne, Fincher and frequent Fincher collaborator Josh Donen (House of Cards, Gone Girl) will executive produce if the prequel script goes to series.”
The original film was directed by Roman Polanski, best known for being a fugitive from justice since 1978, when he was convicted of rape and fled the U.S. to avoid sentencing.
Chinatown centered on Gittes’s (ultimately unsuccessful) attempts to clean up organized and white collar crime. His partner’s warning to him, “Forget it, Jake — It’s Chinatown,” has become one of the most quoted lines in American cinema, and has been riffed on too many times to count in parodies (a favorite of ours is “Santabarbaratown,” an episode of Psych).
Chinatown is bound to be one of a number of high-profile pieces of intellectual property snapped up by Netflix and other streaming platforms in the hopes of filling holes left in their film and TV catalogues as companies like Disney, NBC Universal, and Warner Bros. take their content back to their own streaming services. The rights to some older properties have likely reverted to screenwriters, who are more likely than studios to license them away without taking a huge cut in the backend.