8 July 2017

The Two Jakes: Take 2


"Paramount will make this movie," said one observer. "But only when the movie makers get their act together."
- Los Angeles Times, May 9, 1985
Following the very public collapse of the initial production of The Two Jakes in May of 1985, the sets were dismantled, a number of claims were filed by crew members regarding unpaid work, and the production faced lawsuits from Laird International Studios, Kodak and others. Paramount announced that the production had been postponed indefinitely, although Frank Mancuso, the executive producer, did state that he hadn't given up hope of resurrecting it.

The rumour mill continued to grind about what exactly was going on - largely that other studios had made offers to Paramount to take over the troubled production, and that Robert Towne was in negotiations to sell his screenplay for $2 million, in order to help meet the unpaid crew salaries. There were also some very unlikely claims that Robert Evans had somehow scraped together $25 million in independent financing to make the film free of studio interference.
One report quoted Alan Ladd Jr., the chairman of MGM/UA, as saying that he and his firm had made an offer to Paramount, but that they hadn't "told us yes or no". The report even went so far as to say that MGM wouldn't insist on Evans remaining behind the camera.
However, on May 31, Daily Variety reported that Ladd categorically denied that any such offer had been made, as did Jack Nicholson's attorney. Robert Evans' attorney, Alan Schwartz, issued a non-committal response, claiming that Evans was, for legal reasons, "under wraps" and not at liberty to discuss such matters. Robert Towne 'disavowed knowledge of any active negotiations going on "with anybody anywhere"'.

Towne, Evans and Nicholson, of TEN Productions, headed their separate ways. Jack Nicholson went straight onto Heartburn with director Mike Nichols, replacing Mandy Patinkin as the lead actor, who Nichols decided wasn't working out after two days of shooting.

Robert Evans went back to desperately trying to revive his career with the ongoing investigation of the murder of Roy Radin hanging over his head, although it was yet to hit the headlines the way it would three and a half years later.

Robert Towne, however, wasn't done with The Two Jakes just yet. As David Thomson reported in Vanity Fair, he was heard "muttering about disloyalty, lawsuits, his resolve to set the picture up somewhere else, and how 'this time they aren't going to fuck the goose that lays the golden egg.'"

In August 1985 it emerged that he was in negotiations for producer Dino De Laurentiis to acquire the production from Paramount and reinstate Towne as director.
There were, of course, a few catches. Paramount owned the rights to Chinatown and the Jake Gittes character, so this film couldn't be identified as a sequel, or have any connection to Chinatown. As a result, the script would require some major rewriting, the title would have to be changed, and with Evans out as producer, Nicholson wouldn't be involved, so the lead character would have to be recast.
More importantly, there was the question of how much Paramount Pictures, which had already lost something in the neighbourhood of $4 million already on the aborted production, would demand to take the picture out of 'turnaround' (a situation where a halted film production is written off as a loss by a production company, but can still be sold to another, to recoup development costs).

Harrison Ford in Witness (1985)
Towne was determined to resurrect the film, so he pursued the possibility regardless. Harrison Ford was widely reported to have read the script and showed interest in replacing Nicholson as the lead. Roy Scheider was brought up again in connection with the Jake Berman role, as was Dustin Hoffman. Cathy Moriarty, who was to have played Lillian Bodine in the original production, was apparently going to return. A start date of July 1986 was even mentioned.
Once again, it wasn't to be. Negotiations continued into mid-September, but according to Towne, Paramount and others were demanding a "prohibitive" amount for turnaround, so the film's budget would have ballooned to at least $25 million. De Laurenttiis passed.

And still, The Two Jakes refused to die. Despite what appeared to be insurmountable hurdles blocking its progress, Nicholson and Evans insisted that the picture was not dead, telling Variety in December 1985 that at one point they had gone so far as to consider shooting the film in Paris, in order to have Roman Polanski in the director's chair.

Comedian Whoopi Goldberg made a somewhat tongue-in-cheek suggestion in late 1985, telling reporters she'd like to play "a male private detective" opposite Jack Nicholson in the film in the role originally intended for Robert Evans (either Goldberg or the reporters must have gotten their wires crossed at some point - Jake Berman wasn't a detective). She was simply making a point - that she had as much right as anyone else to be considered for all the major Hollywood roles.
However, Evans replied with "That's so ludicrous it's a joke. It's like saying I'm going to play the life of Libby Holman. If anyone is going to play that role, I'm going to play it, and if I don't, I'll choose who I wish to have in the role. And Whoopi Goldberg would not be my first choice."
(Goldberg was later quoted in 1991 as saying that she had found Evans' response mean and hurtful)
Apart from the likelihood that Evans had lost his sense of humour after all his recent troubles, his comments also indicate that not only hadn't he given up on producing The Two Jakes, he hadn't completely abandoned the idea of playing Jake Berman himself.


1986 saw yet another attempt at reviving The Two Jakes - this time with the Cannon Group, a production company best known for such exploitation fare as The Happy Hooker, Missing in Action, The Delta Force and Enter the Ninja. In April, Daily Variety announced that the picture was back on at Cannon for a 1987 shoot, with Evans, Nicholson and Towne together again as producer, star and director. It was later reported that Evans had finally decided not to play the second Jake, and Roy Scheider was, once again, cited as a likely candidate for the role.
What Evans wasn't prepared to relinquish, however, was his role as the producer of the film - but Cannon's owners, Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus, had other plans. They offered to buy his stake in the film and give him a nominal credit as line producer. Evans wasn't interested in anything but full control, telling Variety in May that "the picture doesn't get made without me", and so negotiations fell apart by the end of the year.


Robert Towne directing Mel Gibson



1987 brought with it a few ups and downs. Robert Towne managed to get his act together, with Warner Bros picking up his script Tequila Sunrise, which he would also direct the following year. Released in 1988, the film was a commercial success, starring Mel Gibson, Michelle Pfeiffer and Kurt Russell (and also featuring a brief cameo from Bud Boetticher, who was to have played the villain, Earl Rawley, in The Two Jakes back in 1985).
Jack Nicholson's acting career continued to sail along, with The Witches of Eastwick being a solid hit, and Ironweed receiving rave reviews and earning Jack yet another Academy Award nomination.

Robert Evans, however, continued his downward slide. 1987 was Paramount Pictures' seventy-fifth anniversary, but such was Evans' infamy by then that, despite having been instrumental in saving the studio nearly twenty years earlier, he wasn't asked to appear in the anniversary photo featuring the studio's most famous stars, directors, producers and studio chiefs. No one wanted to do business with him, and not long after, he was asked to vacate his offices at Paramount. 

He did finally manage to produce a film that year, though, if you can call it that - The Power of Faith, a 42-minute video documentary about Pope John Paul II, which he said he hoped would "be the highlight of my professional career". The hyperbolic blurb on the back cover might well have been written by Evans himself:
Robert Evans has created an extraordinary first in motion pictures. A vision so powerful it transcends the dimensions of language... the dimensions of words themselves. THE POWER OF FAITH is a story of humanity and forgiveness that narration, for in its purity and truth it reaches through the universal window of all people... the soul...
Meanwhile, The Two Jakes remained in limbo. One would think the smart thing to have done would be to simply abandon it altogether, but the lawsuits levelled against TEN and Paramount prevented this from happening, along with the $4 million that TEN owed Paramount for the aborted 1985 attempt.
After the failures to revive the film with De Laurentiis and Cannon, it became obvious to all concerned that the only way it could ever get made was back where it started, at Paramount.

In September of 1988, Jack Nicholson began negotiations with Paramount's Frank Mancuso Jr, who owed him a favour for rescuing Heartburn at a moment's notice. Nicholson's determination to bring The Two Jakes to the screen wasn't entirely driven by a burning artistic desire, however. In a 1989 interview with The New York Times, he reveals a far less romantic motivation:
I was the only person who had any money, so the lawsuits went after me. It bored me to death. When I work, I don't just step in and learn my lines. I have to plan a year in advance. And I had to work my schedule around the lawsuits.
Exactly how the legal and financial complications were finally untangled is unknown, as the details of the settlement are sealed, and all parties involved remain legally bound not to discuss it. Nevertheless, the three partners who had formed TEN Productions managed to come to an agreement with Paramount, and in October 1988, Variety announced that the picture was officially back on, starring Jack Nicholson and, you guessed it, Roy Scheider.

There were to be a few changes, not the least of which was the director. Since the 1985 collapse, Nicholson and Evans had pursued several alternatives, including Mike Nichols, Bernardo Bertolucci and even, somehow, getting Roman Polanski back from Paris. Nichols and Bertolucci, unfortunately, would have pushed the film's budget too high, and the Polanski option wasn't feasible, if it was ever considered seriously in the first place. 1
(Towne, presumably, wasn't in the running any more, even if he was still interested)

According to Peter Biskind's Easy Riders, Raging Bulls, Nicholson's friend and colleague from the BBS era, producer Bert Schneider, was listening to Jack one night "bemoaning the fact that he would never be taken seriously as a director", and suggested that he revive The Two Jakes and direct it himself, with Schneider on board as executive producer to watch his back. Bert's career had foundered since the glory days of BBS in the 1970s - after the company dissolved in 1975, he had produced Terence Malick's widely acclaimed Days of Heaven (1978), but since then, his only film had been Broken English in 1981, which was never released outside of the festival circuit.
Paramount wasn't interested in bringing Schneider along, and Nicholson didn't push for his involvement any further, ending their twenty-five year friendship. (Biskind doesn't specify exactly when this took place - most likely sometime around 1987/1988, after Nichols and Bertolucci had turned the project down)
According to Nicholson, the initial idea of him directing the film actually came from Evans and Towne, who suggested he take over as director and fire them both. "That was one thing I wasn't prepared for," he said to the LA Times in 1990. He would reiterate this reluctance in Jack on Jakes, a featurette included on the 2007 DVD release of The Two Jakes:
I basically directed the film because it was the only way to not have it be this ongoing drama. So there was always that element to actually doing the picture. I wasn't dying to direct it, I mean, I knew the problems.
However, or whenever, he got the idea, Jack Nicholson emerged from his negotiations with Mancuso in 1988 as the new director of The Two Jakes, despite having sworn never to direct a film again, after the difficult experience of Goin' South in 1978.

According to a December 1989 article in Los Angeles Magazine, Robert Towne sold the rights to his script to Paramount for $1.5 million and remained the credited writer, although Nicholson insisted on significant rewrites.

Robert Evans was still, officially, the producer of the film, but the production company was no longer TEN, it was now the 88 Production Company, an entity co-owned by Paramount, with control over all the finances and distribution. With Evans' personal life in complete turmoil and his professional abilities in question, Harold Schneider was hired as line producer to handle the budget and keep an eye on the day-to-day production. Evans is the first to admit that he was the producer in name only, more of a hindrance than a contributor, his very involvement almost entirely thanks to Nicholson's loyalty. "I was a vegetable at the time," he told Movieline in 1993. He credits Schneider as being the true producer of the film, and insisted on him receiving full credits as co-producer and as presenter.

Nicholson & DOP Vilmos Zsigmond
When it came to putting the cast and crew together, the team from 1985 was largely replaced. Many weren't available, or simply weren't interested, having been burned the first time around. Keeping the budget down was also a strong factor.
Production designer Dick Sylbert was replaced by a newcomer to the business, architect Jeremy Railton, Vilmos Zsigmond took over as director of photography from Caleb Deschanel, and composing duties went from Jerry Goldsmith to Van Dyke Parks, a friend of Nicholson's.

James Hong & Jack Nicholson
With the exception of Nicholson as Gittes, Perry Lopez as Lou Escobar and James Hong as Khan (Evelyn Mulwray's butler), the film was almost entirely recast, and partly rewritten in a couple of cases to accomodate the circumstances.
Madeline Stowe & Meg Tilly
The two lead female roles of Kitty Berman and Lillian Bodine were now to be played by Meg Tilly and Madeline Stowe. Richard Farnsworth replaced Bud Boetticher as the villain, Earl Rawley. Musician Rubén Blades came on board as the hoodlum Mickey Nice. Eli Wallach and Frederic Forrest were cast in roles (Cotton Weinberger and Chuck Newty) which were, reportedly, originally to be filled by Dennis Hopper and Joe Pesci.
Richard Farnsworth, Frederic Forrest & Jack Nicholson
David Keith & Perry Lopez
In Towne's first and second drafts of The Two Jakes, Detective Loach (the officer who shot Evelyn Mulwray at the end of Chinatown) plays a crucial part. Richard Bakalayan, who played Loach in Chinatown, wasn't available, so rather than cast a different actor in the role, the character was rewritten as Loach's son, and played by David Keith.

Joe Mantell
 
Similarly, Towne's early drafts of Jakes include one of Gittes' associates from Chinatown, Pat Duffy (originally played by Bruce Glover). Glover also wasn't available, so the character was changed to Lawrence Walsh (Joe Mantell) - Jake's offsider in Chinatown who delivers the film's devastating final line.

Nicholson & Evans as the two Jakes in 1985
As for the second Jake of the title, it goes without saying that no one was under the illusion by this stage that Robert Evans could have another stab at it, least of all Evans himself. "In retrospect, I should have stepped aside four years ago, but I was too angry," he told the New York Times in 1989. Despite having been repeatedly associated with the part since 1985, it seems Roy Scheider was unavailable, or just unwilling to fill the role. Dustin Hoffman (who had been the original choice as early as 1976), hot off the success of his Academy-Award-winning performance in Rain Man, was well out of the film's price range, and likely not interested in playing second fiddle to Nicholson.

Harvey Keitel & Jack Nicholson as Berman & Gittes
Instead, it was announced in March 1989 that Jake Berman was to be played by Harvey Keitel, who had originally been cast as Mickey Nice in 1985. In Jack on Jakes, Jack Nicholson describes, vaguely, how Keitel was cast: 
Anyway, I was a big fan of Harvey's, and you know, we talked, and at the end of this he just grabbed me by the shoulders and he said 'Jack, do you want me to play this part or not?', you know, and I said, 'Well, yeah, I do,' so that's how Harvey was cast.
One gets the impression that Keitel landed the role simply because there wasn't anyone else of his acting calibre that the production could afford, and just happened to be available (this was a couple of years before he finally entered the mainstream, with standout turns in Thelma & Louise, Bugsy, and Reservoir Dogs). Despite delivering a solid performance as Jake Berman in the finished film, the gritty, down-to-earth Harvey Keitel seems miscast, not being quite able to conjure up the slimy charm required for the character.

Tom Waits & Rubén Blades
Nicholson filled the rest of the cast and crew with friends and even family, hiring his daughter, Jennifer, as a production-design assistant. Much of the crew had worked with him on Goin' South, or on films he'd appeared in. Many small parts went to actors he'd known for thirty years, from acting classes with Jeff Corey. Tracey Walter, who plays Tyrone Otley in Jakes (better known as the Joker's sidekick, Bob, in Batman) said, "He doesn't forget the guys he knew before he was famous." Van Dyke Parks, who scored Goin' South for Nicholson in 1978, and was now on board to compose the score for Jakes, also appears in the film as the prosecuting attorney. Alan Finkelstein, associate producer of the film, was Jack's new golf partner and an old friend. Tom Waits has a brief cameo as a police detective.

With shooting planned to start in April, Towne and Nicholson began work on the much-needed rewrite of the script in January 1989. Unfortunately, by all accounts it seems that Towne's input at the time could be summed up by one of Chinatown's most famous lines - "as little as possible." He worked on the revisions for six months, then promptly left, leaving Nicholson with the task of fixing a still problematic script while shooting the film.
Nicholson has been relatively taciturn about the matter, except to say in a 1997 interview that "once I got the assignment nothing went wrong other than everybody on the project being very upset with Robert Towne." In Jack on Jakes, he mentions the difficulties almost in passing:
During this time from when we started knowing I would direct it, I think I did Batman in London, you know, was meant to have a final script before I started - didn't - was assured I'd have it by the time I got back - didn't - and so it was hard to get the script.
Others didn't hold back - in a 1989 article in Los Angeles Magazine, Harold Schneider accused Towne of having abandoned Nicholson, and Anne Goursaud, the editor of the film, agreed that 'abandoned' is exactly how Jack felt. One close associate of Nicholson's was quoted in the article as saying:
(Towne) has been disappointing to us. Let's just say that maybe sometimes it's like he didn't want the job to succeed. You can say that Jack has suffered. This has been a movie of lost relationships for him on the personal side.
Robert Evans sums up Towne's eventual contribution in The Kid Stays in the Picture:
Alan Finkelstein, a producer on the film, specifically remembers that not only did Robert Towne not deliver a completed script, but went to Bora Bora with his wife, claiming he would complete the remaining 20 percent from there. The only line of communication with Towne was to call the main hut between certain hours of the day. The “staff” would then try to locate him because Towne’s hut had no direct phone line. That was the last we ever heard from Robert Towne. What a friend.
Working with Tom Cruise on Days of Thunder by then, beginning a close working collaboration which would continue well into the next decade, Towne's response in a 1990 Premiere article almost suggests that he couldn't be bothered denying anything, that he was sick of the whole affair. "As far as Jack and I are concerned, I can only say that I did the best that I could." As to whether his absence hurt the film itself, he virtually washes his hands of it:
I mean, why don't they just let you look at the movie and decide on that? If the movie is good, no amount of discussion of my shortcomings is going to hurt it, and if the movie is bad, no amount of that is going to help it.
Meanwhile, the other Bob had far more serious problems to deal with. In October 1988, five-and-a-half years after the bullet-riddled corpse of Roy Radin was discovered in a remote Los Angeles canyon, police had formally charged four people with his murder, and the case hit the headlines with full force, with Robert Evans' alleged involvement a major talking point. Evans was not charged, nor named as a suspect, but the District Attorney's Office refused to rule him out as a suspect, and he was subpoenaed to testify at a preliminary hearing on May 12, 1989. Following the advice of his attorney, Robert Shapiro, Evans exercised his constitutional right against self-incrimination under the Fifth Amendment, and refused to answer any questions.
Although his role in the case officially ended that day (he would eventually be cleared of any involvement in 1991), the press continued to milk his association with it for all it was worth, and taking the Fifth had just added fuel to the fire.

Robert Evans had finally hit rock bottom. Three months earlier, he had been forced to sell his beloved Woodland mansion to meet his debts, and was paying $25,000 a month, which he couldn't even closely afford, to live there as a tenant. Now his name was being dragged through the mud by the media at every opportunity.
On May 19, fearing suicide, he checked himself into the mental health ward of Scripps Memorial Hospital in San Diego. Locked behind bars, pumped full of sedatives and facing the possibility of electroshock therapy, he immediately regretted the decision and managed to arrange an escape back home two days later.

Principal photography on The Two Jakes began on April 18, 1989. Despite the four years of troubles that had preceded it, the shoot went smoothly enough, coming in on schedule and on budget, although it wasn't immune to the usual problems faced by any film production, with the 1940s setting creating its own set of difficulties when shooting on location in Los Angeles of 1989. When the production arrived at the building to be used as Gittes' office building (selected by Dick Sylbert for the 1985 shoot), they discovered that several rows of trees on either side had since been cut down, revealing a huge modern post office and supermarket. Similarly, an orange grove that had been scouted as a location had also been cut down. On one remote location shoot, it turned out that an actor hadn't been cast for the scene due to be shot. And although only the most eagle-eyed viewers ever spotted it, an ATM can even be glimpsed in the background of one shot:
In various interviews at the time, Nicholson was very upbeat, while making no secret of how exhausting the experience was:
You got any idea what it's like to direct a movie and star in it, too? I'll tell ya. You're up at six and on the set at eight. You shoot all morning - settin' up shots, directin' the actors, playin' your own part all at the same time. Then you miss lunch 'cause you're thrashin' out production problems. In the afternoon you shoot till dark. The actors go home - you don't. You got two hours of conferences before you look at what you shot the day before. Suddenly it's midnight, and you haven't had supper.
So you go eat, and if you manage to get home by two a.m. you're lucky. You're dead beat, but you can't go to bed yet. You're also an actor. You got to study your lines for the next day. So you put out the lights at three, and three hours later the alarm goes off. That's the normal routine. However, Bob Towne and I had to rewrite the script while we were shootin', and the only time I could write was in the wee hours. So for about three months I got one, two hours of sleep a night.
I used to laugh at Stallone. Now I admire him. The Two Jakes is the hardest work I've ever done. The whole experience was a specific test of my character.
- Life Magazine, September 1990
At the same time, he seemed to relish having returned to the role of director. Journalists visiting the set would report a generally easy-going, relaxed environment, with a cheerful Nicholson in full control, enthusiastic about the project and more than happy to discuss virtually any aspect of the story he was trying to tell.

Not that he wasn't prepared to crack the whip when he needed to. In a 1989 New York Times article, Nicholson is described dealing with an actor (unnamed, although vaguely identified as playing a policeman) who simply isn't giving him what he wants:
With a flick of his voice, Mr Nicholson can turn boiling water into ice cubes in midair. He has not unleashed his anger yet, but everyone - actors and technicians - seems clumsy in anticipation.
"I'm doing my best, Jack." the actor whines.
Mr Nicholson's answer is in a razor-sharp monotone. "We're on take 24, and you haven't said the lines right yet. I know you're trying to get it right. So are 130 other people."
In Jack on Jakes, Nicholson describes how, one day, he went berserk at Perry Lopez for drifting into frame, only to feel terrible about it immediately afterwards. After apologising to everyone for hours, he vowed to himself not to yell on set again.
And I didn't, you know, for a day or so, and finally this great gaffer, Gavin, calls me aside - yeah, what is it? He says, "Look, you've got to start yelling again." "What do you mean?" He says, "You're so quiet, it's making the crew uptight! We're walking around on eggshells, you've got to get back to just hurling yourself about."
Through it all, Nicholson's loyalty to Evans never wavered. Undeterred by the notoriety generated by the producer's alleged connection to the 'Cotton Club Murder', he made sure that Evans was on set for the first day of shooting. Even more selflessly, he insisted that each day, the dailies were shown in the projection room of Evans' Woodland home, rather than at the studio. As Evans puts it:
Strange, here’s a guy directing and starring, knowing that showing the dailies at my home would cost him a much needed two hours’ sleep. But it mattered little. He knew by doing that it gave me a much needed legitimacy. Not quite understanding why they had to be there, each night the entire crew would meet at my home to watch dailies. The Irishman made it clear why; he needed my approving eye (even knowing full well not only couldn’t I see straight, but I was on the verge of a breakdown).
The principal shoot wrapped on July 26, with a scene shot at Jack Nicholson's own home, but it was not until October that shooting was fully completed.

With Robert Towne AWOL, Nicholson had made numerous changes to the script, including jettisoning the majority of an elaborate flashback/dream sequence. Several voiceovers from Gittes were also added, "less to propel narrative than to establish a unifying voice and tone", according to Nicholson.
The most significant change, however, must have felt like a particularly bitter dose of deja vu for Robert Towne - his ending was completely changed, just as it had been on Chinatown. Towne's drafts ended with Jake Gittes and Kitty Berman parting ways, then a reference to the freak Los Angeles snowstorm that actually occurred in January of 1949:

GITTES
- when'll you come back?

KITTY
(glancing about) Oh... first snow on the ground.
 
GITTES
You know the last time it snowed in L.A.?

KITTY
No, do you?

GITTES
The next time will probably be the first time...

KITTY
(nods, then:) Well, it would be nice.

Gittes' face falls. Then his voice and manner brighten.

GITTES
Tell you what. It's almost Thanksgiving. I'll see if I can't arrange something by the first of the year.

He winks and gives here a quick kiss on the cheek, gets in his car and drives off. Kitty watches him go. A little dust rises from the gravel and
DISSOLVE TO:
SNOW FALLING
over a still photo of the LOS ANGELES TIMES and its huge headline:
WIND-DRIVEN SNOW, HAIL, SLEET INVADE SOUTHLAND IN JANUARY STORM

The headline DISSOLVES into the streets of L.A. from Cahuengha to La Brea, from Mulholland to City Hall, filled with falling snow, and occasional pedestrians filled with joy at finding themselves in it, and occasionally finding each other.

THE END


According to a number of sources, this scene was filmed, but Nicholson felt it was too sentimental, so he wrote and shot a simpler, more bittersweet, and somewhat open-ended final scene in Gittes' office, with Gittes telling Kitty that "it (the past) never goes away."

Originally scheduled for a Christmas 1989 release, it soon became clear in post-production that The Two Jakes was not going to be an easy film to put together, however well the shoot itself had gone. The release date was pushed back to March 1990, then August 1990, never a good sign. Those involved insisted that the delays were merely due to Nicholson's determination to make the final result as fine a film as possible, but it was rumoured that preview screenings had not gone down well, and that executives were unhappy with the hefty 144-minute running time of Jack's initial cut (the final film would eventually run 137 minutes).


Jack,daughter Lorraine & Rebecca Broussard
Nicholson was also dealing with his own set of personal troubles at the time. His sixteen-year on-off relationship with Anjelica Huston ended for good in October of 1989 when he confessed to her that Rebecca Broussard, a young actress he'd been having an affair with for several years, and who appears in The Two Jakes as Gittes' secretary, was going to have his child.

Lorraine Nicholson was born in April 1990, and would feature quite heavily with Broussard in numerous publicity articles for The Two Jakes, with Jack as the proud new father.

Karen Mayo-Chandler
The woes between Nicholson and Huston weren't completely over, though - the final straw came in December 1989, when Playboy reprinted a lurid English article from 1988 in which model/actress Karen Mayo-Chandler, star of such masterpieces as Hamburger:The Motion Picture and Stripped to Kill II, described various sexual encounters she'd had with Nicholson, including being spanked with a Ping-Pong bat.

Enough was enough. In her memoir, Watch Me, Huston recounts how she called him, demanding to know where he was. He was heading to work at Paramount. She went straight over, marched into his office, and proceeded to "beat the living hell out of him."

The Two Jakes was finally released in the United States on August 10, 1990, and disappeared quickly from screens. Despite Jack Nicholson having being propelled into full-blown mega-stardom the year before, with his movie-stealing performance as the Joker in Tim Burton's Batman, it wasn't enough to save The Two Jakes from box-office failure. The film only grossed $10 million, just over half of its estimated $19 million budget. 2
A mere four days after its release, an article in the Los Angeles Times declared it a flop, blaming its failure upon the film relying too heavily on its "long-ago Chinatown roots", or skewing "beyond the range of audiences too young to care about private eye Jake Gittes."
The article also pointed towards Paramount's promotion of the film leaning too heavily upon the presence of Jack Nicholson, rather than the story, along with an emphasis upon elements that might sell well, but weren't really a part of the movie itself - the official tagline of the film, which appeared on a number of posters, was, "They say money makes the world go round. But sex was invented before money."
Also typical of the rather muddled advertising campaign is this TV spot, which, while sounding quite cute with Nicholson's voiceover, doesn't fit was meant to be a rather thoughtful, bittersweet film:

video

Reviews were mixed, at best. While it received some praise from such notable critics as Rogert Ebert, Charles Champlin and Vincent Canby, the overall view of the film was that while it wasn't a complete disaster, and contained some excellent performances, it didn't come close to its classic predecessor, was too slow and confusing, and sorely missed having Roman Polanski at the helm, with Nicholson only "a competent but not exciting director", as Canby put it.
Even many of those close to the production were less than enthusiastic. Robert Towne all but disowned the film, and hasn't ever publicly ventured any opinion about the finished product itself, generally deflecting any questions. In a 1990 New York Times article, all he had to say was:
In the case of Chinatown, I knew in every respect what the film was going to be like. I watched the dailies. I fought with Roman every day and ate dinner with him every night. We even agreed about where we disagreed. Here I didn't have the same sense. The most truthful answer is that I don't know how I feel about The Two Jakes.
Robert Evans at the premiere
Robert Evans had little more to say, laying the blame for the 
film's failure squarely at the feet of Robert Towne:
The picture opened and closed quickly. This was not Nicholson’s fault, except possibly for his naïveté in expecting the last 20 percent of the script to be there for him from his old pal Bob 'the Beener' Towne.
Roman Polanski, whose absence sometimes seemed to dominate the press about the film, was very frank with his opinion in a 1991 interview:
Well, I would never have been a part of [The Two Jakes] because I just don't believe in sequels, but I must say that I admired the metier of Jack Nicholson. I think it was a beautifully made picture. Unfortunately, there are serious problems with the story, as we all know. The film is extremely difficult to follow. Furthermore, each time you get hooked on a story and you invest your emotions in some kind of sequence, it's abruptly cut and switched to something new. It's jolting. He loses you every few minutes, But the acting, the camera work, the staging of sequences is quite admirable.
Jack Nicholson at the premiere
Despite the very flat reception to the film, however, the film has always had a staunch defender in Jack Nicholson himself. Although he admits that he largely revived The Two Jakes and took on the role of director in order to resolve the ongoing issues created by the breakdown of the 1985 production - "to get it off his conscience", as Robert Evans puts it - he's said that he was "delighted" with how the film turned out, and supervised a number of changes for the 2007 DVD edition, including full colour correction and the removal of some narration and music cues, along with appearing in the DVD featurette, Jack on Jakes. He's fond of quoting the legendary director Billy Wilder, who he screened the finished film for: 
He said it was a great picture because 90 minutes of it was a detective following the clues. He said, "Anybody can make 300 Indians attack". 
Nicholson also blames the constant attention given to the off-screen dramas for ruining any chance of the film being a success:
I've made three films where you could say, `What went wrong?' And I think they're all just dandy. The film is what I tried to make. But that film was destroyed for any public before it even came out because nobody could shut up about it.
And so, sixteen years after 'Chinatown II' was first mentioned, the troubled saga of The Two Jakes came to an end, along with the long friendships between Robert Towne and two men who had been beside him almost his entire career. Jack Nicholson, who Towne had first met thirty years earlier in Jeff Corey's acting class, at which time he'd told Jack that he'd be a movie star one day, and that he'd write scripts for him, and Robert Evans, who had helped kick his screenwriting career into overdrive by producing Chinatown, and who Towne had referred to in the prologue of the 1983 limited edition publication of Chinatown's screenplay as "one who in memory and in life remains a standard for every kind of human generosity and one I have yet to see matched in this town."
It would be more than a decade before he would even be on speaking terms with either of them again.
 
The final casualty was the third film in a trilogy following Jake Gittes and the development of Los Angeles. With so much bad blood having already been spilled, and the second film barely making it to the screen as it was, what was made quite clear at the time was that the story wouldn't be going any further. As Nicholson told the Los Angeles Times in August 1990, several days before The Two Jakes had even opened, "This is the end of J.J."


Notes
1 Samantha Geimer, the girl at the centre of the Roman Polanski scandal, does mention in her 2013 autobiograhy, The Girl, that, while dealing with the civil lawsuit she brought against him in 1988, Polanski and his lawyers were also attempting to negotiate his return to the United States.

2 Some estimates at the time place the film's budget at $24 million.

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