The Creators


Robert Towne
(Writer, Chinatown/The Two Jakes)
Born Robert Schwartz and raised in San Pedro, Robert Towne began his film career in Jeff Corey's acting class in the late 1950s, where his fellow students included Jack Nicholson, Sally Kellerman, Roger Corman, Irvin Kershner and James Coburn. This led to him writing two screenplays for Roger Corman, The Last Woman on Earth and an adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe's The Tomb of Ligeia.
While writing on location in Puerto Rico, he also acted in The Last Woman on Earth and another feature Corman was making, Creature from the Haunted Sea, under the alias of 'Edward Wain'.
Following his work with Corman, Towne wrote for a number of television shows including The Lloyd Bridges Show, The Outer Limits and The Man from U.N.C.L.E.
After returning to movies with a rewrite of Villa Rides for Columbia Pictures, Towne's first break into the emerging New Hollywood came with his rewriting of the screenplay for Bonnie and Clyde, for which he was credited as 'Special Consultant'. It was at this time that he began his long friendship with Warren Beatty, with whom he started working on the screenplay of what would become Shampoo.
Over the next few years he quickly gained a reputation as Hollywood's leading 'script doctor', most famously for his work on The Godfather. Although Towne went uncredited, Francis Coppola personally thanked him during his acceptance speech at the Oscars. He also acted in Jack Nicholson's directorial debut, Drive, He Said, this time using his real name.
The years 1973 to 1975 would see Towne achieving wide success with three Oscar nominated hit screenplays in a row - his adaptation of Daryl Ponicsan's The Last Detail, directed by Hal Ashby and starring Jack Nicholson, Chinatown, for which he would receive an Academy Award, and Shampoo, again directed by Ashby and starring Warren Beatty.
After several years of taking uncredited jobs as a script doctor, including Marathon Man, The Missouri Breaks and Beatty's hit directorial debut, Heaven Can Wait, Towne returned to full-time writing on two pet projects - an adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs' original Tarzan of the Apes novel, and Personal Best, an original screenplay about female Olympic athletes, both of which he intended to direct. 
Unfortunately, Towne ran into budget and union troubles while directing Personal Best, culminating in a fierce battle with producer David Geffen. In order to keep the production afloat, he was forced to sacrifice the rights to his Tarzan film, a project even closer to his heart. Towne's Tarzan script was rewritten and eventually released in 1984 as Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes. Towne was so unhappy with how his original screenplay had been changed that he used the name 'P.H. Vazak' as his screenwriting credit - the name of his sheepdog, Hira. This resulted in the first and only time (to date) a dog would be nominated for an Academy Award.
Personal Best, released in 1982, was not a commercial success, despite receiving favourable reviews, and more bad luck would follow with the collapse of the intial production of The Two Jakes in 1985.
It was not to last, however, with Towne writing and directing the 1988 hit, Tequila Sunrise, starring Mel Gibson, Michelle Pfeiffer and Kurt Russell. He would then script the box office smash Days of Thunder, beginning a collaboration with Tom Cruise that would lead to further successful commercial projects with The Firm and the first two Mission: Impossible films.
With Tom Cruise producing, he returned to the director's chair for 1998's Without Limits, a biopic about Olympic athlete Steve Prefontaine, starring Billy Crudup and Donald Sutherland (Cruise had initially wanted to play Prefontaine, but eventually decided he was too old). While its critical reception was positive, it failed at the box office.
Towne then embarked on a project he had been nurturing for decades, an adaptation of John Fante's novel Ask the Dust, which he first discovered while researching Chinatown in the early 1970s. Although Fante granted him the rights, they lapsed while he was busy on various other productions, and Towne would complete his first draft in 1993 for the novel's new rights holder, Mel Brooks, in exchange for the opportunity to direct the film. After several years attempting to get the film off the ground, with Johnny Depp slated at one point to play the lead and Salma Hayek initially turning down the role she would eventually accept, Towne finally completed his labour of love, and Ask the Dust was released in 2006, starring Colin Farrell and Salma Hayek.
Robert Towne has most recently been at work on the upcoming seventh series of the television show Mad Men.



Robert Evans
(Producer, Chinatown/The Two Jakes)
Dubbed 'Kid Notorious' by long-time pal Jack Nicholson, Robert Evans began his career in show business as a child actor on radio, but with a big break failing to materialise, he began working for fashion company Evans-Picone, run by his brother, Charles. One day in 1956, he was lounging by the pool at the Beverly Hills Hotel when he was spotted by actress Norma Shearer, who approached him with an offer to play her late husband, the legendary producer Irving Thalberg, in Man of a Thousand Faces, a film biography of Lon Chaney, starring James Cagney.
Later that year, he was cast by Darryl F Zanuck as the bullfighter Pedro Romero in the film of Ernest Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises, completely against the wishes of the director, screenwriter, virtually the entire cast, and Hemingway himself. Zanuck stood firm on his decision, declaring, "The kid stays in the picture. And anyone who doesn't like it can quit!" It was at that moment that Evans realised that was what he wanted to be - the man in charge.
Despite receiving favourable reviews for his performance in The Sun Also Rises, after appearing in The Fiend Who Walked the West and The Best of Everything, Evans decided he was "a half-assed actor", and went back to work for Evans-Picone, but he never forgot his ambition of becoming a movie producer. To pursue this dream, in 1966 he acquired the film rights to the best-selling novel The Detective. It was his foot in the door to a three-picture deal at 20th Century Fox.
This attracted the attention of New York Times writer Peter Bart, who wrote a feature article on Evans which, in turn, was noticed by Charles Bluhdorn, head of the conglomerate Gulf + Western, which had just bought Paramount Pictures. Evans had barely begun work on the first of his three films for Fox when Bluhdorn demanded to meet him, and to the utter shock of Hollywood, offered him the position of head of production at Paramount.
At the time, as Evans puts it, out of the eight major studios, Paramount was in ninth place. He completely turned the studio's fortunes around over the next few years with such films as The Odd Couple and Rosemary's Baby, sent Paramount to first place with the smash hit Love Story, and topped it all off with The Godfather.
However, Evans wasn't happy with everyone else around him getting rich, and wanted to produce films himself, not simply oversee other people's dreams. Bluhdorn negotiated a new deal with him - no raise, but for the next five years, Evans could produce one picture per year under his own banner, and remain head of Paramount.
The first picture produced under this new arrangement was Chinatown. Despite, or more likely because of its success, the other producers at the studio complained about Evans' position, and so he stood down as head of Paramount to produce his own films as an independent producer. The next few years would see him produce Marathon Man, Black Sunday, Players, Urban Cowboy and Popeye.
In 1980, Robert Evans, his brother Charles and brother-in-law Michael Shure were arrested and pleaded guilty to possession of cocaine in a highly publicised DEA sting. It was the beginning of a decade's descent into failure, scandal and infamy.
Later that year, Evans began work on a film about the famous Harlem nightclub, The Cotton Club, originally intending to direct it himself. He employed Mario Puzo to write the screenplay, raised the money to fund the film himself and negotiated a lucrative distribution deal with Orion Pictures. Despite the constant battles he'd had with Francis Coppola on The Godfather, Evans hired him to rewrite Puzo's Cotton Club script, and under increasing pressure from his colleagues, handed Coppola the role of director at the last minute.
The production was a disaster, with constant script rewrites, a massive budget blowout, and a complete breakdown of relations between Evans and Coppola, leading to Evans being banished from the set and a court battle over the control of the film. There were also several lawsuits between the investors, Orion Pictures and Evans. Released in 1984, The Cotton Club received mixed reviews from the critics, and failed to recoup its budget.
Evans' fortunes continued downhill with the aborted production of The Two Jakes in 1985, and with no one prepared to do business with him, in 1987 he was asked to vacate his office of twenty years at Paramount.
Far worse was to follow, with his association with what became known as "The Cotton Club Murder". In 1983, while raising capital for The Cotton Club, Evans had become involved with a woman named Laynie Jacobs, who introduced him to a producer by the name of Roy Radin. They discussed the possibility of setting up a film company to produce The Cotton Club, an adaptation of Mario Puzo's The Sicilian, and The Two Jakes. In May of that year, Radin was found murdered. After a lengthy investigation, four people, including Jacobs, were arrested in 1988 and found guilty of murder in 1991.
Although it was eventually revealed to have been over a cocaine deal gone wrong, allegations had been made that the murder was over The Cotton Club, and Evans found himself involved in the investigation and forced to take the witness stand, where, on the advice of counsel, he refused to answer questions. While Evans was never charged with anything, nor ever officially named as a suspect, what was left of his reputation was utterly ruined.
In February of 1989, his financial situation was such that he had to sell his beloved Woodland mansion, remaining only as a tenant. In May, fearing suicide, he briefly checked into a depression clinic, but fled after two days.
However, one person stood by him, his old friend Jack Nicholson, who flew to France to beg Woodland's new owner to sell it back, and despite Evans being a producer "in name only" on the revived production of The Two Jakes, Nicholson insisted on his involvement.
In 1991, Evans received a call from his old associate Stanley Jaffe, who had just been appointed chief operating officer of Paramount Communications, welcoming him back. The next few years would see Evans produce Sliver, Jade, The Phantom and The Saint, but it was his hit 1994 autobiography The Kid Stays in the Picture which truly returned him to fame. It gained cult status with a spoken word edition read by Evans himself, and was adapated into an award-winning 2002 documentary. The success of the documentary led to the short-lived animated TV series, Kid Notorious, with Evans voicing himself.
In 2003, Evans received the David O Selznick Lifetime Achievement Award from the Producers Guild of America.
Robert Evans' most recent picture was 2003's How To Lose a Guy In 10 Days. He is currently in development on an HBO series about Sidney Korshak, a film about car maker John DeLorean, and is working on the sequel to The Kid Stays in the Picture, The Fat Lady Sang.



Roman Polanski
(Director, Chinatown)
One of cinema's most controversial figures, Roman Polanski has lived a life as dark, tragic and strange as any of the films he has made.
Born in Paris to a Polish father and a Russian mother in 1933, his family returned to Poland in 1937. Two years later, Poland was invaded by German forces and World War II broke out. Polanski's father was Jewish, and so the family became targets of the Nazi racial purity laws - his father was taken to an Austrian concentration camp, and his mother to Auschwitz, where she died.
Polanski spent the rest of the German occupation hiding his Jewish heritage while being sheltered by various families.
After the war, he was reunited with his father, and they now faced life in a Poland under Communism.
During his teen years, Polanski discovered a love of theatre and acting, working professionally as a child actor on both radio and the stage.
When he was unable to gain admittance to drama school, Polanski fell in with the film crowd in Krakow and was successful in his application for the prestigious Lodz Film School. While there, he made a number of award-winning short films, and gained immediate notoriety for one, Breaking Up the Party. Polanski organised a social event and filmed it - what the guests were unaware of was that he had also recruited a group of local thugs to gatecrash the party and cause havoc.
It was at this time that he met actress Basia Kwiakowska, who he married in September 1959.
After leaving the Lodz Film School in 1959, Roman began work on the screenplay for what would become his first feature film, Knife in the Water. He and Basia toured Europe, attempting to launch her acting career and find finance for Polanski's film. Although he did  manage to finance a short film, The Fat and the Lean, it wasn't until 1961 that Knife would be sanctioned and funded by the Polish ministry of culture.
Knife in the Water was released in Poland in 1962 to a largely poor critical reception - its international release was another story. While reviews were mixed, none were indifferent. It won the Critics Prize at the 1962 Venice Film Festival, and following its US release at the New York Film Festival in September 1963, a still from the film appeared on the cover of TIME Magazine. Four months later, the film was nominated for an Oscar in the Best Foreign Film category, and was also nominated for Best Film at the 1964 BAFTA Awards.
After the hostile reaction to Knife in the Water in its native country, Polanski had left Poland to live in Paris, and his marriage to Basia had fallen apart. While in Paris in 1962, he met the screenwriter Gerard Brach, beginning a collaboration that would last for three decades. Their first script together was If Katelbach Comes, and while attempting to get it produced, they also co-wrote a segment for The World's Most Beautiful Swindlers (1964), and the psychological horror film Repulsion (1965), starring Catherine Deneuve, with Roman directing both.
Repulsion opened to favourable reviews and performed well at the box office, so If Katelbach Comes finally got the green light, under the title of Cul-De-Sac (1966). Although it has since become regarded as an absurdist classic, Cul-De-Sac was rejected by both critics and audiences alike on its initial release.
Meanwhile, Polanski had settled in London and embraced the Swinging Sixties. His next film was a Hammer-inspired vampire spoof called The Fearless Vampire Killers (or, Pardon Me, But Your Teeth Are In My Neck), which he co-wrote with Brach, directed and also acted in. The film was released in 1967 to mixed reviews and modest box office success. It was on this film that he fell in love with his leading lady, an up and coming actress named Sharon Tate, who he wed in January 1968.
Although he was yet to become a major success, Polanski's films had caught the eye of Paramount Pictures' head of production, Robert Evans. Evans was determined to have Roman direct his next big project, an adaptation of Ira Levin's horror story, Rosemary's Baby. He lured Polanski to Los Angeles under the pretext of offering him the director's job on a skiing film. After reading Levin's novel, Polanski accepted the job of directing and writing Rosemary's Baby, which became a smash hit on its release in 1968.
Roman and Sharon settled in Los Angeles, although they travelled regularly to London and Paris. By all accounts, this was the happiest period of Roman Polanski's life, and Sharon fell pregnant in December 1968.
In 1969, Polanski was involved with developing various film projects. On August 9, 1969, while in London working on the script of The Day of the Dolphin, he received a call from Los Angeles. Sharon Tate, along with four other friends, had been brutally murdered in Roman and Sharon's home. It would eventually transpire that the massacre had been carried out by followers of the psychotic cult leader Charles Manson, although during the investigation Polanski would find himself the target of suspicion and rampant speculation by the media.
Following the arrest and filing of charges against Manson and his 'family' in December 1969, Polanski left the United States for Europe, planning never to return. Whilst there, he directed a violent adaptation of Macbeth (1971), the Formula 1 documentary Weekend of a Champion (1972) and the bizarre sex comedy What? (1972).
In 1973, Robert Evans and Jack Nicholson convinced Roman to return to Los Angeles to direct Chinatown (1974). He then went back to Europe to direct an opera in Italy, and continued to develop several projects, including Pirates, with Jack Nicholson in mind for the lead.
However, his next film would be the dark psycholocical thriller The Tenant (1976), which only did modest business. In late 1976, he signed a contract from Columbia Pictures to adapt and direct the police thriller The First Deadly Sin and returned to the United States.
While in Europe, Polanski had been doing some photography for Vogue magazine, and after returning to Los Angeles he was introduced to a 13-year-old aspiring model, Samantha Gailey, who he would photograph in two sessions in February and March of 1977.
On March 11, 1977, Roman Polanski was arrested for the sexual assault of Samantha Gailey which occurred during their second photography session. He would later accept a plea bargain deal in which the five initial charges against him would be dismissed, instead pleading guilty to a lesser charge of unlawful sexual intercourse.
As one of the conditions of the plea bargain, Polanski was ordered to undergo a 90-day psychiatric evaluation at Chino State Prison, and was eventually released after 42 days. His lawyers first expected that he would then only receive probation at his sentencing. However, it has been alleged that the judge changed his mind on the matter and intended to return Polanski to prison to complete his psychiatric evaluation, then sentence him to further incarceration, unless he agreed to voluntary deportation. When Roman heard of this, he saw no reason to stay. On January 31, 1978, Roman Polanski fled the United States, never to return.
He spent one day in London, then travelled to Paris. As a French citizen, he was safe from extradition by the US. Life as a fugitive did not end his career as a filmmaker - Polanski immediately went on to direct Tess (1979), starring Nastassia Kinski.
He would eventually make Pirates (1986), with Walter Matthau in the lead, rather than Jack Nicholson. The film had a difficult production, and was not a success.
His next film, the Hitchcockian thriller Frantic (1988), starring Harrison Ford, was moderately successful, and it was on this film that he met Emmanuelle Seigner, who he married in August 1989, and who would also star in a number of his future films.
The 1990s would see Polanski direct the divisive Bitter Moon (1992), Death and the Maiden (1994) and The Ninth Gate (1999).
It was the Holocaust drama The Pianist (2002), however, which would return him to the limelight. A critical and financial success worldwide, the film won Oscars for Best Actor (Adrien Brody), Best Adapted Screenplay (Ronald Harwood) and Best Director for Polanski. Still unable to enter the United States, his award was accepted by Harrison Ford.
His next film was an adaptation of the Charles Dickens classic, Oliver Twist (2005).
Polanski's past caught up with him in September 2009, when he attempted to enter Switzerland to accept a lifetime achievement award at the Zurich Film Festival. He was detained and placed under house arrest by Swiss authorities while the United States attempted to have him extradited. The extradition order, however, was eventually rejected by the Swiss court and he returned to France in July 2010, where he continues to live today.
Roman Polanski's recent films include The Ghost Writer (2010), Carnage (2011) and the upcoming Venus in Fur (2013).



Jack Nicholson
(Director, The Two Jakes)
While he will always be far better known for his efforts in front of the camera than those behind it, Jack Nicholson's film career has also seen him in the roles of writer, director and producer.
Nicholson began writing screenplays during his early days of acting in low-budget films, his first script to be produced being Thunder Island (1963), a thriller about an attempted assassination of the deposed dictator of a small Central American island. He also wrote and directed several scenes for Roger Corman's cobbled-together quickie, The Terror (as did virtually everyone else involved with the production).
In 1964, Nicholson collaborated with director Monte Hellman on two films in the Philippines, Flight To Fury and Back Door To Hell, acting in both and co-writing Flight To Fury.
This collaboration continued with Nicholson and Hellman forming their own production companies to make the 'existential Westerns', Ride in the Whirlwind and The Shooting. Jack appeared in and co-produced both films, as well as writing the screenplay for Ride in the Whirlwind. The films were a modest hit on the European festival circuit, where Nicholson was able to sell the distribution rights for several European markets himself. It was several years, however, before they would find distribution in the United States, where they were met with indifference, although they have become cult classics in more recent years.
Nicholson's next script was The Trip, in which he had written a role for himself, but Roger Corman had other ideas, giving the part to Bruce Dern instead. He was disappointed with being left out of the cast, but it was at this time that Jack formed friendships with cast members Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper, his later co-stars in Easy Rider.
Following The Trip, Nicholson wrote the original screenplay for Psych-Out, which, after being rejected by American International Pictures, was almost completely rewritten by director Richard Rush for the film Jack would eventually appear in.
Things were about to look up, however. Around 1967, Jack had become friends with Bob Rafelson, who, along with Bert Schneider, had created the rock band and television show The Monkees. Rafelson and Schneider hired Nicholson to write the screenplay for Head, a psychedelic feature film about the band. While the film was not a commercial success, it was the beginning of a collaboration between Nicholson and the founders of what would become the legendary New Hollywood production company BBS, the makers of Easy Rider, The Last Picture Show and Five Easy Pieces.
In the wake of the success of Easy Rider, the filming of Five Easy Pieces and the beginning of his rise to stardom, Jack embarked on his directorial debut, Drive, He Said, an adaptation of the 1964 novel by Jeremy Larner, with whom he wrote the screenplay, along with some uncredited assistance from Terrence Malick and Robert Towne, who also played one of the lead roles. After an exhausting production, made worse by union troubles, the film then immediately fell afoul of the censors for its strong language, nudity and frank depictions of sex. Following a poor reception at the Cannes Film Festival in 1971, Drive, He Said opened to mixed reviews in the United States and quickly disappeared from theatres.
Throughout the rest of the 1970s, Nicholson would work on developing a number of potential directing projects, including Frank Herbert's Dune, a Howard Hughes biopic and an adaptation of the novel Lie Down in Darkness.
His pet project was Moontrap, a "mystical Western" based on Don Berry's 1971 novel about frontier life in 1850s Oregon. The film was announced in Variety in September 1973. Nicholson wrote the screenplay himself with the intention of directing, and spent several years attempting to get it off the ground, with Marlon Brando, George C Scott and Lee Marvin attached at various stages. However, none of the studios or any independent financiers were interested unless Jack starred in it, and although he continued to option the book into the next decade, the film has gone unmade to this day.
Despite the continual rejection of Moontrap, Nicholson remained determined to pursue his directorial ambitions, and so in 1977 he directed and starred in the Western comedy Goin' South, surrounding himself with close friends and associates. Unfortunately, after a shoot made all that more difficult by the crazed antics of John Belushi (making his feature film debut), Goin' South was released in 1978 to hostile reviews and box office failure. Critics savaged Jack's over-the-top performance, and it was eleven years before he took the reins on another film, with the resurrected production of The Two Jakes.
In 1991, Jack financed and produced Blue Champagne, a drama described as "a story of revenge and hate and the power of women", starring his daughter Jennifer, his girlfriend Rebecca Broussard, and Jonathan Silverman. After making the rounds of several festivals, it failed to gain a theatrical release and was quickly forgotten (it remains unavailable on home video today).
Although as late as 1998 he was still talking about eventually directing Moontrap, Jack Nicholson has yet to return to a filmmaking role behind the camera.