Without question, Chinatown is one of the greatest films of the 1970s, if not the entire history of American cinema. As Jack Nicholson’s private investigator Jake Gittes moves through 1930s Los Angeles, he finds that what appeared to be a simple martial infidelity investigation has uncovered an underbelly to the city filled with corruption, greed and murder. The film is listed on the National Film Registry and its screenplay is taught in film school screenwriting classes.
Now, in an interview with M-TV’s Movie Blog, Nicholson talks candidly about filming Chinatown (which sees a new special edition DVD being released this week) and some of the behind the scenes problems that effected Chinatown’s 1990 sequel, The Two Jakes.
More interesting, though, is some of the brief snippets of information that Nicholson lets loose about a third Jake Gittes film and what themes it would have tackled.
I can tell you it was meant to be set in 1968 when no-fault divorce went into effect in California. The title was to be Gittes Vs. Gittes. It was to be about Gittes’ divorce. The secrecy of Meg Tilly’s character was somehow to involve the most private person in California, Howard Hughes.
Earlier rumors had a possible third Jake Gittes moving being named Cloverleaf and dealing with the development of the Los Angeles area freeway system, though maybe this plan was scuttled after a similar plot point appeared in 1988’s Who Framed Roger Rabbit?.
Nicholson’s remarks do jibe with a conversation I had with Towne back in the early part of 2006 after an advanced screening of his film After The Dust, in which he told me that a third film would have been about California’s new, at the time of the proposed film, no-fault divorce laws.
But even though Nicholson states he would be interested in slipping into Gittes’s shoes one more time, is it possible that a third film would be made? Nicholson concedes that the production of The Two Jakes “left a few bruises,” with studio Paramount, but surely enough time has passed to heal those.