the big goodbye

The Big Goodbye, the excellent, recently-published book about the making of 1974’s Chinatown, is headed to the screen. Ben Affleck will return to the director’s chair to helm the project, and he’ll write the script, too. Lorne Michaels (yes, that Lorne Michaels) is producing. This is sure to be a high-profile project, as it’ll focus on the making of one of the best movies Hollywood released in the ’70s, and will also feature figures like Roman Polanski and Jack Nicholson as main characters.

Sam Wasson‘s The Big Goodbye tells the story behind the making of Chinatown, the 1974 neo-noir from director Roman Polanski. The book covers every aspect of the production, from inception, to release, to the legacy thereafter. And now it’s being turned into a film by Ben Affleck, according to Deadline. Affleck, who hasn’t directed a feature since the disappointing Live By Night, will helm and write the script, and, appropriately enough, the project is set up at Paramount – the same studio that released Chinatown. Former Paramount studio head Robert Evans plays a big part in the story.

Here’s the book’s synopsis:

In Sam Wasson’s telling, it becomes the defining story of the most colorful characters in the most colorful period of Hollywood history. Here is Jack Nicholson at the height of his powers, as compelling a movie star as there has ever been, embarking on his great, doomed love affair with Anjelica Huston. Here is director Roman Polanski, both predator and prey, haunted by the savage death of his wife, returning to Los Angeles, the scene of the crime, where the seeds of his own self-destruction are quickly planted. Here is the fevered dealmaking of “The Kid” Robert Evans, the most consummate of producers. Here too is Robert Towne’s fabled script, widely considered the greatest original screenplay ever written. Wasson for the first time peels off layers of myth to provide the true account of its creation.

I read the book earlier this year and loved it. And I think with the right material, Affleck can deliver a good film. All that said, I’m very curious to see how this turns out. Practically every character in the movie is going to be based on a real person – Jack Nicholson, Roman Polanski, Faye Dunaway, Robert Evans, Robert Towne, and so on. How do you find actors to play such iconic figures? Nicholson in particular seems like a particularly difficult role to cast. My vote for the part: Bill Hader. Yes, I’m serious. Rafal Zawierucha played Roman Polanski in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood – perhaps he can make a career of playing the director and lobby for this film as well?

Of course, that raises another question: is it appropriate at this point to make a movie where Roman Polanski is one of the main characters? I’m sure many people will have strong opinions about that.

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