Trivia / Chinatown

  • Actor Allusion: Once again, John Huston played a man called Noah note , whose life has to do with water.
  • AFI's 100 Years... Series:
  • Creative Differences: Cinematographer Stanley Cortez was fired soon after production began, because his classical style did not match the naturalistic style Roman Polanski wanted for the film, and proved to be too time consuming. Polanski had to find a replacement in only a few days, and chose John A. Alonzo. The orange grove fight with the farmers (but not the following porch scene with Evelyn), and the drive back to Los Angeles at sunset are Cortez's work.
  • Enforced Method Acting:
    • Jack Nicholson was genuinely nervous during the nose-cutting scene because the knife being used could actually have hurt him badly if not held correctly. In the end, Roman Polanski did the scene himself to get it right.
    • During the infamous scene where Evelyn reveals that her sister is also her daughter, the slaps that Jake gave her were apparently genuine. Faye Dunaway mentioned that the fake smacks weren't leaving their intended impact in the scene, so she told Nicholson to actually slap her.
  • Hostility on the Set: Faye Dunaway and Roman Polanski were notorious for their on-set arguments; during filming, Polanski pulled out some strands of Dunaway's hair. On another occasion, when she asked him what her character's motivation was, he exploded, "Just say the fucking words. Your salary is your motivation". On another occasion, while filming a scene in a car, he refused to let her urinate, so he could finish the scene. She then urinated in a cup and threw it in his face.
  • Life Imitates Art: Shortly after the film was released, it was discovered that Jack Nicholson's "sister" was really his mother and his "parents" were really his grandparents, though his father was not his grandfather. His mother got pregnant as a teenager and his father ran off, so his grandparents hid the pregnancy.
  • Orphaned Reference: Originally, the opening scene had an exchange where Curly tells Gittes he's going to kill his unfaithful wife, and Gittes tells him he's not rich enough to get away with murder. (That's why they're talking about Curly paying his bill as they come out of the office, and why Gittes says, "I only brought it up", Curly's financial situation, "to illustrate a point.") Robert Towne later regretted removing this part of the scene. He said in 1999:
    That exchange I miss probably as much as any in the movie. Because it really foreshadows (the) 'You've got to be rich to kill somebody and get away with it' (theme). He's really foreshadowing the whole movie.
  • Reality Subtext: The film's ending can only be attributed in part to Roman Polanski's bitterness with the world. It actually reflects the reality that America had been awakened to by the civil rights movement, Watergate, and Vietnam, that the corruption of the rich and powerful was an epidemic. Polanski also modeled the outfit of Faye Dunaway on his mother (who was killed in The Holocaust). However, Polanski himself pointed out that he generally preferred Downer Ending, noting that even the film he made when he was at his happiest, The Fearless Vampire Killers (where he met Sharon Tate and fell in love with during production) ends with the hero, played by himself, failing and the bad guy winning. He also felt that the whole point of doing a New Hollywood Genre Throwback is irrelevant if they didn't do what The Hays Code usually prevented the classic noir from showing on screen (as opposed to generally implying and suggesting), namely the hero loses, the villain wins and the innocent go unavenged.
  • Wag the Director: According to Faye, Evelyn's eye wound was meant to parallel the story of Oedipus, who blinded himself after realizing his marriage was incestuous. Miss Dunaway had to fight to keep this in the film - when there was a problem getting the makeup/prosthetics, the filmmakers wanted to change where Evelyn would be shot.
  • What Could Have Been:
    • Anjelica Huston, John Huston's real life daughter, as Evelyn Mulwray. Squick. Things were pretty awkward as it was, given that Jack Nicholson had just started dating Anjelica in real life, making the scenes where John's character asks "Mr. Gittes, do you sleep with my daughter?" just...uncomfortable.
    • Julie Christie, Ali MacGraw and Jane Fonda were also up for the role before it went to Dunaway.
    • Chinatown was meant to be the first film in a trilogy, each starring Jake Gittes and revolving around corruption during the development of Los Angeles. Jack Nicholson never played another detective character for that reason, so that Gittes would remain his iconic PI. Unfortunately, the sequel had trouble getting off the ground — thanks to Roman Polanski's rape of at least one underage girl and his subsequent flight to Europe to avoid prosecution — and when it finally materialized sixteen years later, its critical and commercial failure put a kibosh on any chances for the third film. Bizarrely enough, many elements of what would have been the third film turned up in Who Framed Roger Rabbit, notably the freeway arc. L.A. Noire would also take the 'dirty dealings surrounding the introduction of the Freeway' concept and roll with it, as well, with a major real estate conspiracy involving fraud, corruption, arson, PTSD, and military-grade morphine.
    • Robert Towne originally wrote the screenplay with more of a Bittersweet Ending, in which Evelyn kills her father and goes to prison to make it closer in spirit to the classic noir. Polanski felt differently, feeling that they had to go Darker and Edgier and take full advantage of the end of censorship. Polanski and Towne kept feuding and Towne walked off the set. The infamous Downer Ending was written by Polanski and Nicholson. Towne later conceded that the film was better that way.
    • Jake was originally going to have a Private Eye Monologue. Polanski removed it, because he wanted the audience discovered the clues at the same time Gittes did, and feel just as trapped as he did.
    • Peter Bogdanovich turned down the chance to direct. He later regretted his decision. John Huston was asked to direct it himself, but he decided not to. Mike Nichols was also asked.
    • Shortly after Hollis Mulwray's body is recovered, the original script included an omitted scene in which Lt. Escobar reveals to Gittes that he has limited sympathy for the victim, because a cousin of his was killed in the Van Der Lip dam disaster.
  • Written by Cast Member: The film's ending was co-written by Polanski and Jack Nicholson himself after Towne walked off the film.


http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Trivia/Chinatown