Trivia / Chinatown

  • AFI's 100 Years... Series:
  • Creator Breakdown: Roman Polanski's pregnant wife was murdered by the Manson Family. He was also a Holocaust survivor. His bleak, bleak worldview led him to change Robert Towne's Bittersweet Ending into a big ole Downer Ending. Towne ultimately conceded that it made the movie better.
  • Creator Cameo: Roman Polanski is the thug who slits Jake's nose.
    • C.O. Erickson, the film's executive producer plays the banker in the barbershop who starts an argument with Jake.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Prima Donna Director: In addition to tearing out Faye Dunaway's hair, Roman Polanski smashed Jack Nicholson's portable TV with a mop. Nicholson used the TV to watch L.A. Lakers basketball games and kept stalling shooting.
  • 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 modelled the outfit of Faye Dunaway on his mother (who was killed in The Holocaust).
  • Wag the Director: 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, Polanski refused to let Dunaway out of the car to urinate, so she pissed in a glass and threw it in his face.
    • 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, 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.
    • Robert Towne originally wrote the screenplay with more of a Bittersweet Ending, in which Evelyn kills her father and goes to prison. Only after a long and bitter debate with Polanski was it changed - at the last minute - to the infamous Downer Ending. Towne actually walked off the set upon that change, and the new 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.
    • Peter Bogdanovich turned down the chance to direct. He later regretted his decision.
    • 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.

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