Robert Towne (born Robert Bertram Schwartz; November 23, 1934 in Los Angeles, California) is an American screenwriter, film director, and occasional actor.
Towne started out working for Roger Corman, and became friends with Jack Nicholson as well. He became a screenwriter in the 1960s for Corman, and later became known for being a script doctor on such films as Bonnie and Clyde and The Godfather (notably the scene where Vito tells Michael he never wanted Michael to have his life). Towne broke through to regular screenwriting with The Last Detail, and later won an Academy Award for his script for Chinatown. In the 1980s, he became a director as well, making his debut with Personal Best, though after the failure of Ask the Dust, his fourth film as director, in 2006, he hasn't directed a film since. He also became a producer on Mad Men in its final season.
Works by Robert Towne with their own pages include:
- "The Chameleon", an episode of The Outer Limits (1963)
- Bonnie and Clyde (uncredited)
- Drive, He Said
- The Godfather (uncredited)
- The Last Detail
- The Parallax View (uncredited)
- The Yakuza (which he shared credit with Paul Schrader)
- Shampoo (which he co-wrote with Warren Beatty)
- Marathon Man (uncredited)
- Reds! (uncredited)
- Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes (Towne took his name off the film, and credited it to his dog, P.H. Zavak)
- Frantic (uncredited)
- Tequila Sunrise (which he also directed)
- Days of Thunder
- The Firm (which he shared credit with David Rabe and David Rayfiel)
- Love Affair (remake of the 1939 film)
- Mission: Impossible
- Mission: Impossible II
- Executive Meddling:
- Columbia Pictures refused to approve The Last Detail at first, being nervous about the amount of swearing in the picture, until Jack Nicholson signed on. They also didn't like Hal Ashby, who they saw as someone they couldn't control.
- Originally, Towne was supposed to direct Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes, but when Personal Best, his directorial debut, went over budget, he was forced to give up directing it, and when the new director insisted on changes, Towne took his name off the film, and put his dog's name (P.H. Zavak) on it.
- He Also Did: Did some uncredited story work on All Dogs Go to Heaven.
- Production Posse: Worked with Warren Beatty and Jack Nicholson several times (though he had a falling out with the latter; see What Could Have Been below).
- What Could Have Been: Originally, Towne had written Chinatown with a Bittersweet Ending, but Roman Polański wanted the Darker and Edgier ending, and when Towne, who disagreed, walked off the set, Polanski and Jack Nicholson wrote the ending of the film. Towne later conceded their ending was better.
- Towne had conceived of Chinatown as being the first of a trilogy of films about Los Angeles and Jake Gittes, and was going to direct the first follow-up, The Two Jakes, but he and Jack Nicholson clashed over using producer Robert Evans as the other Jake, and Nicholson ended up taking over as director, causing enough of a rift in their friendship Towne wrote a couple of speeches in his film Tequila Sunrise alluding to their rift (they have since reconciled).