David Fincher will continue his collaboration with Netflix with a surprising new project: a Chinatown prequel series. Fincher will work with Chinatown screenwriter Robert Towne on the series, which focuses on the early days of Jake Gittes, Jack Nicholson’s private eye character from the 1974 Roman Polanski film. The deal as of now is only for a script, but Netflix reportedly hopes Fincher will direct the pilot as well.
Deadline broke the news on the Netflix Chinatown prequel series. The show would follow a “young Jake Gittes (played in the film by Jack Nicholson) as he plies his business in a town where the wealthy and corruption involves areas like land, oil and gangs.” In the original 1974 film, “Private eye Jake Gittes lives off of the murky moral climate of sunbaked, pre-World War II Southern California. Hired by a beautiful socialite to investigate her husband’s extra-marital affair, Gittes is swept into a maelstrom of double dealings and deadly deceits, uncovering a web of personal and political scandals that come crashing together.”
That film was penned by Robert Towne, and Towne is working on the pilot script for the prequel series with Fincher. Towne will also executive produce along with Fincher and Josh Donen. This isn’t the first time Towne returned to the world of Chinatown: he also scripted a 1990 sequel called The Two Jakes, which Nicholson starred in and directed.
Of course, the big question here is: do we need a Chinatown prequel? My immediate reaction is to say, “Nope!” Chinatown is a classic, and it stands on its own. The previous attempt at a sequel was underwhelming, to say the least, which doesn’t bode well for a prequel. On top of that, any prequel faces the daunting task of casting someone to play a young facsimile of Jack Nicholson.
But I can’t deny the appeal of Fincher teaming up with Towne. And if Netflix wants to keep giving Fincher the freedom to do work, I’m all for it. This marks the latest in a series of Netflix projects for Fincher, who hasn’t helmed a feature since 2014’s Gone Girl. Fincher first ended up at Netflix as a producer (and pilot director) on House of Cards. His Netflix work continued with the superior Mindhunter. And he’s currently working on directing the Netflix movie Mank, a biopic of Citizen Kane screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz starring Gary Oldman.
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