Robert Towne and David Fincher are partnering up to pen the screenplay for a new Chinatown prequel series for Netflix. Towne is known for writing the screenplay for the original Chinatown movie from 1974, while Fincher is best known for his work on award-winning movies like The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and The Social Network. The deal will also see the two executive producing the project alongside Josh Donen. At this time, the deal only covers the pilot, and while the hope is for Fincher to direct as well, he is not yet on board in that capacity.
The Netflix series will be sharing the same universe as the movie, which means it will be set in the years before 1974. Its concept would see it follow a young Jake Gittes (Jack Nicholson's character in the movie) as he "plies his business in a town where the wealthy and corruption involves areas like land, oil, and gangs." Chances are it would consist of a similar tone to the original Chinatown, considering the involvement of the original screenwriter. Given that it's a prequel, it doesn't seem likely we'll see anyone from the movie reprising their roles, but not casting information or additional plot details have been revealed at this time.
This will not be David Fincher's first foray with Netflix into small screen programming, as the filmmaker has found great success on the platform multiple times in the past. He executive produced the political drama House of Cards and directed the pilot episode for the series, which ran for six seasons and 73 total episodes. Fincher has since been working on the crime drama series Mindhunter for Netflix where he also serves as an executive producer and directed some episodes.
Additionally, Fincher will direct the Netflix original movie Mank, which stars Gary Oldman as real-life Citizen Kane writer Herman J. Mankiewicz. Fincher's father, the late Howard "Jack" Fincher, wrote the screenplay, and the project will be presented in black and white. He was also behind the Netflix anthology Love, Death and Robots.
The original Chinatown was directed by Roman Polanski using a screenplay from Towne, with the late Robert Evans producing. It starred Jack Nicholson as Los Angeles private eye Jake Gittes, who is hired to investigate a what appears to be a routine infidelity case by a suspicious wife. He soon after learns he was hired by an impersonator of the real Mrs. Mulwray (Faye Dunaway), and Mr. Mulwray's sudden death leads Gittes down a trail of corruption and sinister family secrets. Chinatown was met with immense critical acclaim and performed well at the box office, leading to the production of the sequel The Two Jakes in 1990. Though Towne returned to write the screenplay with Nicholson back in the lead role, the sequel flopped at the box office, killing plans to develop a third installment called Gittes vs Gittes.
If sequels didn't work for Chinatown, maybe Netflix will have better luck by taking its story further into the past. Filling the irreplaceable Nicholson's shoes is definitely going to be a challenge for any young actor stepping into the role of Jake Gittes, but with Fincher and Towne on board, the project seems to be in good hands. This news comes to us from Deadline.