Chinatown is a 1974 American neo-noir mystery movie, directed by Roman Polanski from a screenplay by Robert Towne, starring Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway. The movie was inspired by the California Water Wars, a series of disputes over southern California water at the beginning of the 20th century, by which Los Angeles interests secured water rights in the Owens Valley. Take a look below for 27 more fun and interesting facts about Chinatown.
1. The Robert Evans production, a Paramount Pictures release, was the director’s last movie in the United States and features many elements of film noir, particularly a multi-layered story that is party mystery and part psychological drama.
2. In 1991, the movie was selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the United States National Film Registry as being, “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant”, and it’s frequently listed as one of the greatest films of all time.
3. At the 47th Academy Awards, it was nominated for 11 Oscars, with Towne winning Best Original Screenplay.
4. The Golden Globe Awards honored Chinatown for Best Drama, Best Director, Best Actor, and Best Screenplay.
5. The American Film Institute placed Chinatown second among its top ten mystery films in 2008.
6. After several takes that never looked quite right, Faye Dunaway got annoyed and told Jack Nicholson to actually slap her. He did and felt very guilty for it, despite it being Dunaway’s decision.
7. The Chinatown screenplay is now regarded as being one of the most perfect screenplays ever written, and is now a main teaching point in screenwriting seminars and classes everywhere.
8. Jack Nicholson is present in every scene of the movie.
9. Screenwriter Robert Towne was originally offered $125,000 to write a screenplay for “The Great Gatsby”, but Towne felt that he couldn’t better the F. Scott Fitzgerald novel, and accepted $25,000 to write his own story, Chinatown, instead.
10. Because the movie was the first of a planned trilogy, Jack Nicholson turned down all detective roles he was offered so that the only detective he played would be Jake Gittes.
11. At one point, Roman Polanski and Jack Nicholson got into such a heated argument, that Polanski smashed Nicholson’s portable television with a mop. Nicholson used the television to watch Los Angeles Lakers games, and kept stalling shooting.
12. Roman Polanski said that in staying true to the tradition of Raymond Chandler’s detective stories, he shot the whole movie from the perspective of the main character.
13. Robert Towne wrote the screenplay with Jack Nicholson in mind.
14. Faye Dunaway’s distinctive look was inspired by Roman Polanski’s memories of his mother, who in the pre-World War II era, would fashionably wear penciled-on eyebrows, and have her lipstick shaped in the form of a Cupid’s bow.
15. Although he liked the idea of doing a cameo in the movie as the hood who slits Jack Nicholson’s nose, Roman Polanski was less thrilled about having to have his long hair cut off for his brief appearance in the movie.
16. In the original script, no scenes took place in Chinatown at all.
17. Roman Polanski forced Robert Towne to sit and re-write the script with him. Towne was so opposed to the idea that he would argue with Polanski non-stop.
18. Chinatown was voted the fourth greatest film of all time by Entertainment Weekly.
19. The role of Evelyn Mulwray was originally intended for the producer’s wife, Ali MacGraw, but she lost the role when she divorced him for Steve McQueen.
20. At the end of the movie, when Jake says, “give me five minutes,” there are exactly five minutes left in the movie. This was actually unintentional.
21. Rance Howard, who plays the role of an angry farmer at the council meeting, is the father of famed actor and Director Ron Howard, and the grandfather of Bryce Dallas Howard.
22. To emphasize the point that the audience is seeing everything from Gittes’ perspective, Roman Polanski often put the camera behind Jack Nicholson, so the audience sees his back and shoulders.
23. The haunting trumpet solos in Chinatown are by respected Hollywood studio musician, Uan Rasey.
24. Jack Nicholson had the name “Jake Gittes” written on the shirts he used in the movie. Though this is not shown, it was done so Nicholson could enter into character more easily.
25. The only scene in the movie in which Jack Nicholson, Faye Dunaway and John Houston appear together is the last scene in the movie. This is also the only scene in the movie that is set and was filmed in Chinatown.
26. Roman Polanski considered Julie Christie for the role of Evelyn Mulray.
27. The year in which Chinatown is set is 1937. Jack Nicholson was born in 1937.