A Chinatown prequel series is in the works at Netflix with Robert Towne, who wrote the screenplay for the film, and David Fincher attached to the project. Released in 1974, and directed by Roman Polanski, Chinatown is a neo-noir mystery that starred Jack Nicholson as a private investigator named Jake “J.J.” Gittes. Gittes is hired by Evelyn Mulwray who is looking to find out more about her husband. Gittes initially believes it’s a routine case, soon finding out it’s quite the opposite. After encountering the real Evelyn Mulwray (Faye Dunaway), Gittes realizes that he was hired by an imposter. The sudden death of Mr. Mulwray further complicates matters, igniting a trail of secrets and lies that have seemingly no end.
Chinatown has left a lasting legacy, garnering a bevy of wins and nominations during awards season. In an even more lasting sense, Towne’s screenplay has achieved iconic status among critics and filmmakers. It is frequently cited among the best examples of its kind. Chinatown also helped bring awareness to the subjects it depicted on-screen, raising the level of focus on issues related to land rights. On a less successful front, the movie’s sequel failed to generate quite the same buzz. Plans for a third installment were abandoned. Now, decades later, Towne is returning to the world he helped create with one of Hollywood’s most acclaimed directors.
According to Deadline, Netflix is in the early stages of developing a prequel series to Chinatown. The series will reportedly follow a young Jake Gittes in his early days as a private eye, setting up his business in a town where there’s no shortage of corruption over areas like land and oil. Towne, who earned an Academy Award for Chinatown’s screenplay, and David Fincher have been tapped to write the pilot script. Towne and Fincher will serve as executive producers, alongside Josh Donen. There is hope that Fincher might direct the pilot. So far, however, his deal is focused on coming up with a script for the pilot.
It is more than understandable that Fincher’s style would be desired behind the camera. A distinctive director, with his name attached to some of the most influential films in recent decades, Fincher has helmed modern classics like Se7en and Fight Club. More recently, Fincher has directed The Social Network and the movie adaptation of Gone Girl. Fincher has a history of collaborating with Netflix as well, directing episodes of House of Cards and Mindhunter.
In addition to the Chinatown prequel, Netflix is developing a series about the younger years of Nurse Ratched. Ratched is, of course, the memorably awful antagonist from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Sarah Paulson is set to portray Ratched, with Ryan Murphy executive producing. If these two prequels prove to be successful, and the talent involved are more than capable of working up a hit, audiences could be in line for more origin stories about classic film characters.