Chinatown Prequel Series in Development

Normally, I would dismiss a remake/prequel of an icon film/character right out of hand. However, with some of the people behind it, it actually gives me pause. Netflix is gearing up for a prequel series of the classic film, Chinatown. I can literally hear the eye rolls now. But, here me out. Along for the ride of the Chinatown prequel series, acclaimed director David Fincher and original screenwriter Robert Towne.

The series will focus on a young Jake Gittes that was originally played by Jack Nicolson in the 1974 and 1990 films. Aside from Towne, no one from the original film is tied to it. Towne has been brought onboard to write the plot for the single pilot script, which is the length of the production right now.

The Chinatown prequel series will have Fincher and Towne as executive producers, as well as Josh Donen. Netflix is hoping to have Fincher direct the pilot, but there are no deals yet as the order only calls for the pilot script.

The original Chinatown film was directed by Roman Polanski and is concerned a classic film. Towne’s script is considered required reading for anyone studying screenwriting. The 1974 film co-starred Faye Dunaway and John Huston and was produced by the late Robert Evans. The subsequent sequel, The Two Jakes, was directed by Nicholson on a script by Towne, which failed to ignite the box office in 1990.

The main reason I’m not tossing this concept aside, out of hand, is simply because of Fincher’s pedigree. As a series, it could lend itself to a long, character-driven mystery that works well for Fincher and Netflix. House of Cards and Mindhunter have done well with a long, multi-episode storyline.

It will be interesting to see how far this series goes beyond the pilot script. The Chinatown prequel series could be a good idea in the right hands, especially since noir, drawn-out mysteries are right up Fincher and Netflix’s alley. Chinatown is currently available to stream on Amazon Prime Video and Hulu.

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