Ben Affleck has already directed a film about a faked creation of one in the form of Argo. Now he’s directing a film about the real making of one. The actor-director has signed on to direct a drama about the making of 70s classic Chinatown. It’s called The Long Goodbye, and is based on Sam Wasson‘s book of the same name.
Little needs to be said about Chinatown at this point; its dark nihilism is legendary. But it also represents a time in Hollywood we’ll likely never see again, the famed “New Hollywood” period where auteur directors were given plenty of freedom to make whatever crazy passion projects they wanted. They usually ended up cynical and reflected the post-Watergate lack of trust that had seeped into American life.
So we’ll likely see a lot of current Hollywood stars playing former Hollywood stars, which should be interesting. There’s no news on if Affleck will also act in the film yet, but he is also penning the screenplay. Affleck made his acting comeback earlier this year with solid sports drama The Way Back. However this will be his first directorial effort since 2015’s disappointing Live By Night.
There is the obvious controversy hanging over this project though; why make a film where Roman Polanski – a man barred from the United States for committing statutory rape, a charge he pled guilty to – is going to (presumably) be a protagonist? If Affleck wanted to make a film about New Hollywood, there are plenty of fascinating projects to choose from.
Why this one? It’s possible Polanski isn’t going to be a major figure in the movie, yet that would seem a stretch considering he literally directed Chinatown and is likely a major part of Wasson’s book. It’s possible The Long Goodbye seeks to dive into this and examine great art made by a bad person, which would be genuinely interesting, but who knows how likely that is.
We’ll see what the reaction to this project is, and whether Affleck sheds some light on how and why he’s tackling the making of Chinatown specifically.