Ben Affleck is returning to the director’s chair for the first time since his 2016 bomb “Live by Night” with “The Big Goodbye,” a dramatic retelling of the behind-the-scenes drama that went into making Roman Polanski’s “Chinatown.” Affleck will helm the movie for Paramount Pictures. The project was first announced by Deadline as an adaptation of Sam Wasson’s 2020 nonfiction tome “The Big Goodbye: Chinatown and the Last Years of Hollywood.” IndieWire has reached out to Paramount Pictures representatives, who confirmed the news, and that Affleck will also write the script.
Rights to the book were purchased by “Saturday Night Live” showrunner Lorne Michaels. The deep-dive biography of the movie as told by Wasson unfurls the twisty story that led to the 1974 classic that lost Best Picture, but still earned screenwriter Robert Towne a Best Original Screenplay Academy Award. Framed against the wildly changing backdrop of 1970s Hollywood, “The Big Goodbye” looks at the backstage saga of the film, including with stars Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway, and the movie’s hopeless ending that the studio, and filmmakers, went back and forth on. (IndieWire featured an excerpt of the book back in February.)
The project is near and dear to Paramount since the death of former head Robert Evans, who helped shepherd the movie and the studio to become massive successes in the 1970s, ushering in a new wave of iconoclastic moviemaking. The movie also marks a departure for Affleck from his longtime partners at Warners, who took his film “Argo” to a Best Picture win back in 2013, and also oversaw his movies “The Town” and the expensive failure “Live by Night.”
Affleck earned strong reviews earlier this year in front of the camera on “The Way Back” as an alcoholic basketball teacher in Gavin O’Connor’s redemption drama. He’s next starring in Adrian Lyne’s psychosexual Patricia Highsmith adaptation “Deep Water” opposite his real-life girlfriend Ana de Armas, and will also be seen next year in HBO Max’s “Zack Snyder’s Justice League,” and in Ridley Scott’s period epic “The Last Duel,” which, shutdown by the pandemic, was moved by 20th Century Studios to October 2021.