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Robert Towne

Robert Towne

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Also Known As: Robert Bertram Schwartz, Edward Wain, P H Vazak, Edward Wain Died:
Born: November 23, 1934 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Los Angeles, California, USA Profession: screenwriter, director, producer, actor, tuna fisherman, real estate agent

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Despite four Oscar-nominated screenplays, writer Robert Towne owed much of his reputation to his prowess as a pinch hitter, earning considerable respect as one of Hollywood's preeminent script doctors on a wide array of famous works like "Bonnie and Clyde" (1967), "The Godfather" (1972) and "Marathon Man" (1976). Emerging from the schlock of Roger Corman's B-grade sci-fi flicks, Towne reached the top of his game in the mid-1970s by writing three-straight films that were nominated for Academy Awards: "The Last Detail" (1973), "Chinatown" (1974) and "Shampoo" (1975). Towne also delved into directing with acclaimed films like "Personal Best" (1982) and "Without Limits" (1998), though most of his directing efforts failed to make much of a box office impression. For Towne, it was always his Oscar-winning script for "Chinatown" that earned him widespread recognition for being one of the finest scribes of his day, while giving him the distinction of having penned what many considered to be greatest screenplay in cinema history. In fact, Towne's masterwork was studied by would-be scribes hoping to unlock its secrets decades after its release, attesting to how much of a landmark film "Chinatown" really was. ...

Despite four Oscar-nominated screenplays, writer Robert Towne owed much of his reputation to his prowess as a pinch hitter, earning considerable respect as one of Hollywood's preeminent script doctors on a wide array of famous works like "Bonnie and Clyde" (1967), "The Godfather" (1972) and "Marathon Man" (1976). Emerging from the schlock of Roger Corman's B-grade sci-fi flicks, Towne reached the top of his game in the mid-1970s by writing three-straight films that were nominated for Academy Awards: "The Last Detail" (1973), "Chinatown" (1974) and "Shampoo" (1975). Towne also delved into directing with acclaimed films like "Personal Best" (1982) and "Without Limits" (1998), though most of his directing efforts failed to make much of a box office impression. For Towne, it was always his Oscar-winning script for "Chinatown" that earned him widespread recognition for being one of the finest scribes of his day, while giving him the distinction of having penned what many considered to be greatest screenplay in cinema history. In fact, Towne's masterwork was studied by would-be scribes hoping to unlock its secrets decades after its release, attesting to how much of a landmark film "Chinatown" really was.

Filmographyclose complete filmography

DIRECTOR:

1.
2.
  Without Limits (1998) Director
3.
  Tequila Sunrise (1988) Director
4.
  Personal Best (1982) Director

CAST: (feature film)

2.
 Sad Flower in the Sand, A (2001) Himself--Screenwriter
4.
 Pick-Up Artist, The (1987) Stan
5.
 Drive, He Said (1971) Richard Calvin
6.
 Creature From the Haunted Sea (1961) Sparks Moran
7.
 Last Woman on Earth (1960) Martin Joyce
8.
10.
 Hometown Heroes (1998) Interviewee
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

:
Raised in the gated community of Rolling Hills, California
:
Moved to Los Angeles in the early 1950s
:
Worked as a tuna fisherman while in college
1960:
First screenwriting credit (as Edward Wain), Roger Corman's "The Last Woman on Earth"; also acting debut (billed as Edward Wain)
1962:
Wrote four episodes for "The Lloyd Bridges Show" (CBS)
1964:
Wrote episodes for "The Outer Limits" (ABC), "Breaking Point" (ABC), "The Man from U.N.C.L.E." (NBC) and "The Richard Boone Show" (NBC)
1967:
Was member of Warren Beatty's production staff and made uncredited contributions to screenplay of "Bonnie and Clyde"; credited as special consultant
1968:
Co-scripted (with Sam Peckinpah) "Villa Rides", directed by Buzz Kulik
1971:
First feature collaboration with friend Jack Nicholson, acting in Nicholson's directing debut, "Drive, He Said"
1972:
Scripted one scene (where the mantle passes from Brando to Pacino) in Francis Ford Coppola's "The Godfather"
1973:
Received first Oscar nomination for his adaptation of Darryl Ponicson's novel, "The Last Detail", directed by Hal Ashby; first feature collaboration with Nicholson as actor
1974:
Won Oscar for original screenplay for Roman Polanski's "Chinatown", starring Nicholson
1975:
Co-wrote (with Beatty) "Shampoo", directed by Ashby; earned third screenwriting Oscar nomination in as many years
1975:
With Paul Schrader, co-wrote "The Yakuza", directed by Sydney Pollack
1977:
Contributed uncredited "script-doctoring" to "Marathon Man", rewriting William Goldman (a master himself)
1982:
Film producing and directing debut, "Personal Best"
1984:
Took screenwriting credit for "Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes" as P H Vazak (his dog's name); had orinally intended to direct film, but fallout from his war with David Geffen on "Personal Best" led Warner Bros. to give the helm to Hugh Hudson; shared Oscar nomination with other credited writer Michael Austin
1987:
Portrayed Stan in James Toback's "The Pick-up Artist"
1987:
Executive produced "The Bedroom Window", directed by Curtis Harrington
1988:
Second film as writer-director, "Tequila Sunrise"
1990:
Scripted "Chinatown" sequel "The Two Jakes"; originally supposed to direct but replaced by Nicholson; friendship did not survive the flap
1990:
First association with Tom Cruise, "Days of Thunder"; co-wrote story with Cruise, then executed the screenplay
1993:
Collaborated with David Rabe and David Rayfiel on screenplay for "The Firm", adapted from the John Grisham novel; starred Cruise and directed by Sydney Pollack
1994:
Second screenwriting collaboration with Beatty, the disastrous remake "Love Affair"
1996:
Co-wrote "Mission: Impossible" with David Koepp for producer-star Cruise
1998:
Third film as writer-director, "Without Limits", produced by Cruise and Paula Wagner; second film in as many years about legendary runner Steve Prefontaine; co-wrote with Kenny Moore, former University of Oregon and 1972 Olympic teammate of Prefontaine
2000:
Penned the screenplay for "Mission: Impossible II," starring Tom Cruise and directed by John Woo
2006:
Helmed an adaptation of John Fante's Depression Era novel, "Ask the Dust," starring Colin Farrell and Salma Hayek
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

Pomona College: Claremont , California -
Pomona College: Claremont , California -
Chadwick School: Palos Verde , California -

Notes

"The movies started changing with 'Superman'. The stars became Sly Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Indiana Jones. It's a need for heroes. When we feel we can't do much of anything right, build a car or a TV set, we want someone who can change events, who can do it for us. The characters I write about are men who control events far, far less than events control them. My characters get caught, they try even though they don't prevail or even significiantly influence events. These guys muddle through." --Robert Towne quoted in The New York Times, November 27, 1990

"There are no novels or plays I'm itching to write and there never have been. I love movies. I think movies best communicate whatever I have to say and show; or to put it another way, when what you want to show is what you have to say, you are pretty much stuck with movies as a way of saying it." --Towne in Esquire, July 1991

"Working on 'Personal Best' was a great experience for me. And though the film was not a commercial success, it certainly got a lot of good critical attention and has had a long and honorable life in terms of being a sort of reference point in films. As for 'Tequila Sunrise', it was doomed from the beginning, when I was prevented from doing a script in which the hero is killed. That just twisted everything. Had that movie ended with Mel Gibson's death, the way it had been written, I think it would have been better reviewed and more commercially successful." --Robert Towne to Premiere, April 1998

On giving the scene he wrote to Marlon Brando in "The Godfather": "He was in his makeup chair and he said, 'Read it to me.' 'Read it to you?' 'Yeah.' 'Both parts?' 'Yeah.' That immediately pissed me off, because I thought, 'Well, this fucker's got to know that's an intimidating thing to do to anybody.' I made up my mind about one thing: I ain't gonna read this well. Acting for Brando is one mistake I'm not gonna make. I read it and he said, 'Read it again.' Then he did something that only Tom Cruise has ever done since--he took that scene apart, line by line, pause by pause, word by word. He wanted to know absolutely everything in my head that I could tell him about." --From Movieline, October 1998

About his differences with director Roman Polanski regarding the ending of "Chinatown": "Roman and I have been much misunderstood about this. We both agreed that it ended darkly. The only difference was I felt it was too melodramatic to end it his way. The way I had it figured was just about as dark, but Roman felt he needed that finale. I was wrong and he was right. Roman is one of the most gifted filmmakers of all time. As the years have gone by, I see that he taught me more than anybody. The best working relationship I ever had was with him. By far. He's a giant." --From Movieline, October 1998

Companions close complete companion listing

wife:
Julie Payne. Married in November 1977; divorced c. 1981; mother of Towne's daughter Katharine; divorced.
wife:
Luisa Gaule. Former restaurateur. Married c. 1985; mother of Towne's daughter Chiara.

Family close complete family listing

father:
Lou Towne. Real estate developer, former clothing shop owner. Made fortune in real estate; formerly owned Towne Smart Shop which sold ladies' garments; changed family name to Towne.
mother:
Helen Towne.
brother:
Roger Stewart Towne. Born on April 15, 1940.
daughter:
Katharine Payne Towne. Actor. Born on July 17, 1978; mother, Julie Payne.
daughter:
Chiara Gaule Towne. Born on July 28, 1991; mother, Luisa Towne.
VIEW COMPLETE FAMILY LISTING

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