After making a meta-textual screen acting comeback in 2020’s The Way Back, Ben Affleck is looking to make his screen directing comeback. As reported by Deadline, Affleck will be directing The Big Goodbye, a dramatized look behind the scenes of the iconic Hollywood film Chinatown.
The Big Goodbye will be based on the book of the same name by Sam Wasson. Released in 1974, Chinatown rocked audiences with its incendiary script by Robert Towne, nihilistic direction by Roman Polanski, and committed performances by Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway. It also represents a sort of last “gasp” at the director-driven, “New Hollywood” boom in mainstream cinema, where giant studios like Paramount Pictures would give big personalities like Polanski and iconic, eccentric producer Robert Evans carte blanche to deliver whatever they wanted.
The Big Goodbye will be produced by, naturally, Paramount Pictures, and SNL‘s Lorne Michaels will join the project as a producer alongside Affleck, who will also be writing the screenplay. No cast members have been announced, nor any news that Affleck himself will be acting, but I’d have to imagine tons of stars would thrill at the chance to play these big-shot Hollywood legends.
Affleck’s last-directed film was the poorly received Live By Night, and I’m thrilled to see him return behind the chair in a project I’m sure he’s excited about. I just have one question about this specific project: Why? Why give any more oxygen, attention, and positive rose-colored-glasses looks at the international sex criminal known as Roman Polanski? If you didn’t know, Polanski, in addition to directing film classics like Chinatown and Rosemary’s Baby, is literally not allowed in the United States for statutory rape, a charge he pled guilty to right before fleeing the country. I don’t know about you, but I think there are plenty of character-driven dramas diving into film history Affleck could direct that don’t have a real life fugitive pedophile as a central figure we are to align with.
Will The Big Goodbye delve into this? Are the historical contexts of Chinatown and its place in Hollywood history worth revisiting and adapting to the screen despite the obvious, glaring controversy at its center? I suppose time will tell. Until then, here are our favorite Ben Affleck performances thus far. Simpler times.