Robert Towne, known primarily as one of Hollywood’s top screenwriters, presents clips from some of his most lauded films, as well as the soon-to-be-released _Ask the Dus_t, at
An Evening with Robert Towne
, Wednesday, February 22, at 7:30 pm in the Walker Art Center’s Cinema. Towne began his career as an actor and writer for low-budget impresario Roger Corman. His scriptwriting led to Oscar nominations for The Last Detail (1973) and Shampoo (1975) and one win for Chinatown (1974). Expanding his range, Towne made his directorial debut with the controversial Personal Best (1982) but continued to write, with recent screenplays for the box-office smashes Days of Thunde_r (1990) and Mission Impossible_ I and II (1996 and 2000).
Despite four Oscar-nominated screenplays, California native Towne owes much of his reputation to his prowess as a pinch hitter, earning considerable respect as one of Hollywood’s preeminent script doctors. Entering the business under the aegis of legendary B-movie director Roger Corman, who discovered Towne and Jack Nicholson in Jeff Corey’s acting class in the late 1950s, he scripted (and sometimes acted in) low-budget curiosities like The Last Woman on Earth (1960) and_ The Tomb of Ligeia_ (1965). He also wrote episodes for TV series like The Outer Limits and_ The Man from U.N.C.L.E. before graduating to “special consultant” status for his contributions to Robert Benton and David Newman’s scenario for _Bonnie and Clyde (1967), directed by Arthur Penn. His uncredited work for Francis Ford Coppola on The Godfather (1972) earned him words of thanks during Coppola’s acceptance speech for his Oscar-winning screenplay, and he would even rewrite two-time Academy Award-winner William Goldman’s Marathon Man, 1976.
After acting in friend Nicholson’s directorial debut, Drive, He Said, and doctoring Cisco Pike (both 1971) and_ The New Centurions_ (1972), from which he walked, Towne established himself with three Oscar-nominated scripts, two for Nicholson (The Last Detail, 1973; Chinatown, 1974) and one (Shampoo, 1975) for Bonnie and Clyde star Warren Beatty (who shared screenwriting credit). The scripts exhibited his deft command of narrative structure and natural dialogue in the service of a warm, untidy humanism, and a special love of southern California. A magnificent portrait of a Los Angeles coming of age in the 1930s, Chinatown is one of the most-studied scripts of all time. Towne invariably breathes drama, subtlety, and depth of character into all his work, credited or not.
Towne’s latest project is Ask the Dust, an adaptation he wrote and directed of John Fante’s Depression-era novel in which Salma Hayek plays the fiery Mexican beauty Camilla who hopes to rise above her station by marrying a wealthy American. That plan is complicated when Camilla meets Arturo Bandini (Colin Farrell), a first-generation Italian hoping to land a writing career and a blue-eyed blonde on his arm. The film is slated to open in March.
Tickets to An Evening with Robert Towne are $12 ($8 Walker members) and are available at walkerart.org/tickets or by calling 612.375.7600.