Robert Towne, One of the Greatest Screenwriters in Hollywood History, Has Died

Although his most innovative work came during the New Hollywood era, Towne began his career in film as an aspiring actor, appearing in Roger Corman the films “Last Woman on Earth” (which he also wrote) and “Creature From the Haunted Sea” in 1960 and ’61. He clearly had bigger plans, though, as he did so under another assumed name: Edward Wain. By 1964, he was racking up writing credits on television, contributing to episodes of “The Twilight Zone” and “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” and “The Lloyd Bridges Show.” Later in life, he would return to the medium to serve as a consulting producer on the seventh season of “Mad Men,” a show that at that point was set around the same time Towne had struck gold in Hollywood.

Towne has also dabbled in directing, and has found critical success, if not always at the box office. He wrote and directed four films from 1982 to 2006, including the Oscar-nominated crime drama “Tequila Sunrise” and “Personal Best,” a lesbian-focused athletic drama that the American Film Academy once named to its longlist of the greatest American sports films of all time. The California-born director has often worked with Tom Cruise, who has produced two of his directorial efforts, and Jack Nicholson, with whom he roomed in the couple’s early days. According to Variety. “From the moment I saw it, I knew Jack was going to be a star,” Towne told the publication at a 50th anniversary retrospective of “Chinatown” just last month. He wrote a sequel to that film for Nicholson, “The Two Jakes,” which came out in 1990, and recently told Variety that “all the episodes were written” for a (hopefully) Netflix’s next prequel directed by David Fincher.

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