According to Deadline, Ben Affleck is getting ready to return to directing with The Big Goodbye, an adaptation of Sam Wasson’s book about the making of Roman Polanski’s 1974 noir classic Chinatown. Wasson’s book positions Chinatown and the story of its creation as a reflection of the end of the classic free-wheeling Hollywood era, before corporations came along and homogenized everything. That means a movie version will be the kind of Old Hollywood story that Hollywood people love, giving famous actors a chance to play other famous actors, bask in their own specialness, and long for the days when moviemaking was an art and not a promotional tool for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Are we being snarky about this? We can’t even tell anymore.
Deadline says it’s unclear if Affleck will act or just direct, but the casting for this really is the most intriguing part. Chinatown starred Faye Dunaway and Jack Nicholson (in his prime!), both of which would be good roles for awards-hungry actors, but we’re mostly curious about who would willingly take on the thankless job of playing convicted rapist Roman Polanski. Chinatown was made a few years before Polanski fled the United States, so that wouldn’t really need to be a plot point in this movie, but that’s gotta be an elephant in the room whenever the Polanski character is onscreen, right?
If Affleck addresses it, it would have to be handled pretty carefully to avoid being either dismissive or heavy-handed, and if he doesn’t address it… well, we’re glad this is Ben Affleck’s problem and not our problem. Or maybe it’s not a problem at all, since cancel culture didn’t catch up with Polanski until 2018, 15 years after he got a standing ovation at the Oscars and 40 years after being convicted of raping an underage girl. (This news story is an example of using the “heavy-handed” approach.)