Book Excerpt: How Writer Robert Towne Crafted 'Chinatown' for Jack Nicholson

The Big Goodbye
Chinatown and the Last Years of Hollywood
Book Excerpt 

Roman Polanski Learns of Sharon Tate's Death 

Polanski, caught up in script problems, further postponed his return to Los Angeles, and Sharon grew impatient: He was missing it, the crucial final stretch of the pregnancy. Suddenly the baby was due in two weeks. Couldn’t he finish the script at home in Los Angeles? Would he at least be home for his birthday? Bitterness edged into her voice and they were strange again. The double intrusion of a Southern California heat wave and ill-timed houseguests, Roman’s friend Wojciech Frykowski and his girlfriend, Abigail Folger, only increased her irritation. When was he coming home? She couldn’t ask them to leave, she said, they were her friends. . . .

"That’s it," Polanski told her. "I’m coming. I’ll finish the script over there. I’ll leave tomorrow."

But it didn’t work out that way; it couldn’t. Polanski still needed a U.S. visa, and the . . .