“Bob Towne gave me a one-line idea that became Chinatown. We were sitting at Dominic’s restaurant one evening and he said, ‘ I have an idea about a detective told in the thirties when L.A. was a small town, he gets involved with has nothing to do with what he’s really involved with. The real problem is a woman whom he does not understand.’ And from that one-line idea, eighteen months later we had a script. It’s a beautifully done screenplay that took a lot of work. To do an original can be very painstaking. Bob had a lot of problems in writing it. But he won the Academy Award for it.
Bob Towne to me is what I really consider an honorable, as well as a brilliant, screenwriter. By honorable—he doesn’t look for the assignment, he’ll take the time, he doesn’t care. We gave him very little money for Chinatown—twenty-five thousand dollars to do it, against a large amount if the picture were made. But he believed in it, he worked on this for eighteen months for only $25,000.”
Interview in The Screenwriter’s Handbook by Constance Nash and Virginia Oakley