Towne was presented his award by legendary director Francis Ford Coppola.
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Robert Towne is not only highly regarded in the film industry as one of its more talented screenwriters and directors, with the credits as well as an Oscar to prove it, he is also highly rated “behind-the-scenes”for his talents as script doctor, having helped out some of the greatest names in Hollywood when they encountered a problem with a particular script, with some of his formidable talents reportedly been used to carry out running repairs on scripts for such classic movies is the Godfather and Bonnie and Clyde to name just two of many.
Towne’s contribution to the movie industry was recently recognized once again at the ceremony organized by the American Film Institute which took place at the famous TCL Chinese Theater in Hollywood, where he was presented with an honorary doctorate of fine arts degree.
Presenting the degree to Robert Towne was legendary film director Francis Ford Coppola, describing him as “both a consummate screenwriter as well as an accomplished script doctor” before going on to recall his personal experience of taking advantage of Towne’s script doctoring services
The occasion was more than forty years ago on the set of Copolla’s classic Godfather when Towne was given an emergency call to breathe new life into a crucial scene in the movie that focused on the late Marlon Brando and Al Pacino. Coppola recalled Towne’s tremendous attention to detail and total honesty when rewriting the scene, which was made especially difficult because Marlon Brando was notorious for failing to remember all of his lines.
In response Towne recollected that overcame this problem by having all of the lines that the maestro had to articulate spread strategically around the set, as the legendary actor already firmly ensconced in the part of Don Corleone, for which he an Oscar for his performance, could read them in the proper order as the famous scene unraveled.
Winding up his acceptance speech Towne related to the audience at the Chinese theater, most of them AFI’s graduates, a lesson he learned from that experience which he has carried throughout the rest of his formidable their: “Look to your left or your right — look to your friends, they’re the ones who will bring out the best” summing up by thanking Francis for “taking him along for the ride.”
Robert Towne is regarded as being among the pioneers of what is known as the “New Hollywood” wave of film production with his most notable work being his Academy Award-winning original screenplay for Roman Polanski’s movie Chinatown released in 1974 starring Jack Nicholson.
In addition, Towne a number of other notable film scripts, including the sequel to Chinatown, The Two Jakes.
Towne was also the recipient of four other Oscar nominations, the first for “The Last Detail” again starring Jack Nicholson, Shampoo starring his close friend Warren Beatty, as well as the first two Mission Impossible films.
Robert Towne is also noted for his unique sense of humor, which was clearly displayed in 1984 when became increasingly dissatisfied with the production efforts on scripts of the movie “Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes” and requested that the screen writing credits go to a certain P.H. Vazak, instead of in his name. When Greystoke was nominated for a screenwriting Oscar, it transpired that Vazak was actually Robert Towne family pet dog, who eventually had to face the disappointment of not becoming the first dog to win an Academy award, at least in the screenwriting category.