Steven Chorney is the wonderful movie poster artist and illustrator who did the concept sketches for The Two Jakes in the very beginning. I remember there were five of us who took these and developed them as comps, and even came up with other designs too. I was assigned the first one he laid out.
I asked him if he still had the comps, and this morning he sent them along so I could post them. I think Thomas Blackshear did a comp using a variation of the second design, which Steven said was his favorite concept because of the tension in Nicholson’s face.
Steven said he was thinking about the Scarface movie poster in his design. Based on his days doing illustrations for TV Guide, he felt there was something missing from his sketch. We needed the girl! “…we need 2 guys, a girl, and a gun!” He must have mentioned that to the art director, because by the time I got the job, they were asking for me to add the girl in there.
This was done back before color xeroxes were very accurate. Steven had done the grey background version, but they had made a color copy for me, and it had turned a sort of acid yellow. I loved it, so I tried to match the color. It reminded me of that Van Gogh painting of the pool hall interior with the yellow lights and the green felt. Van Gogh wrote “In my picture of the Night Café I have tried to express the idea that the café is a place where one can ruin oneself, go mad or commit a crime.”
But even though they liked my Two Jakes art, they wanted to go with the grey of Steven’s original version (which I had never seen). They had me hide Meg Tilly’s face with her hat, make Nicholson larger, and make his coat and lapels oversized.
The only bad experience with the whole project was the reference they gave me for Jack Nicholson’s face. It was a blurry, two inch tall, b&w photo from The Witches of Eastwick. I kept asking, “Seriously? Jack Nicholson, and this is the best reference you have?” I think I painted his head about 9″ tall on my poster. And as it turned out, his face was the only problem anyone had with my image. (see my blog post, July 2013, for that story)