The Two Jakes

Sherman, set the WABAC machine to March 1990….

That would take us to about the time that I was pulling all-nighters in order to finish the poster for “The Two Jakes”.  Originally Steve Chorney had done a series of small watercolor sketches for the movie.  They were fast sketches, but the colors were beautiful.  Seiniger Advertising was about the hottest movie poster design studio at that time, and they were doing the poster.  I had never seen so many concepts for one movie before.  I know they took Steve’s sketches and gave them out to five illustrators to develop into comps.  Later they had each of us do a completely different image, but I can’t even remember what those looked like.  These were all very finished comps, but done at about half size.  Everyone was really happy with what I did for the original comp and from the beginning it was in the running.  I went off on vacation for a few weeks and when I got back, they told me that my art was still the top choice, only they had revised it and I would need to repaint it at full size.

They had made Jack Nicholson larger, made his shoulders wider, made Meg Tilly’s hat cover her face almost completely, and changed Steve’s beautiful yellow/green color scheme to a grey/teal blue combination.  Even with those revisions I still loved the art, so I was very happy to proceed with the finish.  I feel like it was the best movie poster I ever did.

They told me at the time that with movie posters, the poster that was the top choice when they ran out of money or ran out of time, was the one that would become the poster.  Until one of those things happened, they would just keep doing new art.  I think all illustrators miss those days of Illustrated Movie Posters.

One other interesting story connected with that poster…I was told that the night before the art was to be delivered to the printer, Jack Nicholson called Frank Mancuso, Sr., the CEO of Paramount to say he had changed his mind about the poster.  Nicholson wanted to use a different painting that had been done.  Mancuso took both posters over to Nicholson’s house and they met until midnight to talk about which way to go.  Basically Mancuso said, “We have been through more than a hundred movie posters and all along, this was the one everyone agreed on.  In the meeting yesterday, we again looked at the top runners and everyone decided this was the strongest image.  What do we have to do in order to make you happy with this version?”  Nicholson said that he liked the colors of his face better in the other poster.  So it was agreed that if I could repaint his face to one that he was happy with, they would proceed with my poster art.  They gave me four days to repaint the head, and I remember the day I delivered it, the art director gave me a fistful of colored pencils and had me sit on her floor and paint out some additional wrinkles.  But in the end, everyone was happy with the art.  My first major film poster!