Praising Jack Nicholson’s acting talent in an interview with him in 1985, Roger Ebert points to his ability to go from one extreme to the other on screen while remaining comfortable. Jack Nicholson returns:
“I think by choice I protected that. The terrible thing for American actors is, if they have a success, everyone that they collaborate with wants them to repeat that success… By the third or fourth time, it begins to wear thin. So now they try a departure from the formula, and if it doesn’t work, they’re dead. They have to go back to repeating what they did that once worked… they may never get free again”.
But wasn’t Nicholson also afflicted by this illness he describes? By the early 90’s he had comfortably settled into the role of “Jack”, the mischievous middle-aged frisky man with the devilish eyebrows beneath his iconic Ray Bans. Those who were introduced to his work at that time could have easily underestimated him.
But Jack Nicholson is great in spite of his “Jack” persona. As Chuck Bowen writes in Slant:
“It’s startling to remember what a heartbroken live wire the actor once was, how often he chose characters that spoke directly to the baby-boomer fear that their various rebellions wouldn’t come to much. Every classic Nicholson film follows a strikingly similar trajectory of the outcast who either lives by settling for casual tragedy or dies out of wounded stubbornness. Of all the great actors to emerge from the rich period of American films that kicked off in the late 1960s and unceremoniously concluded in the mid-1970s, Nicholson stood apart as the ideal embodiment of that era’s weirdly sexy resignation”.
When we asked our members to suggest a season for The Garden Cinema, Jack Nicholson was by far the most popular choice. We would like to thank you for giving us the opportunity to delve into Nicholson’s incredible career with a line-up of films chosen by you in our members poll. Nicholson is not only a great actor, but also a great artist who embodied the visions of directors like Stanley Kubrick, Milos Forman, Roman Polanski, Michelangelo Antonioni, Alexander Payne, and Martin Scorsese. Not to mention he invented “Jack” – our favourite artificial Hollywood persona of all time. We love every inch of him!!