Jul 122013

Jack Nicholson

There was quite a bit of irony to this week’s Top 10 list in that more than one recent news event gravitated me towards Jack Nicholson. Not only with the latest dig in the dirt to see if they found Jimmy Hoffa but also the case with James Whitey Bulger.

It seems like actually a couple of lifetimes ago that I saw my first Jack Nicholson movie, One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. In no possible way could I remotely fathom the great masterpiece I had just witnessed after I saw that. I thought they were just a bunch of loons in mental hospital. Ahh, but it’s actually quite close to exact reality and I will share more on that later in the post.

Easy Rider totally hit home for me in that, despite being a really good student and involved in numerous activities, I was also a horrendous rebel playing on the other side of the tracks so to speak. Sorry, Dad.

Then I saw The Shining and was absolutely terrified out of my living skull. We all have fears and maybe a phobia or two here and there. Being chased or followed is one that really puts the fight or flight mode at a red line status. So, I watched this man gone insane wanting to kill his wife and little boy with an axe. Looking-over-your-shoulder-itis.

Yes, Jack Nicholson had my attention and I went back and watched the previous two movies on VHS (yes, you read that right) along with Chinatown. I realized with myself and all movie goers to his performances that we were all witnessing greatness.

Now, at 76 years old, he can bask in his life’s work as movie viewers around the world, young and old, enjoy his brilliant work over and over again. His gorgeous glass in-cased trophy cabinet (I assume) at home is a shrine to that no doubt. Only two actors were nominated for an Oscar every decade over five decades and he is one of them. Do you know the other without looking it up? Six Golden Globes and the American Film Institute’s Life Achievement Award. The other actor is Michael Caine.

Hillary Clinton has used quotes from his movies with Batman, “Wait ’til they get a load of me…” and The Shining, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy…” but the best was from A Few Good Men, “Nothing on this earth is sexier, believe me, gentlemen,  than a woman you have to salute in the morning.”

He first worked as a gofer for the MGM legends William Hanna and Joseph Barbera and they even offered him an entry-level job which he declined to pursue acting. Good call there, Jack. He was the first choice to play the role of Father Damien Karras which would have been fascinating and I mentioned it in my favorite horror movie endings post here. But that amazing role was given to Jason Miller.

He got his Hollywood lips whetted a bit more when he wrote the screenplay in 1967  “The Trip” which starred Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper. His big break then came in “Easy Rider” which finally put him on solid footing. He put in several good pieces of work before nailing a great performance in Chinatown. It was off to the moon from there.

He even worked as volunteer fireman in the 1970’s. If this post was a class you would be seeing that again as an answer to the question, “Which Jack Nicholson movie would that have been most applicable to?”

Once again I tried to do a little different angle for this week and that would be showing you cast members and their character names along with some lengthy informational trivia and of course the videos. So, without further chatter and of course a thank to Google Images, You Tube and IMDB, here are My Top 10 +1 Favorite Jack Nicholson Movies.

+1 Anger Management (2003)

Adam Sandler – Dave Buznik
Marisa Tomei – Linda
Starring as Dr Buddy Rydell
Directed by Peter Segal

Could you imagine his character being your confidant? They inserted irony into the film when he choose a baseball bat over a golf club to smash the window of the Lexus. Nicholson was cited for smashing a man’s window with a golf club in a bout of rage. He recommended that his best friend Harry Dean Stanton be cast in the movie and got the part of the old blind man with the cane. A donated version of this movie was given to U.S. military bases supporting Operating Enduring/Iraqi Freedom in the Persian Gulf with a special 5 minute thank you introduction to the troops from Sandler.

 10  The Postman Always Rings Twice (1981)
Jessica Lange – Cora Papadakis
John Colicos – Nick Papadakis
Angelica Houston – Madge
Michael Lerner – Mr. Katz
John P Ryan – Kennedy
Starring as Frank Chambers
Directed by Bob Rafelson

A reversion of the original black and white classic as he joins director Bob Rafelson for their fourth of six movie ventures together. At the time it was easily the hottest sex scenes I had ever seen in for an R rated movie. And that was a sentiment across the board for most anyone else as it was the first of the erotic thrillers from the 80’s. Fatal Attraction and Basic Instinct were soon to follow in its footsteps.

9 Batman (1989)
Michael Keaton – Batman/Bruce Wayne
Kim Basinger – Vicky Vale
Billy Dee Williams – Harvey Dent
Pat Hingle – Commissioner James Gordon
Jack Palance – Carl Grissom
Jerry Hall – Alicia Hunt
Starring as Joker/Jack Napier
Directed by Tim Burton
I wrote about the Batmobile from the orignal tv series in my very popular post link here.  He got the role of The Joker despite consideration to Robin Williams for the part. He demands for top-billing gave him a big bank day as royalties for sales on all merchandise went to him along with a percentage of the gross on the film.  Keaton’s casting as Batman was massively controversial with traditionalists of the comics. So to negate that a theatrical trailer was put together that in of itself became a massive hit. Movie goers would stand in line just to buy a ticket, watch the trailer, then leave after the thunderous standing applause had subsided. Here is that original version that they saw for the first time.
8 Easy Rider (1969)
Peter Fonda – Wyatt
Dennis Hopper – Billy
Starring as George Hanson
Directed by Dennis Hopper, Written by Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda

Fonda states that LSD was not used during the acid scene. But, the three of them smoking marijuana on camera was quite real.  It was actually smoked in numerous scenes but the white substance snorted by Fonda was reportedly powdered sugar. Fonda had said he was told by Hopper it would be real cocaine. The latter had a notorious reputation at the time for his legendary drug excesses and he terrorized the crew so badly that everyone quit. They had to hire a completely new second crew. One of the children seen in the commune is Bridget Fonda, Peter’s young daughter.

7 Hoffa (1992)

Danny DeVito –  Bobby Ciaro
Armand Assante – Carol D’Allesandro
Frank Whaley – Young Kid
John P Ryan – Red Bennett
Robert Prosky – Billy Flynn
John C Reilly – Pete Connelly
Jennifer Nicholson – Nurse Nun in white
Starring as James R. “Jimmy” Hoffa
Directed by Danny DeVito

Wearing only a fake nose and a set of false upper teeth he was so powerful and believable in this movie. One day Jimmy Hoffa, Jr was visiting the set and saw Nicholson emerge from a trailer in full makeup and cried, “That’s my Dad.” Virtually every riveting word is verbatim from the actual court proceedings between Robert Kennedy and the teamster. They were filmed in the Wayne County Commission meeting room and the extras were Commissioners, actual staff and fellow County workers. His daughter plays the young nun in the hospital but DeVito had suggested she play the hooker in his hotel room. Nicholson gave him the trademark raised eyebrow.

6 The Bucket List (2007)

Morgan Freeman – Carter
Rob Morrow – Dr Hollins
Sean Hayes – Thomas
Beverly Todd – Virginia
Starring as Edward
Directed by Rob Reiner

Some of the dialogue and the glasses worn by him were from a recent hospital experience just before filming started. Ironically, both Freeman and Reiner thought of him for the role of Edward. He shaved his head for the role but Freeman wore a bald cap. In one of the scenes where Edward and Carter are playing gin, Carter wins very quickly, and Edward asks, “Are you the Devil?” Jack Nicholson played the Devil in The Witches of Eastwick and Morgan Freeman played God in Bruce Almighty and Evan Almighty. This was a very emotional movie for me as my Dad was headed down his home stretch with only a year or two left and maybe for that reason I should have ranked it higher on My Top 10 +1 Favorite Jack Nicholson Movies list

5 The Departed (2006)

Leonardo DiCaprio – Billy
Matt Damon – Colin Sullivan
Mark Wahlberg – Dignam
Martin Sheen – Queenan
Alec Baldwin – Ellerby
Vera Farmiga – Madolyn
Starring as Frank Costello
Directed by Martin Scorcese

“I don’t want to be a product of my environment, I want my environment to be a product of me, “Costello said. And what a kick ass quote it is. In Nicholson’s first work with Scorcese to scored big time with not only a blockbuster movie but a marquee cast that brought it all together. There was so much paranoia, loyalty and mystery that it left you baffled at moments that even the viewer doesn’t know the title of the movie until after 18 minutes into it. Retired Massachusetts State Police Major, Thomas B Duffy, was the film’s technical advisor as he had specialized in organized crime for 30 years. He was very involved in the James Whitey Bulger case that Frank Costello is based on to some degree. Nicholson would only wear a New York Yankees hat hence thumbing his nose at wearing a Red Sox hat while filming in that city. Scorcese, William Monahan and DeCaprio had to convince him to take the role. And we get to enjoy the backdrop music to the mega hit song that I linked here.

4  A Few Good Men (1992)

Tom Cruise – Lieutenant Daniel Kaffee
Demi Moore – Lieutenant Commander Joanne Callaway
Kevin Bacon – Captain Ross
Kiefer Sutherland – Lieutentant Jonathan Kendrick
Kevin Pollack – LieutentantSam Weinberg
J.T. Walsh – Lieutentant Colonel Mathew Andrew Markinson
J.A. Preston – Judge Julius Alexander Randolph
Noah Wyle – Corporal Jeffrey Barnes
Starring as Colonel Nathan R Jessup
Directed by Rob Reiner

This was really cool when I found out that “a few good men” came from a Marine Corps advertisement on March 20, 1779. It has stuck with them ever since. He had to repeat his legendary courtroom monologue off-camera numerous times so that Reiner could film the reactions of all the other actors from several different angles. The entire cast lauded him for never missing a beat and performing like it was the first live take. Seeing two characters walking down a hall towards a moving camera was first seen in this movie and is now an Aaron Sorkin trademark. Argh, there was a planned loved scene between Moore and Cruise that was not done because it was not needed. And this is soooo cool – Kaffee’s impersonation of Colonel Jessup was completely unscripted. That’s brilliant.
3  One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)

Michael Berryman – Ellis
Peter Brocco- Col Matterson
Dean R Brooks – Dr Spivey
Scatman Cruthers – Turkle
Danny DeVito – Martini
Louise Fletcher – Nurse Ratched
Christopher Lloyd – Taber
Vincent Schiavelli – Fredickson
Starring as R.P. McMurphy
Directed by Milos Forman
We came close to seeing James Caan, Marlon Brando or Gene Hackman in the lead role but they turned it down. Michael Douglas finally started this project after is dad Kirk had possessed the rights to it for many years. It’s fascinating that this was filmed at the Oregon State Mental Hospital and many of the supporting crew and extras were mental patients. Each member of the professional cast and crew ended up working with two or three mental patients.  Think about that when you watch it again someday. McMurphy’s arrival at the hospital includes him asking about a fishing photo, discussing his rape conviction and slamming a stapler. That was all improvised as was Dr Spivey’s reaction. The fishing actually occurred at Depoe Bay, Oregon – the smallest harbor in the world – and everyone got genuinely sea sick on board except for Nicholson. As became a crafty, brilliant move his entire career he took a percentage of the profits instead of big salary. It paid off handsomely as the movie grossed over $120 million dollars in 1975 value. There was a part of the script where he was supposed to leap on a guard and kiss him when he arrived. But the director said they needed a surprise factor and told im to jump on the other guard. That second guard was so surprised you can see him actually punching Nicholson for real. Louise Fletcher had become upset that all the other actors were allowed to laugh and be happy. At the very end of production she removed all of her clothing down to only her panties to prove them she was not a cold-hearted monster.

2  The Shining (1980)

Shelley Duvall – Wendy Torrence
Danny Lloyd – Danny Torrence
Scatman Crothers –  Dick Hollorann
Starring as Jack Torrence
Directed by Stanley Kubrick

Because Danny Lloyd was so young Kubrick became incredibly protective of him. He was able to masterfully keep the boy unaware that he was making a horror film until after the film was released. It was the only movie Lloyd ever made. Wow, way to quit while you’re ahead kid! The gorgeous Overlook Hotel near Mt Hood outside of Portland, Oregon has no room 237.  Nicholson ad-libbed the “little pigs” dialogue. Jack receives breakfast in bed from Wendy and the reflection of the mirror shows “Stovington” on his t-shirt. That is the name of the school that Jack taught at in the novel which I mentioned here in the link to this post. The bathroom door scene initially had an extremely thin door but Nicholson was so adept with the axe and obliterating the door the crew put in a heavy-duty door. The memorable scene where Wendy reads through his work was converted over numerous different languages as non-English reading viewers would have lost the effect of the scene. That is an absolutely genius move.  “Here’s Johnny” was totally improvised by Nicholson. In the scene where Jack is writing and gets mightily upset when Wendy interrupts him, watch the chair behind Jack. It vanishes and then reappears. This was, however, intentional from Kubrick. The audience was supposed to get a subconscious feeling that something was wrong. Nice touch. The limp at the end is totally legit as he was drunk and fell out of a hotel window the night before shooting that scene.

1  As Good As Gets (1997)

Helen Hunt – Carol Connelly
Greg Kinnear – Simon Bishop
Cuba Gooding Jr – Frank Sachs
Skeet Ulrich – Vincent
Starring as Melvin Uduall
Directed by James L Brooks

“The dog is the catalyst. Everything that happens in this movie happens because of Verdell,” said Nicholson. The dog is a Brussels Griffon and according to the American Kennel Club they made excellent watchdogs.  Kinnear didn’t fare too well in bonding with the dog for whatever reason. James (Spence) thought of Nicholson as an old guy was really nice and wasn’t intimidating at all. Nicholson’s co-star in A Few Good Men, J.T. Walsh had died shortly before the Academy Awards in 1998. At the ceremony as he ascended the steps to the podium he carefully stepped over the cracks between the tiles on the stage then dedicated his Oscar to Walsh. Class act move. The fear of stepping on cracks in the sidewalk is called Dipatiphobia. The 18 page thank you letter was read by Hunt in one take. Nicholson was stressed to no end that because his character was so horrible to people that they would hate the movie. “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” by Art Garfunkel plays at the credits and he and Nicholson starred together in the film “Carnal Knowledge”. It was not intended for Nicholson to kiss but the director yelled at him, “Kiss her, man!” That worked out really well as I mentioned here in my favorite kisses post

So there is My Top 10 +1 Favorite Jack Nicholson Movies but what is your favorite Jack Nicholson movie?

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Mike Vogler

I have been told (many times) that I really need to write a book about my life. The past 50+ years have been an exciting ride, and these days I find myself with a great many passions. However, I feel that this website is a much more personal way with which to share my musings, stories and commentary.

  24 Responses to “My Top 10 +1 Favorite Jack Nicholson Movies”

  1. “You have pissed your last floor.” I couldn’t agree more, As Good AS It Gets is my #1 as well. “Where do they teach you to talk like this? In some Panama City “Sailor wanna hump-hump” bar, or is it getaway day and your last shot at his whiskey? Sell crazy someplace else, we’re all stocked up here.”

    • LOL this made me laugh out loud! When I heard him say that I said, “OH MY GAWD he did not just say that to that sweet little lady….” 🙂

  2. Batman with Michael and Keaton and Jack was the best one ever. (And that Tim Burton directed makes it even better)
    One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest was fabulous!
    A Few Good Men and As Good As it Gets are also great movies.
    Good picks for Jack, even though I haven’t seen them all.

  3. I see I’ve missed some of his movies, but A few good men and As good as it gets, both favorites!!

  4. LOL! I actually have seen all of these. I am not much of a movie goer so quite unusual for me. Yes, Nicholson is one of my favorite actors and there is not many 🙂 Great stuff Mike!

  5. I have been to the location in Colorado where The Shining was filmed, the Stanley Hotel. It is a very beautiful location. I was thinking about it just the other day!


  6. Good choices! I ahvent seen a lot fo these, but again, some of these clips make me want to see them!
    I think my favorite out of these is Batman, those are the Batman movies I enjoy. havent gotten into the newer ones. The Shining always scared the piss out of me when I was younger.
    The Departed is one I want to see soon.

  7. Well, my favorite Jack Nicholson movie was Batman, but now I’ll have to check some of these others…

    Thanks, bud!

  8. The Shining is a must see every summer when it gets really hot.

    Wonder if it’s on demand or netflix now???

  9. I loved taking the time to read your comments and to watch the clips. I like him before, but seeing the breath of his work really shows he does the best crazy ever…..

  10. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and The Departed.

    Badass in both and decades apart in time.

  11. Mike, on my first visit here, I’m impressed altogether by this post, and your writing. It feels worthy of a major newspaper like the NY or LA Times.

    I agree that Nicholson is a rare talent. I think he’s especially gifted at carrying our culture’s shadow, i.e. the dark parts of ourselves we’d rather not own. I find myself wishing he would do an encore film at age 76, a film about climate change. I would cast him as the mogul of an Enron-type company. He would creepily and brilliantly portray passion for profit at the expense of the fate of the planet.

    A woman can always have a dream.

    Thanks for visiting Diamond-Cut Life. I just replied to your comment, and recommended to my readers that they visit Past My Curfew. .

    • Hi Alison! Wow, thank you for the HUGE compliment! I really appreciate that. I like your story line Jack in the movie. You should write that up and submit it…it would be a hit! Thank you for leaving a comment! 🙂 And I’ve been doing the same thing passing along links to other sites and your’s included 🙂

  12. I think Jack has the perfect grin for the joker in Batman. Heath did excellent too though

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