Happy 80th Birthday Jack Nicholson! His Greatest Roles! My “Jack” Moment!

Jack Nicholson Retires

“Forget it, Jake, it’s Chinatown.”

Time to celebrate legendary Actor Jack Nicholson’s 80th birthday!


Nicholson has an astonishing 12 Academy Award nominations, including three wins — in 1976 for “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” in 1984 for “Terms of Endearment” and in 1998 for “As Good as It Gets.” He also has 16 nominations for competitive Golden Globe Awards, winning six of those to go with his Golden Globes Cecil B. DeMille Award for outstanding contribution to entertainment, received in 1999.


Mr. Oscar!

Nicholson holds the record for the most Oscar nominations – 12! – and he has created some of the most memorable characters of all time…


In honor of this great Actor, I am going to look at some of his most revered work, and also some smaller films that haven’t gotten as much attention. I will begin with two of his greatest performances ever – one that is low key, full of nuance – and one that is Jack at his most outrageous!

“Forget it, Jake, it’s Chinatown.”

Let’s start with one of the great films ever made – and one of his most restrained performances ever…



Here is the classic trailer for a classic film…

jack nicholson retires

Simply put, “Chinatown” is one of the greatest films of all time. Directed by Roman Polanski, starring Jack Nicholson as LA Private Detective Jake Gittes, Faye Dunaway as Evelyn Mulwray, and legendary Director John Huston as LA Businessman Noah Cross…

Noah Cross: “You’ve got a nasty reputation, Mr. Gittes. I like that.”

‘Jake’ Gittes is a private detective who seems to specialize in matrimonial cases. He is hired by Evelyn Mulwray when she suspects her husband Hollis, builder of the city’s water supply system, of having an affair.

You don’t need to know anything else – the plot is a history of LA’s water system, a meditation on evil, and a masterclass in film making…

Noah Cross: “Either you bring the water to L.A. or you bring L.A. to the water.”


[Lunch is served; it’s fish]
Noah Cross: “I hope you don’t mind. I believe they should be served with the head.”
Jake Gittes: “Fine… long as you don’t serve the chicken that way.”

Jack Nicholson nails these lines with a droll sense of awareness – and disdain – for the people he’s in business with…it’s a Nicholson performance for the ages…

Chinatown best jack nicholson film

One classic moment in the film occurs when Jack Nicholson gets too curious one night by a reservoir – looking for the source of LA’s water…

Man with Knife: “You’re a very nosy fellow, kitty cat. Huh? You know what happens to nosy fellows? Huh? No? Wanna guess? Huh? No? Okay. They lose their noses.”

Director Polanski plays the tough guy with the knife, and Nicholson had a nose bandage for the rest of the movie…the scene where Roman Polanski slits Jack Nicholson’s nose was extremely complex to film…

Ultimately, Polanksi and Nicholson got so tired of explaining how it was done (by using a specially-constructed knife with a short hinge that would be safe as long as it was handled VERY carefully) that they began to claim Nicholson’s nose was actually cut.

Loach: “What happened to your nose, Gittes? Somebody slammed a bedroom window on it?”
Jake Gittes: “Nope. Your wife got excited. She crossed her legs a little too quick. You understand what I mean, pal?”

Some of the best dialogue and most dramatic moment occurs near the end of the movie, when Jack and Faye Dunaway really get into it:

Evelyn Mulwray: She’s my daughter.
[Gittes slaps Evelyn]
Jake Gittes: I said I want the truth!
Evelyn Mulwray: She’s my sister…
Evelyn Mulwray: She’s my daughter…
Evelyn Mulwray: My sister, my daughter.
[More slaps]
Jake Gittes: I said I want the truth!
Evelyn Mulwray: She’s my sister AND my daughter!

This movie is perfect: the writing, directing, and acting are all flawless…and it ends with one of the most iconic movie lines of all time:

“Forget it, Jake, it’s Chinatown.”

“Here’s JOHNNY!”

On the other end of the acting spectrum is one of Nicholson’s wildest efforts – for the legendary Director Stanley Kubrick – I am referring, of course, to one of the best horror films ever made:

“The Shining”!

“Some places are like people: some shine and some don’t.”

Legendary Director Stanley Kubrick had already blown our minds with “Dr. Strangelove”, “Lolita” and “2001: A Space Odyssey”, chilled us to core with the futuristic horror of “A Clockwork Orange”, and dazzled us with the lyrical beauty of “Barry Lyndon”…now he wanted us to spend a little time with his friend Jack Nicholson…

Based on a Stephen King novel, the plot is simple: A man, his son and wife become the winter caretakers of an isolated hotel. Six months of quiet desolation, a place for Danny to explore…

Unfortunately, Danny sees disturbing visions of the hotel’s past using a telepathic gift known as “The Shining”. Example? How about the twins he sees in the hallway…

And then of course, Danny sees more…

And there is no one for Danny to share this with…as the horrific images continue…

Jack Nicholson plays the father with an intense glee, from the beginning of the film seemingly on the edge of madness!


Jack’s having a tough time on a writing project when he slowly slips into insanity as a result of cabin fever and former guests of the hotel’s ghosts. After being convinced by a waiter’s ghost to “correct” the family, Jack goes completely insane.

To announce this film, Warner Brothers released a teaser trailer that had just this one shot:

Stanley Kubrick, known for his compulsiveness and numerous retakes, got the shot of blood pouring from the elevators in only three takes. This would be remarkable if it weren’t for the fact that the shot took nine days to set up; every time the doors opened and the blood poured out, Kubrick would say, “It doesn’t look like blood.”

Shelley Duvall stars as Jack’s wife, who wants nothing more than to protect their child from evil…

Wendy Torrance: [crying] Stay away from me.
Jack Torrance: Why?
Wendy Torrance: I just wanna go back to my room!
Jack Torrance: Why?
Wendy Torrance: Well, I’m very confused, and I just need time to think things over!
Jack Torrance: You’ve had your whole FUCKING LIFE to think things over, what good’s a few minutes more gonna do you now?
Wendy Torrance: Please! Don’t hurt me!
Jack Torrance: I’m not gonna hurt you.
Wendy Torrance: Stay away from me!
Jack Torrance: Wendy? Darling? Light, of my life. I’m not gonna hurt ya. You didn’t let me finish my sentence. I said, I’m not gonna hurt ya. I’m just going to bash your brains in.
[Wendy gasps]

Jack Torrance: Gonna bash ’em right the fuck in! ha ha ha
Wendy Torrance: Stay away from me! Don’t hurt me!
Jack Torrance: [sarcastically] I’m not gonna hurt ya…
Wendy Torrance: Stay away! Stop it!
Jack Torrance: Stop swingin’ the bat. Put the bat down, Wendy. Wendy? Give me the bat…

Stanley Kubrick was a perfectionist, and according to IMDB, there is a great deal of confusion regarding the number of retakes of certain scenes. According to the Guinness Book of Records, the scene where Wendy is backing up the stairs swinging the baseball bat was shot 127 times, which is a record for the most takes of a single scene. However, both Steadicam operator Garrett Brown and assistant editor Gordon Stainforth say this is inaccurate – the scene was shot about 35-45 times. Brown does say however that the scene where Hallorann explains to Danny what shining is was shot 148 times, which is a world record.

Of course, when Jack finally snaps, he grabs a handy and ax and heads for the bathroom….

This scene culminates in the classic movie line “Here’s Johnny!”

“Here’s Johnny!” was voted 36th best line of all time by Premiere in 2007.

The Greatest Actor Of All Time!

I’m sure some would argue that, but try this classic peformance:

One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest – Best Actor

best actor jack nicholson

Or any of these:

Carnal Knowledge
Prizzi’s Honor
The Departed
The Last Detail
Terms Of Endearment

Just to name a few of his classic performances: as I said, more to come – and Jack, you will be missed but never forgotten…

My Jack Nicholson Moment!

I got to work with a lot of celebs, but never had the chance to interview Jack…this is the closest I got…here is a picture I captured once – he passed me at the Cannes film festival, on his way to a press conference…I instinctively took a picture and got just a twinkle in the eye…

jack nicholson cannes film festival

God bless Jack – let me know your favorite Jack Nicholson role!

Jack Nicholson Retires

Categories: 70's Cinema, Academy Awards, Action Films, Awards, Books / Media, British Cinema, Cannes Film Festival, Comedy Movies, documentary films, Film Noir, Golden Globes, Great Films, Horror films, Independent Cinema, Movies, Movies About Movies, Obscure Movies, Politics, Revenge Movies, Talent/Celebrities, Uncategorized

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13 replies

  1. What a teaser trailer. Love that shot. You raise a good point about Chinatown being one of his more restrained performances. I also like Terms of Endearment and am desperate to see The Last Detail and Five Easy Pieces. There is something very Jack about him in The Witches of Eastwick and I liked him teaming up with Diane Keaton. This could go on forever the man has done some great work.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great post! He really is such an incredible actor! With addition to the perfomrances you have mentioned I really enjoy The Departed as well thought he was amazing in that. As you know As Good As It Gets is one of my all time favourites.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Great post. My favourite role of his is undoubtedly in One Flew Over the Cuckoos’s Next. It was a ground-breaking film in so many ways, better than its book and Jack’s performance there was simply outstanding.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Reblogged this on johnrieber and commented:

    Happy 80th birthday to Jack Nicholson!


  5. You forgot the original Little Shop of Horrors- the masochistic dental patient ! The classic line as the hero drills on his teeth: ” Well don’t stop noooow…”

    Liked by 1 person

  6. What about ‘as good as it gets’? That’s a really good one!



  1. Jack | lighthousemd
  2. “The Last Detail!” Jack Nicholson’s *#@!!#* Monkees “Head” Trip! Classic Cult 70’s Cinema! | johnrieber

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