Jack Nicholson has played some of the most fascinating roles in movie history. He’s been the Joker in Batman… J.J. Gittes in Chinatown… Randle McMurphy in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest… Jack Torrance in The Shining… and Colonel Jessep in A Few Good Men. And that’s just some of the high points.
One of the ways we know an actor is truly great is that he makes each part so distinctively his own that we can’t imagine anyone else in the role. And with Nicholson, there’s an edge about him that helps make his every character unpredictable.
I don’t consider Five Easy Pieces a highlight of his career, but the diner scene is quintessential Nicholson. He wants breakfast made his way, and the waitress won’t allow any substitutions. Look at how Jack controls every moment of this scene:
While it seems that Nicholson dominates most of his movies, in each of his movies for which he’s won Academy Awards, his co-star also won Best Actress: Louise Fletcher in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (Great American Thing No. 140), Helen Hunt in As Good as it Gets, and Shirley MacLaine in Terms of Endearment. In addition to the three wins, he’s been nominated nine additional times. He received a Life Achievement Award from the American Film Institute in 1994.
Oh, and he also played the President of the United States in Mars Attacks! Ack ack. Ack ack ack.