• Morgan Fagg

Best Break Out Performance

Updated: Apr 23

My 584th blog is a look at the incredible award winning actor Jack Nicholson on his 84th birthday.


Happy birthday Jack Nicholson, you have always been there to entertain us.


I saw the following 2 minute video posted on Twitter which is really worth watching and I was blown away at the talented pool of crazy people on display. A time capsule of award winning Hollywood talent filmed on the set of One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest in 1975.


Nicholson is As Good As It Gets and I believe he received 12 Oscar nominations in his life time but this BAFTA acceptance speech is simply amazing for the treasure trove of talent on screen.

We open with another Oscar winner David Niven in a Tuxedo speaking to a satelite and explaining that Nicholson was on set and couldn't make it to the ceremony to accept the prestigious award.


SIX DEGREES OF KEVIN BACON

They say you can judge a man by the company he keeps, and that you can probably connect any succesful actor with another actor through six degrees of separation of Kevin Bacon and if "you really want answers" and "you think you can handle it" then look at his performance of a colonel being judged by a very entitled Tom Cruise where the legenday Nicholson starred alongside Demi Moore, Kevin Bacon, Cuba Gooding Jr and Kiefer Sudderland in the court room drama directed by Rob Reiner and written by Aaron Sorkin.


Nicholson played the legendaty role of Colonel Nathan Jessop.


A FEW GOOD MEN

British actor, David Niven who hosted the award show knows something about playing a real life Colonel and travelling the world as an actor and I believe he was an acting Leutanant Colonel on D Day for a secret reconnaissance and signals unit known as Phantom.


No stranger to wearing a tuxedo on stage, Niven played Sir James Bond in the 1967 comedy spoof Casino Royale and like James Bond he was probably in like Flynn with the ladies as he shared a house with the legendary actor Errol Flynn. He played many different roles over the years such as in The Pink Panther and as Phileas Fogg in Around the World in 80 Days.


RECORD SHATTERING

The camera focuses from David Niven to a muted Jack Nicholson but in 1975 there was no Zoom calls, and he breaks a soundproof glass panel so the audience can hear him saying, "Smashing."

This is the first incidence I can think of of an actor breaking the fourth wall which was still considered a little groundbreaking when Deadpool started speaking to the audience in a Ferris Bueller kind of way.


Joined on screen is Danny Divito who starts eating the broken glass from the asylum window where the film was set and both men have both played Batman villains alongside Michael Keaton.


Michael Keaton's real name was Michael John Douglas but he had to change his name because Michael Kirk Douglas was already a household name and Kirk Douglas' son acquired the rights to One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest and produced it, and I have included an interesting interview with Michael Douglas about filming in a hospital for the ciminally insane with actual patients.

Nicholson also appeared in the 1994 film Wolf with Michelle Pfeiffer who had played Catwoman alongside Michael Keaton and Danny Divito in Batman Returns.


Not joking around, the characters who have played the Joker and the Penguin were joined by one of television's most hated characters, Nurse Ratched played by Louise Fletcher.


The character of Ratched has even inspired a spin off series several decades later but when this 1975 promo for One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest aired, I am sure no one knew how popular the classic film would become and how hated the strict nurse would be for almost half a century.


Nicholson's would win his first Oscar for this crazy film and his second Academy Award for Best Actor for playing a man suffering with OCD in As Good As It Gets.

AS GOOD AS IT GETS

Academy Awards and BAFTAS must have been a nusience to clean in Nicholson's house as he was once married to actress Anjelica Huston who won Best Supporting Actress in 1985 following in the footsetps of her father and grandfather who had also filled their shelves with an Academy Award.


It is difficult to travel back in time and imagine how memorable these characters would become

and I don't see the character Doc Brown on screen in the acceptance speech scene but the actor Christopher Lloyd who became famous for the Back To The Future trilogy made his first break out appearance with this crazy cast of characters.


Jack Nicholson won many awards and nominations over the years, and he immediately acknowleges the director of the film he was winning the award for, as well as his Chinatown co star Faye Dunaway.


I think he was actually nominated for the 1973 comedy drama, The Last Detail as well as the 1974 film Chinatown. You can hear him thanking Mr Polanski and Mr Towne. Towne wrote the screenplay for The Last Detail and won an Academy award for best Screenplay for Chinatown. The film was nominated for 11 Academy Awards and is regarded as one of the best in world cinema.


Roman Polanski probably needs no introduction but Chinatown would be the last movie he would ever direct in Hollywood or in the USA.


ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD

Roman Polanski was the husband of actress Sharon Tate who was murdered by the Manson Family, and Quintin Tarantino has even featured Polanski's wife in his film, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and the controversial director who was in the audience for the award, would end up being invited to many more award ceremonies though I am sure he has had to decline many in case it is a ruse to arrest and extradite him back to America where he has been a fugitive justice since 1978.


FAYE RUNAWAY

No stranger to trying to get away from the police herself but apart from her La La Land crime and trying to rob Moonlight of it's prize, the beautiful Faye Dunaway at least has been able to make it to more award ceremonies in America than Roman Polanski and even appeared on stage with her Bonnie and Clyde co star for the 2017 ceremonies where Warren Betty was given the wrong envelope by accident and Best Picture was accidently awarded to La La Land and not Moonlight.


Fifty years after filming Bonnie and Clyde, the 2017 Academy Awards didn't end their careers and they were back to present Best Picture in 2018.

Back in Chinatown, sorry, the set of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Jack Nicholson gave a remarkable fourthwall breaking performance that is really incredible for me to see even though most of us remember a very diffferent Jack (Torrance) breaking down doors in Stanley Kubrick's 1980 classic, The Shining.


So much talent, so many incredible stories and memorable performances and interesting characters that I am sure he has met both onscreen and off and so many awards he has picked up along the way.


At 84, this Joker is three times the age that Heath Ledger was when he died playing the iconic crazy clown in The Dark Knight which won that Joker an Academy Award in 2008, and maybe spending time with inmates in Oregon State Hospital helped Jack to play these beloved crazy caractures so well.


Nicholson won his first Academy Award for One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest and one for Best Supporting Actor for the 1983 film Terms of Endearment. He won Best Actor again for the 1997 film As Good As It Gets and I wonder how much his time spent in Oregon State Hospital served him for some of the roles he has played over the years. From Jack Torrence going crazy in the Overlook Hotel to Tim Burton's Joker in the 1989 film Batman.


CHECKING INTO CHINO

The director of Chinatown was arrested a few years later for the sexual assault of a teenage model where the of 13-year-old had apparently spent the previous day around the swimming pool of Jack Nicholson's Bel Air home modelling for Polanksi during a Vogue photoshoot.


I believe Polanski pleaded guilty to the charge of "unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor" and was ordered to undergo 90 days of psychiatric evaluation at the California Instution for Men at Chino.


The Judge was rumured to want to disregard the plea deal and sentence Polanski to 50 years in jail but Polanski fled to Europe and remains a fugitive to this day. Ironically it was one of Polanski's actors better known as playing The Fugitive who accepted an Academy Award for Best Director when Harrison Ford accepted the award on his behalf for the 2002 film, The Pianist.


Ford had worked with Polanski on the 1988 film Frantic but the frantic life of Roman Polanski from the Jewish ghettos in Poland to winning Best Director for filming The Pianist in Warsaw yet being unable to travel to Hollywood without facing arrest, and to the tragic demise of his wife Sharon Tate and their unborn child at the hands of the Manson Family which would be enough to see anyone institionalised at the Oregon State Hospital where Jack Nicholson received his award, on the set of a film that would receive many many awards in its own right.


In 1976 at the Academy Awards, Michael Douglas and Saul Zaentz won Best Pitcure for producing it and Milos Forman won Best Director while Nicholson won Best Actor in a leading Role with Louise Fletcher winning Best Actress in a Leading Role for her part as Nurse Ratched.

Similar awards were won across the board at the Golden Globes and in 1977 at the BAFTA Awards where Jack Nicholson had teased this award winning film just two years earlier.


So many movies and so many memories and so many awards, I think I will have to sit down and finally watch Chinatown.


Thank you Jack, you have always been here, always. Now try not to go to mad for your birthday and remember that "All work and no play, makes Jack a dull boy."


9 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All