Jack Nicholson

  1. Michael Landon,  I Was A Teenage Werewolf, 1957.  “Jack was the wrong type,” said producer Herman Cohen.  Like: neither teen nor werewolf?   He waited 37 years and then did his own lycanthropian thing, Wolf, in 1993. With director Mike Nichols, no less – based on Jim Harison’s novel, in 1993. Jack called himself a hick actor. With tow mottos. For life: More good  times. For work: Everything counts.   So let’s start counting…
  2. Tom Arnold, The Stupids, 1965.    Who’d want to be Stanley Stupid? With John Landis directing! Nicholson and Tim fled what the San Francisco Chronicle  voted “the most moronic, easy-to-trash movie we’ll see all year.”  Sole interest was watching Landis’ director chums making asses of themselves:  Gurinder Chadha, David Cronenberg, Atom Egoyan, Mick Garris, Norman Jewison, Robert Wise and two great political film-makers: Costa-Gavras and Gillo Pontecorvo.
  3. Gene Hackman, Bonnie and Clyde, 1966.
  4. Tim O’Kelly, Targets, 1967. This  movie is a Hollywood legend. It started with producer Roger Corman’s famous offer to critic Peter Bogdanvioch.  “You can make any film you like for me. With two conditions. You must use stock footage from The Terror (1962) and use Boris Karloff for the two days his contract owes me.” And so he did. But there had been a third condition, largely forgotten by the history books. And certain biographies. “Use The Terror kid, as well.”  Well, no said Peter.“Don’t need him, gotta good guy for the sniper. Which is how Tim O’Kelly became the shooter instead of… Jack Nicholson!
  5. Bruce Dern, St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, 1967.   Director Roger Corman considered Jack and Dernsie for the gangster, Johnny May. Nicholson asked instead  for the smallest part – with the longest run in the film. As Gino, the killers’ driver, he worked three weeks. “I earned more money in a Corman movie than ever before [triple the actors’ weekly scale of $375].  Only had only one line –  only laugh in the picture, I might  add.  Someone says, ‘What  the hell  are you  doing?’  to one of the killers, who’’s rubbing garlic on his bullets.  And I say, using a gravelly voice:  ‘It’s garlic.  The bullets don’t kill ya, ya die of the blood poisoning’.”
  6. Bruce Dern, The Trip, 1967.     Jack wrote Peter Fonda’s  guide for himself, then lost a second role when  Roger Corman had more faith in Jack as a writer. (His 1959 acting income came to: $1,900). His original script, said Dern, “was just sensational.” No hard feelings. When Nicholson called him for King of Marvin Gardens, Jack said: “Our kingdom has come, Dernsie.” Jack’s certainly had.  Dernsie’s got lost in ensuing shuffles.
  7. Dustin Hoffman,  The Graduate, 1967.   
  8. John Cassavetes, Rosemary’s Baby, 1968.     Laurence Harvey ached for it.  But director Roman Polanski wanted an actor who looked an actor – and even TV-commercialish all-American. Hearing that description, Warren Beatty, Robert Redford backed off.  Among those auditioning was “a complete unknown who’d played in some eminently forgettable horror films.  For all his exceptional talents, his faintly rakish and sinister appearance disqualified him for the role of an upstanding, clean-cut, conventionally handsome young actor.” Polanski was discussing… not John, but Jack! 
  9. Franco Nero, Un tranquillo posto di campagna (UK: A Quiet Place in the Country), Italy-France, 1968.    Maestro Elio Petri wanted Jack – didn’t  everyone! – and settled for Nero as the burnt out  painter (very Jack!) in what Petri called an   “experimental” psychological horror movie. Nero suggested co-starring with his lover, “la Signorina Redgrave.” (The second of  four films with Vanessa). Nicholson was already pally with  Bertolucci at this point  and was working, six years later,  with Antonioni. , Petri had met Jack and his  early work (Ride The Whirlwind, The Shooting) on the ‘60s Euro festival circuit. Jack, however,  was too busy – giving Head to The Monkees, and replacing Rip Torn in somethng called Easy Rider.
  10. Michael Burns, That Cold Day in the Park, 1968.   Maverick director Robert Altman talking… “I’ll tell you who I turnjed down for that part. Jack Nicholson!   Jack wanted it – he came to my office and we talked about it. And I said: Jack, I think you’re too old for it.”   Jack was 31, Burns just 21. No matter, the Easy Rider bikes were parked around the next corner.
  11. Warren Oates, Two Lane Blacktop, 1970.   Monte Hellman had directed Nicholson five times, (including his two 1965 existential Westerns, The Shooting and Ride The Whirlwind),  so  it was obvious he’d give Jack a call about his (existential) drag-race  movie (first one to reach New York wins  the rival’s car).   The stars were  two singers, “Sweet Baby” James Taylor and Beach Boy Dennis Wilson. So a real actor was required or, as what Chicago critic Roger Ebert phrased it, “the only character who is fully occupied with being himself (rather than the instrument of a metaphor), and so we get the sense we’ve met somebody.” In that sense, not unlike Jack’s breakthrough as George Hanson in Easy Rider, 1968.  

  12. Dennis Hopper, The Last Movie, 1971.  
    “We had some conversations about it, but Dennis wanted to play the part himself.” Based on Hopper’s experiences while shooting The Sons of Katie Elder in Mexico (when indigenous natives re-enacted the movie-making), the film won the Critics’ Prize at Venice but The Last Movie was damn nearly The Last Hopper. Well, he shot it in  Peru – coke capital of the world!  He’d got Stewart Stern, a pal since scriptingRebel Without A Cause, to write it. They argued, split, but always wanted to work together again. ”He fascinated me,” said Stern, “because he had ideas before anybopdy else did.” But their stoned, 98 page treatment interested no one. Anfd Hopper rerused to risk record producer Phil Spector’s offer of $1.2m to film  the new, 119-page script.  Hopper just bided his time… He always intended Kansas, his “stunt man in a lousy Western,” for Montgomery Clift – but he died in 1966. The role needed an older player. Finally, at 34, Hopper explained: “It was easier doing it myself than explain to another actor what I wanted.”  He had tested various hopefuls and considered two of John Ford’s family: John Wayne and Ben Johnson, plus  Jason Robards and… Willie Nelson!! My God, Dennis and Willie shooting in Peru… they’d still be there!   Buried, probably.

  13. Dustin Hoffman, Straw Dogs, 1971.   A (bad) Sam Peckinpah Western set in  a Cornwall, almost entirely inhabited by (violent) village  idiots. In  the mix for the (milque-toast) hero were Nicholson, Beau Bridges, Elliott Gould (booked by Ingmar Bergman for The Touch), Stacy Keach, Sidney Poitier and Donald Sutherland. They probably all agreed with Chicago Sun-Times critic Roger Ebert’s later review: “The most offensive thing about the movie is its hypocrisy; it is totally committed to the pornography of violence, but lays on the moral outrage with a shovel.”
  14. Robert Fields, The Sporting Club, 1971.   Director Larry Peerce tried hard to interest Jack in this close-up on power, corruption and hypocrisy in   a rich man’s paradise. The novel was by Thomas McGuane, who wrote Jack’s Missouri Breaks, 1976, and Peerce had directed Goodbye, Columbus, 1969, making a star of Ali McGraw, future wife of Jack Pack-er, producer Robert Evans.
  15. Jon Voight, Deliverance, 1971.   LA Times columnist Joyce Haber had the scoop.  But not the proviso. Jack agreed to be Ed but nsisted on his neighbour and idol, Marlon Brando, for the other role. “He said he despised acting,” said director John Boorman. “Acting was nothing more than mimicry – a bunch of tricks.”  Even so, Brando  agreed: “I’ll take whatever you pay Jack.”  Great! Except Jack’s agent Sandy Bresler wanted what Warner was paying Redford for Jeremiah Johnson – $500,000.  That meant Brando and Nicholson would soak up half the budget!   (And they guaranteed  nothing. They were  rubbish in The Missouri Breaks, 1975). After musing on Warren Beatty, Lee Marvin,  James Stewart, the Warner suits told UK director John Boorman: “Make it with nobodies for no money.”  Hi… is that Jon Voight? 
  16. Al Pacino, The Godfather, 1971.
  17. Jason Miller, The Exorcist, 1972.
  18. Ryan O’Neal, Paper  Moon, 1972.    Before director Peter Bogdanovich rolled O’Neal pere et fille, in black-and-white, the iconic John Huston had prepped it as Addie Pray (the book’s title) in colour for Newman pere et fille, Nell Potts. Paramount chief Robert Evans had wanted Nicholson or Warren Beatty. Except neither one had a kid (of the right age).  O’Neal said he wouldn’t have made the film without Tatum. “No father and daughter can connect with the intensity of a movie, and in a way, the story is a parallel of our lives.”  Oh really? In her autobiography, Paper Life, O’Neal said when she was Oscar-nominated and Pop wasn’t, he hit her! Ten at the time, Tatum remains the youngest Oscar-winner.
  19. Bruce Dern, King of Marvin Gardens, 1972.    Director Bob Rafelson switched his Staebler siblings – making  Nicholson the introvert dee-jay and turning Dernsie into a riff on Jack as the expansive, older bro.  “This is what you try to do as an artisrt. Clear the ground for the subconscious. Hope that it starts flowing and influencing the work. … Always reaching out, trying something you haven’t done before.” And yet he later confided:  “I’m at least 75% of any character I play… I will draw on my experiences with women in every rôle. I play.  My own experience with women? Pretty good,  so far.” Despite suffering ejaculatio praecox until around 26).
  20. George C Scott, The Day of the Dolphin, 1972.   One of the cast, Jon Korkes,  said Scott – as a marine biologiost teaching dolphins to spea k- “was a troubled guy. A brilliant actor, but a tortured alcoholic who was three or four different people, depending  on the day.”  Directed by the great Mike  Nichols – to get out of his contract with his Graduate co-producer Joseph E Levine – after Roman Polanski quit following the murder of his wife (and friends)  by the Manson gang.  Jack had been set as the biologist  Jake Terrell.

  21. Edward Fox, Day of the Jackal, 1973.  Discussed  it with gentleman  director Fred Zinnemann in London. However,  Fred preferred a more anonymous actor, got his way and that,  as he would freely confess,  seriously undermined  the film’s box-office.
  22. Robert Redford, The Sting, 1973.   “I passed up Michael in The Godfather and I passed up The Sting. Even though I am a non-mercenary artist, I had a pretty good idea of the commercial worth of those properties. But, creatively, they were not worth my time.” But  Billy “Bad Ass” Buddusky  was – in  The Last Detail, sitting upon a Columbia shelf until society caught  up  his and Robert Towne’s “bad language.” Result: Best Actor at Cannes and the UK Oscar. “But not getting the Academy Award hurt real bad.  That was my best role.  How often does one like that come along,  one that fits you?”  Oh, at least twice more…
  23. Ryan O’Neal, Paper Moon, 1973.   Director Peter Bogdanovich always cast what he saw as versions of himself – except he was never Jack-cool. Paramount production chief Robert Evans suggested Jack (or Warren Beatty) when trying to nix O’Neal… who had been sleeping with Mrs Evans, Ali MacGraw.

  24. Robert Redford, The Great Gatsby, 1973.
    Redford was the third Gatz after Warner Baxter, 1926, and Alan Ladd, 1948. Leonardo DiCaprio was the fourth in 2011 and Brit star Toby Stephens was sixth  in a 2000 Granada UK TV  production. Said Jack:  “The only really good role I’ve rejected – and I could kill myself – was Jay Gatsby… Since I was 18, people   said     I should do Gatsby. I didn’t really go after the part for well, personal reasons I don’t want printed.”  Jack also said: ”I don’t make movies – I make classics.”  And UK director Jack Clayton’s take was no classic. 

  25. Bo Svenson, The Great Waldo Pepper, 1973.  Nicholson, George Segal and Sam Waterston were possibles for Axel Olsson, Robert Redfford’s post WWi barnstorming stunt pilot rival. The Butch & Sundance director George Roy Hill chose 1920 faces over acting experience.  “Which may have been a huge mistake.”  Robert Redford did his own flying circus wing-walking. Not Svenson. Not even when Hill threatened to fire him. Redford sensed failure in the air.  Well, of course. No Newman!
  26. Paul Newman, The Towering Inferno, 1974.     Suggested by Steve McQueen as someone strong enough to hold his own against him.
  27. Robert De Niro, Taxi Driver, 1975.  
  28. Bruce Dern, Family Plot, 1975.      Because of a little something called One Flew Overt The Cuckoo’s Nest, Jac k had to miss what proved Alfred Hitchcock’s last hurrah.  Robert De Niro and Al Pacino’s agents apparently asked for too much money. “Hitch doesn’t pay a million dollars,” said Hitch. Hitch had first (and oddly) paired Nicholson with… Liza Minnelli. Jack suggested his pal, Dernsie.Hitch was prepping The Short Night when he died, at age 80,  on April 29, 1980.
  29. Michael Lonsdale, India Song, France, 1975.    French cinematographer Bruno Nuytten said Jack was approached by novelist Marguerite Duras to take the lead in this version of her book, The Vice-Consul..  
  30. Paul Newman, Buffalo Bill and the Indians or Sitting Bull’s History Lesson, 1976.    Once again, the friends and neighbours , Brando and Nicholspon, were in the frame for the same role – William F. Buffalo Bill” Cody.  – “the first totally manufactured American hero ,:” said revered director Robert Altman, “ and that’s why we need a movie star.” They both passed on what the credits unashamedly called “Robert Altman’s Absoloutely Unique and Heroic Enterprise of Inimitable Lustre.” (Nary a critic agreed!)  Instead, they made their own Western, The Missouri Breaks,   No better. Or, in fact, even worse.

  31. Robert De Niro, The Last Tycoon, 1976.
    Each director saw the titular Monroe Stahr differently:  Nicholson, Robert De Niro, Dustin Hoffman, Paul Newman, Al Pacino.  Jack’s willingness to play Stahr persuaded Paramount to agree a budget for director Mike Nichols. But when Elia Kazan made the film, Jack simply wanted to experience  Sam Spiegel (producer of his career’s major  influence, Lawrence of Arabia) and spurned the lead  for a  “short part” – an East Coast labour leader out to unionise 30s’ Hollywood. Jack asked for   $150,000 and some action.  Instead of paying him his cut, producer Sam Spiegel offered  something from his  art collection. Jack’s manager, Sandy Bressler said he didn’t want any painting, “but… a complete accounting of the gross for the movie… not a guestimate…”    Jack won’t sue me,” said Sam Spiegel.   But he did! 

  32. Harrison Ford , Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope, 1976.
  33. David Carradine, Bound For Glory, 1976.    Hal Ashby’s first  cholce – singer Tim Buckley ODed. So Ashby sent  for his star of his abrasive Last Detail  but Jack didn’t see himself as Woody Guthrie and suggested his true idol – Bob Dylan. Nicholson was more keen on  another  film that Ashby was being pushed to make – a book that Nicholson had tried to option at age 26 in 1963. One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest.
  34. Donald Sutherland,  Casanova, 1976.    In one year he’d passed on Buffalo Bill, Monroe Stahr, Woody Guthrie and now Giacomo… As per usual, maestro Federico Fellini played with the idea of superstars – Nicholson, Brando, Caine, Pacino, even Redford!! –  before settling for a more parochial venture with, maybe, Alberto Sordi, Gian Maria Volonte or the unknown cabaret performer Tom Deal. Ultimately, it was “Donaldino.” He had shared Paul Mazursky’s , Alex in Wonderland, 1970, with Fellini in Hollywood and they met  again on the set of Bernardo Bertolucci’s 1900 in 1975.
  35. Keith Carradine, Lumière, France, 1976.    Jeanne Moreau wanted Jack for her directing debut, until “dreaming over an early Gary Cooper,” she saw a Carradine film and he cancelled a recording session to make the film. He fit the bill of “a very tall, lovely young man,” the opposite  of the French industry’s usual “small, tiny, dark  creatures.” Jeanne’s friend  (“never my  lover”), realisateur Louis Malle, then chose Carradine for Pretty Baby.

  36. Dennis Hopper, Tracks, 1976.  
    Director Henry Jaglom wrote it for Jack and the spaced-out Vietnam vet escorting a coffin  home was still called Jack when Dennis played it – in  his Hollywood comeback after eight years away imbibing every illegal substance known to man, man.  Said Nicholson:  “As an actor, Dennis stands out because of his edge, his sincerity, the honesty he conveys.”  Jaglom insisted he wrote Nicholson’s famous Five Easy Pieces diner explosion – “and hold it between your knees!” –  for this film! (Based on a similar incident when Jack couldn’t order wheat toast  at the LA patisserie, Pupi’s). Carole Eastman,  who wrote Five Easy Pieces, says the opposite, of course. And, anyway, Pieces director Bob Rafelson thinks he wrote it.  “Rashomon,” said Jaglom..

  37. Robert De Niro, Novocento (1900), Italy, 1976.    In need of an US star, Italian maestro Bernardo Bertolucci’s first thought for the artistocratic Alfredo Berlinghieri was his pal Jack – until seeing De Niro working with Francis Coppola on The Godfather: Part II.
  38. Martin Sheen,  Apocalypse Now, 1976.
  39. Richard Dreyfuss, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, 1976. For once, Spielberg felt he needed an A star: Hackman, Hoffman or McQueen.   Jack’s agent, Sandy Bresler, told co-producer Julia Phillips: “He didn’t want to fight the effects  but  he’d sure take points anytime. He’s saying: It’s a hit!” Not so worried about the Mothership, Dreyfuss agreed to $500,000 and five gross points.     
  40.  Richard Burton, Equus, 1977.  Burton buried his rivals by going back on Broadway in the role, to prove he could still cut it. Still didn’t net him an Oscar. Nothing ever did – from seven nominations.

  41. Roy Scheider, Sorcerer, 1977.    For his awful mess of re-treading theFrench classic, Wages of Fear, 1953, US director William Friedkin regretted not trying to agree to Steve McQueen’s stipulations. Next choices, Clint Eastwood and Nicholson had no interest in working abroad. Or, indeed with Friedkin, who  kindly stated that Scheider was his worst casting decision. “He’s a second or third banana, not a star.” Rather like Friedkin…
  42. Richard Burton, The Exorcist II: The Heretic, 1976.
  43. Richard Dreyfuss, The Goodbye Girl, 1977.    “The man is undirectable,” said stage-screen director Mike Nichols after his notorious run-in with Robert De Niro  (far too fresh in from Taxi Driver) on the Neil Simon comedy that started out as Bogart Slept Here – eventually being respun from  Marsha Mason’s angle. The Dreyfuss angle won  the  Oscar.

  44. Keith Carradine, Pretty Baby, 1977.  
    The plot sickens… A prostitute allows her 12-year-old  daughter’s virginity to be auctioned off in a brothel in the red-light district of  New Orleans, circa 1917. French director Louis Malle saw 29 hopefuls and/or instant (parental) refusals for pretty  little Violet… 15 actresses for her mother… and 19 guys for for the real life, misshapen, hydrocephallic photographer Ernest J. Bellocq, whose Storyville work of the epoch influenced the style of the surprisingly elegant film. Oskar Werner talked himself out of it. “Has to be an American actor,” he told Malle. That’s how Robert Redford was first choice, Jack Nicholson second..  Then before falling for  Keith Carradine, Malle saw Jeff Bridges, Albert Brooks, James Caan, Robert De Niro, Clint Eastwood (he didn’t take up photography until The Bridges of Madison County, 1994),  the new in town Mel Gibson, Dustin Hoffman, Al Pacino, Christopher Reeve (about to make us believe a man could fly), future director Rob Reiner, John Travolta (more into Grease)… Plus one sole  Brit, Malcolm McDowell .and such  flat out surprises as Joe Pesci (!!), Burt Reynolds, Sylvester Stallone  (prepping FIST), and even Christopher Walken.In March that year, Huston had innocently returned home to  Nicholson’s house where (unknown to her) Jack’s friend, director Roman Poalanski, had been having illegal sex  with a 13-year-old girl. The three stars hit all headlines, not the kind of of publicity Paramount would have craved.

  45. Gene Hackman, Superman,1977
  46. Anthony Hopkins, Magic, 1978.    Producer Joe Levine wanted A Star. Jack said fine, but you’ll have to wait for a few months. He was Goin’ South (wasn’t he though!)  –  and directing again.
  47. Jon Voight, Coming Home, 1978.    His Last Detail director Hal Ashby called in October 1976.  Leading lady Jane Fonda called. Nicholson  quit when true Brit director John Schlesinger left to make Yanks  in Britain, passing  the impotent Vietnam war veteran – and an Oscar – to Voight.
  48. Malcolm McDowell, Caligula, 1978.
  49. Jack Lemmon, The China Syndrome, 1979.    Producer Michael Douglas’ original game plan: Nicholson, Douglas, Richard Dreyfuss.  “But the Kubrick thing was in the works. [The Shining].  He could still have done it but he was floating around.  I love to tease him about it now, boy!”
  50. Roy Scheider, All That Jazz, 1979.      When director Bob Fosse was convinced (by his health) not to try and play his screen self, Broadway choreographer Joe Gideon, was chased and/or avoided by… Nicholson (who could play anything!), Alan Alda, Alan Bates (“too British,” said Fosse), Warren Beatty (keen, but Gideon must not die at the end!), Robert Blake, Richard Dreyfuss (“afraid of the dancing”), Elliott Gould, Gene Hackman, Jack Lemmon (“too old”), Paul Newman (“Dumb of me… a terrible oversight”), Al Pacino, George Segal, Jon Voight. Scheider just grabbed it. “Outrageous, assaulting, melodramatic, very funny, stupid, silly, simplistic, vulgar – a wonderful movie!” Exactly.

  51. Paul Le Mat, Melvin and Howard, 1980.     Jack passed the scenario to his Goin’ South find, Mary Steenburgen. “Here’s an example of a great film script.” He wuz right.  Of course.  And she won an Oscar for it –  in her third film.
  52. Bill Murray, Where The Buffalo Roam, 1980.    Entire concept of the film failed without the obvious star as gonzo journalist Dr Hunter S Thompson – who then talked to Jack about  doing Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas.
  53. Robert Redford, Brubaker, 1980.    Bob Rafelson was directing so obviously the prison (governer) drama was set for Jack. The fact the director couldn’t deliver  The Star was  among the reasons poor Rafelson  was deep-sixed by  Fox chief Alan Ladd Jr.  Journeyman helmer Stuart Rosenberg finished the ho-hum movie. Jack stuck by Bob for The Postman Always Rings Twice, 1981.
  54. Robin Williams, Popeye, 1980.     Beaten to Annie, producer Robert Evans bet on  another comic-strip.  Dustin Hoffman loved the first 50 pages of Jules Feiffer’s Sweethaven saga. “He kept comparing my script to The Graduate, to Samuel Beckett, to Kafka… Of course, by the time I submitted the finished first draft, Dustin wanted me fired!” Evans refused. “He couldn’t believe that I stayed with Jules rather than him. But I believed Jules was right. He’d worked on it for a year and  I didn’t want to star-fuck… You don’t need a star [although Evans ws being pushed in the direction of Nicholson and Al Pacino!]. Anyone can play it. For crissakes, we could use… Robin Williams!”And, alone in Hollywood, Evans had never seen Mork and Mindyon TV.  On hearing Jerry Lewis might direct, Feiffer said: “I’d rather kill myself.” Robin started the Malta shoot preparing on Oscar speech and ended going: ”Oh God, when is it going to be over? If you watch it backward, it really does have an ending.”
  55. Dudley Moore, Arthur, 1980.    The suits wanted a US star. Brand new auteur Steve Gordon wanted Dud. Gordon won, made a big hit, but never a second film – he died at 44 in 1982. John Belushi had passed, scared of being typed as a drunk (surely the least of his troubles!). Orion Pictures’ other choices for the titular rich man-child were: Jeff Bridges, Chevy Chase, Steve Martin, Bill Murray, Robin Williams… and quite ridiculously, Nicholson, James Caan, Al Pacino (that would have been tough going!), Robert Redford, Sylvester Stallone, John Travolta. Enough for an Arthur XI soccer squad – and one reserve.
  56. Harrison Ford, Raiders of the Lost Ark,  1980.
  57. James Cagney, Ragtime, 1980.   When Paul Newman refused and Jack Nicholson had to quit as New York Poilce Commissioner Rhinelander Waldo, Czech director Milos Forman (succeeding Robert Altman) decided to drag Cagney out of retirement. “You can have any part you want – including Evelyn Nesbitt!” As to the vast age difference, Waldo was actually 32 at the time of the EL Doctorow’s novel – Cagney was 81. His doctors said rather than being detrimental at the time, a film was crucial to his health and well being… and his old pal and often co-star Pat O’Brien also came out of retirement. It was their swansong.

  58. Robert Joy, Ragtime, 1980.   Naturally director Milos Forman wanted Jack in his film – after their triumphant One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest in 1975.  He became unavailable for the top cop.  And for an offered lucky-charmcameo as Harry K Thaw, the New York playboy who murdered architect Stanford White  (in front of hundreds of witnesses!)  on June 25, 1906, for, among other reasons (true or false), for having had a relationship with his wife, showgirl Evelyn Nesbit, before their marriage. In his “trial of the century”, Thaw was found not guilty  due to insanity. The story was filmed twice: in 1907 as The Unwritten Law  and with Farley Granger, Ray Millland and Joan Collins  as Thaw, White and Nesbit, in The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing, 1955.

  59. Harrison Ford, Blade Runner, 1981.  UK wiz Ridley Scott spent a long time sniffing out the perfect Deckard.  From top notchers Sean Connery, Clint Eastwood, Gene Hackman, Dustin Hoffman (the first choice was keen… on making it a totally different character, of course), Robert Mitchum, Paul Newman, Jack Nicholson, Al Pacino…  to such excellent journeymen as William Devane, Robert Duvall, Peter Falk, Frederic Forrest, Scott Glenn, Tommy Lee Jones, Raul Julia, Nick Nolte, Christopher Walken.  Martin Sheen was too exhausted after Apocalypse Now. In sheer desperation, choices lowered to Cliff Gorman, Judd Hirsch. Even the Virginian Morgan Paull stood a chance, having played Deckard in Scott’s tests of potential Rachaels. (He was given Holden for his pains). Plus Arnold Schwarzenegger, not yet seen as Conan, much less Terminator.  And for probably the last time in such an illustrious list,  the fading star of Burt Reynolds.
  60. Klaus Kinski, Fitzcarraldo, Germany, 1981.  
    Director Werner Herzog dropped his usual star for “a figure of genuine charm, warmth and humour,” adding “that paranoid schizophrenic [Kinski] never showed a spark of humour in 170 films.” As usual, Kinski called Herzog crazy. “I am Fitzcarraldo. Do what you like – in the end, I’m still him.” And he was. After five weeks’ shooting in Peru, Jason Robards fell ill.  “Ill..? Damn nearly died!” he growled at me in Cannes.  Herzog tried to entice Nicholson (fully booked) into rescuing Brian Sweeney Fitzgerald and then SOSed “the baddest dude among actors.” Kinski replied: “Fuck you!” Two days later, he opened a bottle of champagne and signed on. As Mick Jagger had no time to re-shoot, his role was cut from the film.

  61. Steve Martin, Pennies From Heaven, 1981.    Among the many rejections in 1981 as he considered a more “biographical approach” to future projects – like his pet subjects: Napoleon and directing something to “put across the ideas of Wilhelm Reich.”

  62. Albert Finney, Annie, 1981.     Very keen on being Daddy Warbucks.  So was Sean Connery.    When the original producer David Begelman quit  due to the scandal of him forging Cliff Robertson’s signature on a cheque, Jack kept the faith and left with him.  Although disliking the Broadway musical, new producer  Ray Stark said: ”This is the film I want on my tombstone.” Hence, Time critic Richard Corliss’ comment: ”Funeral services are being held at a theater near you.”

  63. Walter Matthau, The Survivors, 1982.  “Confused and repellent,” said Chicago Tribune critic Gene Siskel.  Almost inevitable after such musical-chairs casting. Jack Nicholson and James Caan became Joe Bologna and Jerry Reed (he stayed aboard, but as Jack) became Walter Matthau and Robin Williams acting as if in two different movies.

  64. Louis Gossett Jr,  An Officer and a Gentleman, 1982.    Jack was too expensive and Mandy Pantinkin “too ethnic” for Gunnery Sergeant Foley, “a Southern white guy.” In a flash of (well researched) inspiration, director Taylor Hackford made the tough sunuvabitch black  (but not ethnic?) – and Lou won the support Oscar.

  65. Jacques Perrin, Les quarantièmes rugissants (UK: The Roaring Forties), France, 1982.    Actor-producer Perrin tried Nicholson and Jon Voight. Finally,  to keep his costs down, Perrin  played the UK yachtsman cheating on a round-the-world solo race and killing himself.

  66. Robert De Niro, Once Upon a Time in America, 1982.  After his epic about the West, Sergio Leone planned another on the East – based on The Hoods, “an autobiographical account” of New York Jewish gangster Harry Goldberg. He wrote it in Sing Sing prison as Harry Grey. Leone thought he resembled Edward G Robinson. Harry probably agreed. He certainly used “a repertoire of cinematic citations, of gestures and words seen and heard thousands of times on the big screen…” But then, so did Leone with a 400 page script packed with echoes of Angels with Dirty Faces, Bullets or Ballots, Dead End, High Sierra, Little Cesar andWhite Heat. In October 1975, he even fancied the elderly James Cagney and Jean Gabin as the older Noodles and Max – the younger beingGérardDepardieu and Richard Dreyfuss. The maestro claimed he interviewed “over 3,000 actors,” taping 500 auditions for the 110 speaking roles. Jack Nicholson and Al Pacino passed on Noodles. In 1980, Tom Berenger and Paul Newman were up for Noodles (young andold) with either John Belushi, Dustin Hoffman, William Hurt, Harvey Keitel, John Malkovich or Jon Voight as Max, then Joe Pesci (he became Frankie, instead) and James Woods was Max. And Scott Tiler and Rusty Jacobs were the young Noodles and Max in the three hours-49 minutes unfurled at the ’84 Cannes festival… instead of Leone’s aim: two three-hour movies.
  67. Michael Nouri, Flashdance, 1982.    Potential Nick Hurleys were: Pierce Brosnan, Kevin Costner (runner-up to Nouri), Live Aid creator Bob Geldof, Richard Gere, Mel Gibson, Tom Hanks, Burt Reynolds, rocker Gene Simmons, John Travolta… plus such surprises as Nicholson, Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and Joe Pesci!   At 36, Nouri was double the age of the flashdancing Jennifer Beals.

  68. Scott Glenn, Personal Best, 1982.   Despite  their  bitter rows during the aborted Two Jakes the year before, writer-director Robert Towne created the UCLAthlethics coach for  Jack – who politely declined.  He had no wish to rate second to Lesbian lovers. And probably didn’t go for his ex-pal Towne’s dialogue: “Who says friendship lasts forever? It wears out like everything else.  Like tyres.”

  69. Dennis Hopper, Rumble Fish, 1983.     Iconic director Francis Coppola called him to be father of Matt Dillon and Mickey Rourke.  “I felt  maybe it would be symbolically nice to play the father of this generation of actors – as wild as they are. But… I didn’t like the script.”  And them other Easy Rider needed to continue his Hollywood comeback…

  70. Darren McGavin, A Christmas Story, 1983.     Now better known as A Christmas Classic… Nicholson loved the script and offered to be The Old Man Parker. MGM kept this news from director Bob Clark as Nicholson’s fee would have doubled the budget! (Jack would never lower his fee for anyone, not even, as he once declared, for his mom). Clark – and, apparently, Nicholson, too – said McGavin was born for the old curmudgeon. The film flopped – just like It’s a Wonderful Life, 1946 –  which Story has since overhauled as the American’ #1 favourite Yuletide movie.

  71. James  Fox, Anna Pavlova, England-Russia, 1983.    British directing legend Michael Powell had his name cut bythe Kremlin from his final film – about the great Russian ballerina. It took  25 years for  Powell’s Greek-born producer Frixos Constantine, to find enough money to restore  the film  to its original glory, time (five hours) and  credits as The White Swan in 2008. Powell fan Martin Scorsese first met him  at Constantine’s  Shaftesbury Avenue office in London  and offered to appear in the film and persuaded De Niro and Nicholson to participate as Anna’s agent and  husband.  Moscow banned both for their  anti-Communist films (The Deer Hunter) or statements.

  72. Martin Mull, Mr Mom, 1983.   “I couldn’t find a film that was suitable to take my kids to,” complained producer Aaron Spellinbg,  “So we made one.” The old role reversal number. Michael Keaton is a sudden home hgusband when his wife, Teri Garr, wins a lucrative job. Her boss was chosen from Mull, Dabney Coleman, Jeffrey Jones and… Jack Nicholson!
  73. Michael Douglas, Romancing The Stone, 1985.  Another one Douglas teases him about. With Nicholson, Clint Eastwood, Paul Newman and Christopher Reeve refusing, the producer decided to play the hero, Indiana… er, Jack Colton…himself.  Huge hit. The sequel, not so much
  74. Jeff Goldblum, Into The Night, 1985.     “I like it and I like you,” he told the (loud) director John Landis. “But this guy doesn’t really do anything. The audience likes the leading man to take action.”  As usual, he was right, although  – apparently – none of the 15 directors guesting in the cast were honest enough to say the same to Landis.

  75. Walter Matthau, Pirates, 1985.  
    The 1975 project kept bubbling in the early 80s: Nicholson as Cap’n Red, opposite Dustin Hoffman for director pal Roman Polanski.  “Jack wanted $4m My producer couldn’t live with that.  [Actually, Nicholson wanted  $1.25m in 1976]  against 10% of the gross].  And I’m glad he said no. I thought it unfair to the other people, me included.  I worked on the script so long. I invented the story and the character that Jack would play.  People like Jack get to that stage where they’re not interested in what they do, just what they’ll get.”  Sean Penn would hardly agree… William Goldman suggested that casting Matthau was like “doing The Chuck Norris Story  with John Candy.” The movie s(t)unk like a stone.

  76. Harrison Ford, Witness, 1985.  Loved the script but there was no director attached  – or not when Jack was available. So he passed on the urban cop hunting a murder witness in Amish country. Chicago critic Robert Ebert hailed it as “an electrifying and poignant love story hidden in a murder thriller.” Not bad for what had once been an idea for an episode of US TV’s longest-running series, Gunsmoke,1955-1975.  Australian Peter Weir directed when his Mosquito Coasthad budget problems into money hassles. Ironcially, his star had been Nicholson – but Ford also made this one with Weir in 1986.

  77. Kurt Russell, Big Trouble In Little China, 1985.     Once again, the studio preferred Clint or Jack. Director John Carpenter stuck to his choice, despite Russell’s recent string of flops. Result: Carpenter’s biggest turkey. Two years
  78. Michael Caine, Hannah And Her Sisters, 1985.  According to a 2014 Woody Allen podcast, Jacko was first choice for Elliot. He was keen but dates clashed with Prizzi’s Honour.  Caine is said to have introduced Woody to Mia Farrow nearly 20 years before.

  79. Gene Hackman, Hoosiers, 1985.   Jack was most keen on being the high school basketball coach Norman Dale but was tied up for six months as a lawsuit witness. Next year…?   Well, no he knew the project was on a short leash so “if you find another actor, go make your movie.” Director David Anspaugh rued the day he chose Hackman when the coolest guy to hang out with… became a comnstant black cloud  “He gave me my first anxiety attack,” Anspaugh told Vulture. “One morning I woke up and I couldn’t walk, the room was spinning.”  Hackman even told co-star Dennis Hopper: “This is a career-ending film for both of us.” In fact,  Dennis won his ony Oscar nomination   – “that should have been for Blue Velvet”  – and Hoosiers is #13 in  the American Film Institute’s ranking oi the  top 100 most inspiring films ever made. Jack loved it. But added it would have been a mega-hit if he’d made it.  

  80. Richard Dreyfuss, Down and Out in Beverly Hills, 1986.    Director Paul Mazursky met with “a stoned Nicholson” at his Mulholland Drive home.  “Merely sniffing the stuff got me a little high…”  Dreyfuss, even higher in  his day, accepted $600,000 for his comeback.

  81. Harrison Ford, Mosquito Coast, 1986.    Australian director Peter Weir and his (obvious) first choice were beached when money went out with the tide in 1984.  Of his version, Ford said: “I’m not sure if we cracked it.” They hadn’t.

  82. Mickey Rourke, Angel Heart, 1986.  Or Fallen Angel when UK director Alan Parker  asked  De Niro  to play Harry Angel, described by Chicago  critic Roger Ebert as “an unwashed private eye who works out of an office that looks like Sam Spade gave it to the Goodwill.” (Parker also considered Jack Nicholson and Al Pacino).  On reading the script, Rourke described his private dick role as “a tired Nicholson.”  Jack preferred Terms of Endearment  – and a  second Oscar.

  83. Robert De Niro Angel Heart, 1986.   Jack  also  refused  to be Lou Cyphere. (Say it!). As he was already booked to be the devil the following year in The Witches  of Eastwick. De Njro, it seemed, wanted to dress up for once – as he  accepted ithe elegant villain Louis Cyphre  (say it), basing his look on his director pal,  Martin Scorsese.

  84. Sean Connery, Der Name der Rose/The Name of the Rose, France-Italy-West Germany, 1986.   Nicholson as a monk! Réalisateur Jean-Jacques Annaud was not keen on 007 as Umberto Eco’s medieval monk turned detective.  Columbia Pictures even refused financing if Connery was involved as his post-Bond star was imploding. Naturally, Brando topped Annaud’s further 14 ideas. Six Americans: Nicholson, Marlon Brando, Robert De Niro, Frederic Forrest, Paul Newman, Roy Scheider; four Brits: Michael Caine, Albert Finney, Ian McKellen, Terence Stamp; plus Canadian Donald Sutherland, French Yves Montand, Irish Richard Harris, Italian Vittorio Gassman and Swedish Max von Sydow. Connery’s reading was the best and his career exploded anew. Two years later, he won his support Oscar for The Untouchables.

  85. Danny De Vito, Ruthless People, 1986. Writer Dale Launer’s version of O. Henry’s The Ransom of Red Chief, hung around at Columbia and then  Disney’s new adult unit, Touchstone, for years.  But Jack was always too pricey ($4m a movie back then) for the villain  who was, according to critic Roger Ebert, “the engine of murderous intensity.” 
  86. Robert De Niro, Midnight Run, 1987.   There were 23 possibilites for the lean, mean  skip-tracer (tracing felons who skipped bail) – on the run from the  FBI and the Mob after capturing Vegas embezzler Charles Grodin. Who knew De Niro could be more subtle at comedy than… Nicholson, Jeff Bridges, Charles Bronson, Michael Douglas, Clint Eastwood, Harrison Ford, Richard Gere, Mel Gibson, Gene Hackman, Dustin Hoffman, Don Johnson, Tommy Lee Jones, Michael Keaton, Ryan O’Neal (!), Al Pacino, Burt Reynolds, Mickey Rourke, Kurt Russell, John Travolta, Jon Voight and even the musclebound Arnie and Sly – Schwarzenegger and Stallone. Director Martin Brest, that’s who.
  87. Michael Douglas, Fatal Attraction, 1987.

  88. Michael Douglas, Wall Street, 1987.    Can’t you just hear him as Gordon Gekko – Alistair Campbell’s personal trainer: “Lunch is for wimps.”  And: “Greed is right, greed works.”  Not forgetting: “When I get a hold of the son of a bitch who leaked this, I’m gonna tear his eyeballs out and I’m gonna suck his fucking skull.” 

  89. Kevin Costner, The Untouchables, 1987.     Did not want to be as straight as  Elliott Ness. One LAgent said: “If Jack wanted Canada, some studio boss would buy it, paint it red and park it in his driveway.”

  90. Jeff Bridges, Tucker: The Man and His Dream, 1987.  Of  the 51 Tucker Torpedo sedan cars  that were made,  Francis Coppola and George Lucas have two each.  No they have a film.  The cars lasted longer… Coppola first envisaged his tribute to Preston Tucker  (1903-1956) as a muslcal with a score by Leonard Bernstein, Betty Comden and Adolph Green!  Coming aboard as exec producer, Lucas changed all that and “Francey” talked to Marlon Brando, Jack Nicholson and Burt Reynolds (all too old) before choosing Jeff Bridges to immortalise the auto entrepreneur.

  91. Bob Hoskins, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, 1987.
    Surprisingly, the murder mystery where the chief suspect is a carton character was based on the never made Cloverleaf, Robert Towne’s third Jake Gittes script.  For Chinatown, read Toontown. So who should be Gittes, er, shamus Eddie Valiant? Well, why not Gittes, himself – aka Jack Nicholson? So who should be Gittes, er, shamus Eddie Valiant. Well, why not Gittes, himself – Jack Nicholson? No, producer Steven Spielberg could see no further than Harrison Ford. Too expensive!  OK, Chevy Chase, Ed Harris, Robert Redford, Sylvester Stallone? Director Robert Zemeckis considered Charles Grodin, Don Lane, Eddie Murphy (soon a toon in the Shrek movies) and auditioned Peter Renaday. Also seen for the human shamus saving a cartoon star’s reputation in Hollywood 1947 were Charles Grodin, Ed Harris,  Don Lane, Joe Pantoliano, Robert Redford, Peter Renaday, Wallace Shawn, Sylvester Stallone. And they could never contact the hideaway Bill Murray… When he read that in a paper, Murray screamed out loud – he would have loved being Valiant.. in  what critic Roger Ebert  would call a joyous, giddy, goofy celebration of the kind of fun you can have with a movie camera. Not that much fun, reported Hoskins. “I had to hallucinate to do it,” he told Danish TV. After working with green screens for six months, 16 hours a day, he lost control.  “I had weasels and rabbits popping out of the wall at Birth year: Death year: Other name: Casting Calls:  173