On April 22, Jack Nicholson celebrates his 80th birthday. To mark the occasion, one of his most celebrated films, One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, will be re-released in UK cinemas this Friday (April 14). Here’s some intriguing trivia about the legendary Hollywood bad boy to whet your appetite.
1. Nicholson was a renegade from a young age. “I was always against authority, hated being told anything by my teachers, by parents, by anyone,” he told The Independent in 1993.”At school I created a record by being in detention every day for a whole year.”
2. Nicholson’s first job in Hollywood was working as an office assistant for animators William Hanna and Joseph Barbera, the creators of Scooby Doo and The Flintstones. He showed enough promise to be offered a role as an animation artist, but turned it down so he could focus on acting.
3. Nicholson only landed his breakthrough role in 1969’s Easy Rider because Rip Torn, who had originally been cast, fell out with co-star Dennis Hopper. Looking back on his early career in 2008, Nicholson told the Irish Independent: “All I could see in the early films, before Easy Rider, was this desperate young actor trying to vault out of the screen and create a movie career.”
4. Nicholson is one of only two male performers to be nominated for an Academy Award in every decade from the ’60s to the ’00s; the other is Michael Caine. Nicholson’s 12 Oscar nominations are more than any other male performer, too. Only Meryl Streep, with 20 acting nominations, has more.
5. On top of One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, The Shining, Easy Rider, Chinatown and As Good As It Gets, Nicholson could have appeared in even more iconic movies. He also turned down huge roles in Apocalypse Now, Rain Man and Taxi Driver.
6. Nicholson is also a sometime screenwriter and occasional director. Before he became famous, he co-wrote The Monkees’ trippy 1968 film Head, and made a cameo appearance in it, too.
7. Nicholson is such great pals with Alien actor Harry Dean Stanton that he used to find a way to sneak his initials into every film he made. Nicholson would often carve “HDS” into a tree, for example, or graffiti these letters on a wall.
8. For a time, Nicholson lived next door to Marlon Brando on Santa Monica’s famous Mulholland Drive. Because fellow lothario Warren Beatty lived nearby too, the street became colloquially known as “Bad Boy Drive”. After Brando died in 2001, Nicholson bought his house out of respect and demolished it because it was overridden with mould.
9. Nicholson has ruled out ever appearing in a soulless blockbuster. Explaining why he has hasn’t made a film since 2010, he told The Sun in 2013: “I had the most chilling thought that maybe people in their twenties and thirties don’t actually want to be moved anymore. They may want just to see more bombs, more explosions, because that is what they have grown up with. And I’ll never do that type of movie.”
10. Though Michael Keaton played the title role in Tim Burton’s Batman, Nicholson made sure he received top billing for his role as The Joker. He also negotiated a percentage of the film’s box office takings and merchandise profits, meaning he’s now earned an estimated $60 million (£48 million) from the film. What a boss.
Watch the trailer for the One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest reissue below.
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