In praise of … Jack Nicholson
At his best, Nicholson treads the finest of lines between derangement and all too sane fury
Monday 9 September 2012
If Jack Nicholson is really retiring, the cinema will have lost one of its great presences. But defining it is no simple task. It has been a while since the most nominated male actor in Hollywood history has made a film that compares toEasy Rider, Five Easy Pieces, Carnal Knowledge, Chinatown, Terms of Endearment. Even uncontained or badly directed, Nicholson had the capacity to act everyone else off the screen, and Stephen King, who wrote the original novel, expressed doubts about casting Nicholson as the deranged caretaker in The Shining, because in King's view he simply could not play the ordinary man. There is nothing ordinary about him. At his best, Nicholson taunts. He treads the finest of lines between derangement and all too sane fury, between moral purpose and its exact opposite. Time out of number he has made Mephistopheles easily the most sympathetic character in the cast.