[On being nominated for an Oscar for the third time for The Last Detail (1973)] "The first time I was up for an Oscar, I thought I would win it. But I didn't have as sharp a view as I do now. The second time...I expected to lose, and deservedly lose, to George C. Scott. But even getting a nomination blows my mind. I'd love to win but now that I've had several good performances that people at large have liked, it becomes harder to excite them. And familiarity breeds contempt".
"So I mean it when I say that if you can't appreciate Brando, I wouldn't know how to talk to you. If there's anything obvious in life, this is it. Other actors don't go around discussing who is the best actor in the world, because it's obvious - Marlon Brando is."
About Schmidt (2002)
The Pledge (2001)
A Few Good Men (1992)
$60,000,000 (total earnings)
The Witches of Eastwick (1987)
The Missouri Breaks (1976)
$125,000 + 10% of all gross receipts above $12.5m
On a Clear Day You Can See Forever (1970)
Biography from Leonard Maltin's Movie Encyclopedia:
Not many actors could have risen from a bit in the three-day The Little Shop of Horrors (1960) to the lead in the multimillion-dollar epic Hoffa (1992); fewer still are sufficiently comfortable with their stardom to continue to take small but challenging roles, but this paunchy, balding actor with what "Time" magazine once called a "shark's grin" has always been a consummate professional, albeit an incredibly well-paid one, as well as one of the few contemporary stars whom anybody can do an impression of.
Nicholson got his movie start with legendary cheapie producer Roger Corman, who cast him in the title role of Cry Baby Killer (1958). He played small roles for the next few years; in addition to playing a masochistic dental patient in Little Shop he costarred as Peter Lorre's moron son in The Raven (1963), and hung around to play the lead in The Terror filmed shortly thereafter on the same sets and starring Boris Karloff. Nicholson got his first screenplay credit that same year, cowriting the virtually unknown Thunder Island After a period of relative inactivity, he resurfaced by producing, writing, and costarring in a trio of low-budget Monte Hellman films: a pair of existential Westerns, Ride in the Whirlwind (1965), and The Shooting (1967), and Flight to Fury (1966), a tropical adventure.
Nicholson played a filling-station attendant named "Poet" in Hell's Angels on Wheels (1967), a pony-tailed rocker in Psych-Out wrote the script for Corman's LSD epic The Trip and co wrote, coproduced (with Bob Rafelson), and briefly appeared in the cult favorite Head (all 1968). He stepped in to replace Rip Torn at the last minute and played a boozy Southern lawyer in another biker film ... but this one, Easy Rider (1969), changed his life. The unexpected, phenomenal success of this counterculture road film (and his riveting performance as a drop-out lawyer) made Nicholson a demi-star, especially to the Beatles-generation audiences who comprised the bulk of the moviegoing public in those years. (It also earned him his first Oscar nomination.) His role in Vincente Minnelli's On a Clear Day You Can See Forever (1970) was cut down to nothing, but Nicholson's vibrant portrayal of an angry, disaffected exmusician in Five Easy Pieces (also 1970) proved to be a star-making turn, thanks in large part to his memorable "chicken salad sandwich" tirade; it also brought him a second Oscar nomination, in the Best Actor category. His sublimely cynical sexual politician in Carnal Knowledge (1971) cemented his reputation as the star of a new generation. His followups, A Safe Place (1971) and The King of Marvin Gardens (1972), didn't endear him to the moviegoing mainstream, but reaffirmed his status as an individualist who sought out challenging and contemporary material. He then cowrote, coproduced, and directed the X-rated coming-of-age drama Drive, He Said (1972).
Nicholson hit his stride with starring roles in The Last Detail (1973, Oscarnominated again as a career sailor on m.p. duty), Chinatown (1974, Oscar-nominated as detective Jake Gittes), and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975, winning his first Oscar as the not-so-crazy, rebellious asylum patient Randall Patrick McMurphy). In his Academy Award acceptance speech, the sly Nicholson thanked film pioneer Mary Pickfordwho'd just made an appearance on the show-"for being the first actor to get a percentage of her pictures."
Now a full-fledged star, Nicholson took chances that few others would dare, playing a goofy sidekick to Warren Beatty in the farcical The Fortuneleaving Hollywood to work for Michelangelo Antonioni in the inscrutable The Passengertaking a singing role in Tommy (all 1975), and a supporting part in The Last Tycoon (1976). His subsequent starring films were a mixed bag, however: The Missouri Breaks (1976, a disappointing "summit meeting" with Marlon Brando), Goin' South (1978, a quixotic comedy which he directed), The Shining (1980, an over-thetop tour de force in which he went crazy for nearly two hours, under Stanley Kubrick's direction), The Postman Always Rings Twice (1981, a seamy and steamy remake of the James M. Cain classic), andThe Border (1982, a muddled drama about illegal aliens).
The actor's choices grew cannier at this time. He was surprisingly effective as playwright Eugene O'Neill in Warren Beatty's sprawling Reds (1981, earning a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination), and charming as the comically dissolute former astronaut who laconically romances Shirley MacLaine in Terms of Endearment (1983), which won him a Best Supporting Actor Academy Award. John Huston gave him one key piece of direction to play a dimwitted hit-man in Prizzi's Honor (1985)-"Remember, he's dumb"-and the result was one of his alltime best performances, opposite Kathleen Turner and his longtime girlfriend Anjelica Huston. He chalked up another Oscar nomination, then played a thinly disguised version of journalist Carl Bernstein in Heartburn (1986), creating an unforgettable Nicholson moment by bursting into song (the "Soliloquy" from Carousel!).
He was devilishly well cast as Satan in modern-day guise in The Witches of Eastwick which allowed him to "let go" in a furiously funny climax, then played a heartbreaking man on the skids in Ironweed which earned him another Oscar nomination (both 1987). He rounded out 1987 with a very funny, deadpan cameo appearance as an imperious network anchorman in Broadcast News By now something of an icon-as actor, movie star, and power broker-he accepted a whopping salary (and percentage) to play The Joker in Batman (1989), and chewed the scenery to his heart's content (and his fans'). In 1990 he realized a longtime ambition to make a sequel to Chinatown directing and starring in the disappointing The Two Jakes.
After some time off, he appeared in three movies in succession in 1992: the dreadful comedy Man Trouble (which reunited him with director Bob Rafelson), the smash hit A Few Good Men (which gave him a plum, Oscar-nominated supporting role as a Machiavellian Marine officer), and the ambitious biography Hoffa (in which his galvanizing performance-in very convincing makeup-had to carry a diffuse and unsatisfying script). He then reteamed with director Mike Nichols to try something completely different-a werewolf movie, namely Wolf (1994). In 1994 he received the American Film Institute Life Achievement Award, reaffirming his unique status as a counterculture hero who has managed to function extraordinarily well in the movie mainstream. His next film was The Crossing Guard (1995).