Jack Nicholson: The Early Years

Jack Nicholson: The Early Years

Jack Nicholson: The Early Years

Jack Nicholson: The Early Years

Excerpt

Sometimes it’s good to be naive. Perhaps more than anything our original book, Jack Nicholson: Face to Face, was a result of youthful naïveté, an unfettered notion that a couple of twenty-year-old film students could call Jack Nicholson on the phone and then spend several days talking movies with him in his living room. Our attitude was, “How could he possibly say no?” Our guilelessness was accompanied by a boisterous enthusiasm and passion for the New American Cinema that was coming of age just as we were.

In 1969 there were no multiplex cinemas. Any film of conscience or consequence wanted to open at one of a half dozen movie palaces in Los Angeles: Grauman’s Chinese, the Pantages, or the Cinerama Dome in Hollywood, or the National, the Bruin, or the Fox Village in Westwood. A film called Easy Rider premiered in June 1969 at the Village, and the lines for tickets wound around the block. Waiting patiently were students from neighboring UCLA, hippies, yuppies, young, old, bikers, and wannabe bikers. Easy Rider was a phenomenon, not just for its two longhaired, dope-smoking, counterculture antiheroes played by Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper, or because it cost less than $400,000 to make and quickly grossed more than one hundred times that amount. Easy Rider was a must-see principally because of a performance by an actor almost no one had seen before, in spite of the fact that he had appeared in twenty films, written five, and produced three over the previous twelve years.

That actor, of course, was Jack Nicholson, playing the lubricated and loquacious lawyer George Hanson, who finds enlightenment, liberation, and a fatal beating in the company of his new free-wheelin’ friends. It was a supernova performance, and it won Jack his first of a now raft-load twelve Academy Award nominations. Easy Rider got Jack off the B train local and onto the high-speed A express. Next stop: Tinseltown.

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