The year is 1997 and the number one song is Celine Dion and I have a secret from my friends. Whilst they are swooning over Leo and his very 90s curtain haircut in Titanic, I am harbouring a crush on very different Hollywood star. Jack Nicholson. Although DiCaprio is often compared to Nicholson (by heretics), there is only one, and that one, for me, is the original Jack.
I was 14 and as a girl obsessed with 19th century novels, old Hollywood movies, and music from the 60s, it won’t be a surprise to many that I did not exactly have the same crushes as my friends at school. I had first become aware of Nicholson by watching One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest. It was on TV on one of the nights my parents were out and I was staying up much later than usual. I was blown away by the story, the words, the action, everything. Most of all, it was Jack. The energy that came off the screen was undeniable and unlike anything my teenage self had seen before.
I then moved on to other films of his and read everything I could find about him. It wasn’t just that Nicholson was good looking. He oozed an intelligence, a charm, and a worldliness that I didn’t see anywhere else.
As I entered my 20’s, the crush continued and anytime an article that contained his name came up, I read it. Nicholson’s party persona has often meant that his name has not been mentioned in the same bracket as Pacino and De Niro, but whilst not every movie was a hit, Nicholson has avoided the pitfalls that some of his contemporaries have fallen into. He has not made a Jack & Jill (Al Pacino) or The Intern (Robert De Niro). He has avoided becoming a pastiche of his former self and is still considered a current actor of quality.
In 2004 Nicholson wrote an essay about his friendship with Marlon Brando after the legendary star had passed away. This thoughtful and respectful writing paid homage to his friend without revealing any secrets or boasting about his closeness with Brando. It was kind as well, dismissing those who had mocked Brando for his weight and stating perfectly that "what Mr Brando does for a living ain’t done by the pound." A guy who can write and has a good turn of phrase? Be still my beating heart.
In 1997 he won an Oscar for his performance as Melvin Udall in As Good As it Gets. It was a role that could not have been played by anyone else. His romantic interest was 20 years younger, and with any other actor, the ick factor could have been high. With Jack at the helm, however, and excellent support from Helen Hunt, it made perfect sense. With the revelations about various Hollywood stars emerging in wake of the #metoo movement, not a negative word has been said about Nicholson. Despite his party boy image, his success with women was always consensual, a fact that is sadly now something to be celebrated.
Nicholson is rumored to be back in the acting game with a new movie coming out in 2019. At the age of 80, even the whisper of a new movie with him attached is enough to make the news on both sides of the pond.
As recently as 2015, Nicholson was quoted as being sad that he would likely die alone, as he did not believe he would now find someone to spend his life with. Oh, Jack, I refuse to believe that is true. Welcome 'round mine anytime; I have still never seen Titanic if you want to watch a movie.