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Revisiting Jack Nicholson's strange tribute to Marlon Brando

Jack Nicholson and Marlon Brando are often cited as two of the greatest acting talents in history. They weren’t just part of the elite circle of cinematic artists but they were also friends and neighbours for a period of time when Nicholson lived on Mulholland Drive in Beverly Hills alongside the likes of Brando and Warren Beatty.

Titled the “Bad Boy Drive”, the place developed a strong reputation for all the drug-fuelled activities that took place there. Nicholson’s was dubbed “the wildest house in Hollywood” because of the incessant orgies and the drug romps. The house later became a crime scene when Roman Polanski raped a minor while Nicholson was out of town.

Nicholson always had a deep reverence for Brando and counted himself among the first generation of Marlon Brando fans. Brando’s fantastic method acting and his stellar performances in iconic films left a lasting impression on a young Nicholson’s mind who devoutly watched the magic of Marlon Brando on a regular basis.

In an article, Nicholson recalled how he was mesmerised by Brando’s genius: “When I was growing up in New Jersey, one of my summer jobs was working as an assistant manager of a local movie theatre. I must have seen every performance of On the Waterfront – twice a night. You just couldn’t take your eyes off the guy. He was spellbinding.”

Nicholson even had the chance to work on The Godfather but he turned it down because he thought that his part would be better suited for an Italian actor. Another reason that helped Nicholson make up his mind was the fact that the screenplay did not have scenes with both of them together which is why he decided to wait for another proper collaboration like The Missouri Breaks.

Talking about Brando’s wide-ranging influence on popular culture, Nicholson added: “Even before I thought about acting, he influenced me strongly. Today it’s hard for people who weren’t there to realise the impact that Brando had on an audience – never mind on actors, because he’s always been the patron saint of actors.”

When Brando passed away in 2004, Nicholson took it upon himself to pay a bizarre tribute to the pioneering actor by buying it for $6.1 million. He actually bought it just to demolish the whole place because renovating it was no longer possible. That might seem like a strange tribute but Nicholson later planted frangipani flowers there because Brando had named his house after those flowers.

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