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Film

Jack Nicholson wanted to work with Stanley Kubrick again

A bold, counter-cultural figurehead of cinema, Jack Nicholson is recognised as one of the greatest actors of all time, earning a (joint) record of 12 Oscar nominations during his career, winning three times for separate performances in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Terms of Endearment and As Good as it Gets. 

Fascinatingly, however, the legacy that the retired actor leaves behind is one that remembers him as an individual on the periphery of the industry, as an ever-eclectic creative. 

For a creative expression of Nicholson’s career as a performer, look no further than his breakout role in Dennis Hopper’s Easy Rider as an eccentric dope-smoking lawyer, bridging the gap between being a member of the stiff establishment and the progressive bohemian subculture that thrived in the late 20th century. As a result, much like Marlon Brando, Dennis Hopper and Harry Dean Stanton, Nicholson has established himself as a maverick emblem of the Hollywood golden age. 

Among Nicholson’s very best films was the Stanley Kubrick horror movie The Shining, adapted from the novel by Stephen King. Set in the magnificent, fictional Overlook Hotel, the tale follows Jack Torrance (Nicholson) and his family who opt to look after the hotel over the winter when a violent evil begins to influence his quickly crumbling mental state.

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Nicholson’s cruel psychotic descent is a true marvel to watch, elevating the performances of his co-stars, particularly Shelley Duvall who radiates an unrivalled physical fear. The Shining is a mesmerising horror experience crafted by Kubrick but piloted by Nicholson.

Celebrated by critics and fans across the world, The Shining was a rousing success that bridged the gap between a haunted house horror show and an artistic display of cinematic madness. Whilst it was the only time Kubrick and Nicholson ever collaborated together, the actor has often voiced his displeasure with having never worked with the filmmaker again. 

Speaking as part of the documentary, Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Picture, Nicholson shared praise toward the filmmaker whilst also voicing regret that he was never able to work with Kubrick again. 

“I always thought I’d work with Stanley again,” he stated in the documentary, adding, “We kept in touch over the years, and we talked about other projects…It’s a sad thing that I won’t have that great opportunity”. Even though the American filmmaker is recognised as one of the all-time greatest, Nicholson adds, “Everybody pretty much acknowledges he’s the man. And I still feel that underrates him”. 

As to which project Nicholson would’ve loved to work with the director on, this is revealed in the 2008 book, Five Easy Decades by Dennis McDougal, wherein the actor states, “I can’t imagine Stanley Kubrick making an uninteresting film, and if that’s the subject that he wants to tackle, I mean, I would love to let Napoleon move in on me for six months or so”.

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