A/V Room









Something's Gotta Give - Jack Nicholson Q&A

Compiled by: Jack Foley

Q. What particular elements in the script appealed to you?
Nothing particular, other than the fact that it is romantic, which is kind of late for me, but I liked it. It's a script that you read and it works, you know. I felt the same about this movie from the very beginning, that pretty much we had to do this script, and get it out, and the movie would work.
It's got, like, 97% exit poll approval in America, so some movies, as they say, you can't keep people from going to see them if they want to.

Q. Following on from that, the tabloid image of you might suggest there are a lot more similarities between this character and yourself? Are there a lot of elements that you have in common?
Oh, I don't know about the tabloids, but most characters, I always play them in a way that's 85% synonymous, no matter who you're playing. Nancy wrote the script for me, and I talked to her about it in advance, while she was writing it, so I guess it's got some good pieces about what my life has been like.

Q. Have you had any feedback from the real-life Harry Sanborn's in the world?
Yeah, they have the most difficulty watching the film, I'd say. They're really eight-year-old children. But, no, as I say, some movies it's hard to talk about, because you don't really have to defend them. This movie pretty much, so far anyway, in America, it went up against all the blockbusters of Christmas, and the audiences liked the movie. I always felt that if we opened it, that it would play.

Q. I believe Nancy Meyers is the first woman director you have worked with? Did you notice anything different?
Well Nancy's a very forceful director, so she has that in common with most of the directors I've worked with. They like to tart you up a bit more, you know, they're a little happier when you're cute, and stuff like that. You don't have to worry about being masculine, and so forth. But she wrote the material and this is a movie which, as I say, works from the script on, and she just makes you do the script, so I didn't find it that different, actually. I couldn't push her around as much [laughs].

Q. Given some of the themes in the movie - old age, ill health, etc, - do you find yourself worrying about things related to the time in your life, while filming?
Well I've been walking pretty slow upstairs for a while, actually [laughs]. But, no, whenever you do a movie that's got a heart attack, a car wreck, or this or that, there's something superstitious about actors. You know, every time I had heartburn I thought it was all over.
This movie is simple in its way, you know. I had a nice letter from a writer friend of mine, Jim Harrison, the other day, who said: You know, it's interesting that this movie is so unusual, because romantic comedy is kind of like the black dress of movie-making. And yet to make an adult comedy these days is almost revolutionary, in its way.
And he said, the gloss of those films, you know, the Wilder films, always kind of covered very human issues that were at stake underneath, and that he was kind of tired of the cretinoid view of critics who feel that a movie is serious, simply because it says it's serious. I think he ended the letter with the same is happening with literature, that it seemed like it couldn't be taken seriously if you had a good meal or a good fuck. Oh well! [Laughs]
I thought that was one of the best reviews we got!

Q. What do you think about press intrusion? Has it got worse during the course of your career?
No, not really, it's about the same. Maybe a little less, I don't know. I kind of snuck into London here and have been staying in a hotel... No, I haven't noticed much difference lately.

Q. You apparently sang in Anger Management, and there was said to have had a singing scene in this film, which was cut, is there something of a frustrated crooner about you?
No, I'm not frustrated at all, and I think that the world could do without it! But I liked singing in the picture, it was fun. I'm just sorry it didn't make the final cut.

Q. Paris provides the ideal romantic backdrop for the finale of the movie, what would your ideal romantic backdrop be?
Well, I think Nancy kind of picked these because they're like the mythic great ones. You know, to Americans, New York, The Hamptons and Paris. I myself like it a bit warmer, so I'd throw in Hawaii, or Tahiti, or something. There'd have to be a nice, sunny beach in there for me.

Q. My favourite scene in the film was when your bum was exposed. I wonder, what was your favourite?
That was my favourite part, too!
Jack Nicholson: I asked that they used it for the poster!
Amanda: What happened [in fits of giggles]?
Jack: It was illegal [laughs]. No, I mean there's so many good scenes. I like the one where Diane's crying for hours, that's the part that made me laugh the hardest, anyway.
This movie, once it grabs you it works, you know. Scene after scene, it has great logic, you care about the characters. It's odd that it's odd, but that's the facts of the matter, we read the script and thought, oh, this would be good.

Q. Apparently, Diane has said that Nancy kept getting takes during the kissing scenes between herself and you? Did you notice any deliberate delaying tactics?
Well, Nancy, she's greedy. She likes to watch actors work. You know, both Diane and I, and then Keanu and Amanda. I mean Diane and I know each other very well, and she'd just keep pulling the trigger to see if she'd get something different, or better, and I had to try and keep her in check somewhat. I had a feeling she'd go on as long as I could, and I always think I can go on forever.

Q. What did you learn, after such a long and distinguished career, from Amanda?
I asked you what you wanted to do in the movie [said, turning to Amanda]. Remember the first day? What would you want to do? And Amanda said, well, I just want to be good and have a good time. I learned that. To stay simple.
Amanda: That's so boring of me!

Q. How do people react to you, in person, nowadays? Has that changed?
Pretty much, I guess, the way they always have. Gregarious, simple, and with tremendous amounts of fun and everything. But I guess there is a little bit more uncomfortable deference. What was it like, and all that sort of thing, back in the day! It seems a bit silly to me.

Q. Is there anybody left that you would really like to work with? Either a director or an actor?
While you were talking I'm looking for names that jump into my mind, because there are always a lot of people that I'd want to work with. I would imagine the list, in my case, would start with people I have worked with, and liked working with a lot.
The funny thing about that is, at this point, there's a certain limitation on that list, so it becomes a little more selective. I've always been good about working with new directors, and young directors. I probably would be less inclined to do that, although, I guess, Sean Penn and Alexander Payne, and there's always a lot of young actors that I'd like to work with. I have to say that most of that list would be people that I have actually worked with.

Q. It's been alluded to before, but I'm going to be a little more blunt. In this film, you portray someone who only dates younger women, until you fall in love with someone older. Is there any chance that could be echoed in real life?
Well, it's never been a matter of years for me, although I've got into trouble whenever I've tried to be slightly more scientific than that. You know, obviously, nature has sort of an innate breeding area for human beings, and that certainly is somewhere in the background.
But I'm not being coy, it's on an individual basis for me. I don't really go by age all that much. And the likelihood of my slightly catching on with anyone is slightly less than what I just said.

Q. With Diane Keaton, you passed like ships in the night in Reds, which I think is the only time you've actually made a movie together, and there's a huge connection, so is it a surprise that it's taken so long to make a movie together? Where there things, in the past, that you might have come together on?
Vivid is the way I would describe Reds, but, yeah, it is. And another friend said, you know, Jack, Diane could have been the leading lady in every movie you've ever done. She's kind of a very broadly talented person, and that's just the luck of the draw. There's never any why in the movie business, it's just the way that it goes.

Q. You also have, from time to time, directed movies, and we love to see you do so again. Why don't you direct more? Is it just too exhausting, or aren't there the projects that you want to do?
Well that, you know, the projects you want to do, and also, I act all the time, so I don't have that much time. And, after the movies I directed, none of which were particularly successful, although I loved them all, I just haven't got round to it.
As I say, frankly, I worked every day for three years, through this picture here, so I'm due a good, long rest and if I live through that, well then, who knows...

Q. How diverse are the scripts you are sent? Or do they tend to veer towards one thing?
Well most of what I get is usually attached to a director by the time it gets around to me, and that has as much to do with it as the script. Although there is that thing around, if you have a successful movie, I expect I'll get a lot of old romantic leads in the next few years, which, of course, is what I never do.
I don't believe in pigeonholing, it's the death of any actor.
Oddly, the most unusual thing about this script, apart from the fact Nancy asked me to do it, is the fact that it is romantic. I found myself doing scenes that may be common in my own life, then I'd step back and say, well I don't think I've ever done that in a movie before. It wasn't particularly difficult acting, it was just the fact that I hadn't done it.
Whenever I've been in any kind of romantic juxtaposition with a woman in a movie, I'm a murderer, or a monster, or she's crazy, so straight over the horns romantic comedy, or acting, simply is kind of unusual.

Q. Do you think Hollywood is in a healthy state?
You always have to be an optimist about those things, you know. We're always complaining about this or that, but I did watch this movie with my kids once, and I thought... you know, culture has to build up, systematically, and since we're 20 years, or so, into this so-called youthful hip-hop generation, and melodrama, I found myself wondering whether, as a form of entertainment, my children want to be moved as an audience? By human conditions and human stories. But very young children, oddly, understand this movie to some degree and laugh at it.
I didn't have a huge poll on that, of course, just a few of my friends' children went and saw it, and even wild Eddie liked it. That was the test for me.
Really most of that is about distribution. You know, I'm the generation of people who, from the late Sixties, to the middle Seventies, because of the distribution of the foreign film, we expected to see a masterpiece every week, for all those 14 years, and we did. We did. It was a phenomenal time to get a film education.
And it's simply not distributed any more. I think it has more to do with that.
You know, there are a lot of great fallacies in the movie business; the so-called great unproduced script, that doesn't exist; they don't want to make good pictures, they do. In fact, as I imagine the head of a studio's job, there's always three or four pictures every year that he'd like to make, and then he has to fill out the programme with the rest, which are all pretty much hussle movies, or old commitments, or this or that. These myths seem to want to make us generalise about what's the health of the industry.
As long as it's everybody's favourite job, the movie industry will do fine. And it is different from any other business; very Darwinian. Relationships mean almost nothing, you can't make your relative a movie star, you can't make an audience like a movie that they don't like, so in that sense, it's almost arcane, the structure of it, and because it supports itself, they haven't been able to legislate out of its natural vitality.
You know, I'm not crazy about a lot of the product, but nonetheless, the advancement in special effects pretty much mean that there's no limitation on a screenwriters' imagination. There's nothing that you could conceive of, that you couldn't film.

Q. Jack, you like a good night out on the town? What would you call a great night out, and any plans while you are in London?
Well, all my pals seem to be out of town. I had dinner with Barry last night, which is always a good night out on the town, but I'm just here for a couple of days, so I won't be able to Jack the lad it up for you very much on this trip.
But, all good things come to an end, in a certain way, and I'm not much of a raver any more. It's sort of unattractive and inappropriate.
Q. I don't believe that for a minute!
Jack: Well, good! I'm just warming up, you know! I haven't talked to anyone for a while.

Q. At what stage in you career did you realise you could act and that this is what you wanted to do?
Well, I guess long before anyone else did. I always felt good at it, even before I started working in classes and so forth. The nature of that is they sort of know who has some ability for it pretty early on, and then it's just a question of what parts do you get, and what's your situation.
I sort of abruptly came to it, but pretty early. I thought there were other things I was going to do, and then I just kind of nudged into it and liked it immediately. I still like it.

Jack: Let me ask you a question. My favourite movie of last year was City of God. Now this is obviously about Brazilian kids. Do you think that if they put an enormous advertising budget behind it, like they do with this, that an audience would find that movie.
[Critics agree]
You do? Sometimes when you're making them, you think that if you're the least bit literate, and I don't mean that in a pompous way, if you just take it outside the basics, that somehow this would truncate the audience. I never have given into that, but I've always wondered is this really true?
I also think that if you put the enormous sums of money to advertise a movie, even one that's difficult in some ways, that it would also return the money. I'm glad you feel that way.
I wonder, even with some of the movies that are out in America, that it's not until it's nominated that even Mystic River seems to get enormous. Of course, I guess the weight of the subject, if it's depressing, then that's never going to be as appealing, but within reason, I just think it has so much to do with how the movie is distributed. And in all fairness to my hosts here, sometimes we question the decisions that companies make about that.

Q. I understand that Bill Clinton dropped by during the filming of this movie?
Oh, he's round all the time now [laughs]. I've known him from a distance, as I don't get close to political people, I'm a bit of a rolling cannonball in that way, but he always said that he would be interested in seeing a movie made and he was in the area where we were working. So he dropped in on the set and sat around, getting the ladies all crazy. He's a wonderful fella, aside from being a former president.

Q. There are a lot of people who make a living playing Jack Nicholson look-alikes. What do you think of that?
They do? Well, I never saw a good one, although I did have one experience where someone put a radio tape on of an interview that was allegedly me. It was actually at my own house, at Christmas, and this thing started off, and I remember thinking, Jesus, I don't remember saying that. So I guess some people are good at it. I always feel that I'm inimitable.


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