Jack Nicholson – Six Decades of Madness

Happy Birthday to John Joseph `Jack` Nicholson, who turns 79 today, on April 22. With the ability to play an array of various roles, he could be called Hollywood’s most versatile actor in terms of extremities. He has played sober, simplistic, romantic characters as well as sinister, menacing, psychopathic characters.


Nicholson’s 12 Academy Award nominations make him the most nominated male actor in the Academy’s history. Winning the Academy Award for Best Actor twice, he is one of three male actors to win three Academy Awards. He is also one of only two actors (Michael Caine the other) to be nominated for an Academy Award for acting in every decade from the 1960s to the 2000s. The six-time Golden Globe Award winner received the Kennedy Center Honor in 2001. In 1994, he became one of the youngest actors to be awarded the American Film Institute‘s Life Achievement Award.


Enough about his achievements; let’s talk about the fact that he has been in the business for close to six decades. While that might be an achievement by itself, what is even greater is that he has performed in 65 films over this time, apart from appearances in 10 TV shows too. Making his debut with The Cry Baby Killer in 1958, below are six of his best performances across six decades, in no particular order:


The Shining
Directed by Stanley Kubrick, the 1980 horror film sees Jack Torrance slowly get deranged, much to the terror of his family. While the film may not be the scariest (with just a jump scare or two), his portrayal of a horrifying lunatic might get to you. So beware!


The Departed
One of his most recent films, the 2006 thriller directed by Martin Scorsese featured him as Frank Costello, a Boston mob boss, based on a real person. Needless to say, he plays it out effortlessly.


One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
Another brilliant performance! Some say he was born to play Randle Patrick McMurphy in this 1975 film. Playing a criminal sent to a mental institution, this role won him his first Oscar.


About Schmidt
For a change, this 2002 drama film required him to have a very subdued performance, playing a retired professional Warren Schmidt. Some say it was the best performance of his career, with the touching film serving as the perfect opportunity for him to express his character’s emotions.


The brilliant 1974 neo-noir film has the actor playing Private Investigator J.J. `Jake` Gittes. Some say it was his role in this movie, which defined him to be one of the greatest of his generation.


Directed by Tim Burton in 1989, the film features The Joker. Who could play this homicidal maniac? Jack Nicholson, of course. While Heath Ledger‘s portrayal of the Joker in The Dark Knight Trilogy might be a crowd favorite these days, let’s not forget Heath himself was inspired by Jack’s portrayal of the madman.

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