The writer Jack Torrance drove with his wife and son to the snowy mountains, where they live alone in a completely remote hotel, snowed in and cut off from the rest of the world. Little by little, Jack is going mad. Until he finally attacks his wife with an ax. A cinema picture that has become iconic. This Jack Torrance is embodied in Stanley Kubrick’s masterful “The Shining” (1980) by Jack Nicholson, at the time of filming, which lasted over a year and a half, 43 and at the zenith of his ability.
In each of his roles, the great actor said it in one of the historical recordings in the new documentary “Jack Nicholson. One Flew Over Hollywood ”, or can be heard off-screen, is at least 75 percent of himself.“ The nice thing about acting is that you can research things thoroughly. You come across similarities with the figure, you dig for it, and then you knock it out. “
And above all, the French film writer Emmanuelle Nobécourt is also interested in working out who is really behind the eternally grinning, sun-tanned mask. This attempt may at least partially succeed, because with the help of some contemporary witnesses – including Roger Corman, legendary directing legend of the so-called B-movie genre, fellow actor Christopher Lloyd from “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”, Nicholson’s childhood friend Jonathan Epaminondas or US Biographer Patrick McGilligan – manages to bring out at least a fraction of the real Nicholson.
Nicholson’s story, which is by no means an easy one, begins on the east coast of the United States. At 18, he got into the car to escape the oppressive, bourgeois world he came from, and drove from New Jersey across the country to Hollywood. There he is employed as an errand boy at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in the animation department. In this way, he was also able to see in passing how films were made.
“Easy Rider” should change everything
He made his first film – “The Cry Baby Killer” – in 1958 at the age of 21. It is Roger Corman who casts the young Nicholson in a handful of his B-movies, including the Poe film adaptation “The Raven”. But none of these films was able to bring Nicholson the breakthrough. Almost resigned, he wants to stop acting. Then he gets a 15-minute part in a film called “Easy Rider”. Everything should change overnight, as it were, with the theatrical release in 1969: Alongside Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda, Nicholson is suddenly the star. The 70s, they’re going to be Jack’s decade.
In 1974 Nicholson filmed “Chinatown” directed by Roman Polanski. Shortly after the film opened in theaters, a journalist uncovered one of the darkest, most painful chapters in Nicholson’s past: his older sister June is actually his own mother. Ever since he found out about it, he seems to have given free rein to his emotions on the set of the films that will follow. Sometimes he’s just beside himself. He becomes unpredictable. Norms no longer apply to him. Sunglasses and a permanent grin protect him.
Jack Nicholson hasn’t been shooting since 2010. “How do you know it’s love” is, at least so far, the keystone of a career that lasted 50 years, produced 60 films and has been crowned with three Oscars and twelve undisputed Oscar nominations. He lives very secluded in his villa on Mulholland Drive. Lonely, it is said several times in this solid documentary, Nicholson has always been lonely. The big Jack – he has long since become his own myth. Thilo Wydra
“Jack Nicholson. One flew over Hollywood ”, Arte, Sunday, 10:10 pm