Dave, there are two kinds of angry people – explosive and implosive. Explosive is the type of individual you see screaming at the cashier for not taking his coupon. Implosive is the cashier who remains quiet day after day and then finally shoots everyone in the store. You’re the cashier. Anger Management (2003)
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I’m just your average horny little devil. The Witches of Eastwick (1987)
We live, we die, and the wheels on the bus go round and round. The Bucket List (2007)
I have never lied to you, I have always told you some version of the truth. Something’s Gotta Give (2003)
I might be the only person on the face of the earth that knows you’re the greatest woman on earth. I might be the only one who appreciates how amazing you are in every single thing that you do, and how you are with Spencer, “Spence,” and in every single thought that you have, and how you say what you mean, and how you almost always mean something that’s all about being straight and good. I think most people miss that about you, and I watch them, wondering how they can watch you bring their food, and clear their tables and never get that they just met the greatest woman alive. And the fact that I get it makes me feel good, about me. As Good As It Gets (1997)
The Best Jack Nicholson Quotes From As Good As It Gets
I’ve always thought basketball was the best sport, although it wasn’t the sport I was best at. It was just the most fun to watch. … Even as a kid it appealed to me. The basketball players were out at night. They had great overcoats. There was this certain nighttime juvenile-delinquent thing about it that got your blood going.
This would be the character, whose core—while totally determinate of the part—was the least limiting of any I would ever encounter. This is a more literary way of approaching than I might have had as a kid reading the comics, but you have to get specific. … He’s not wired up the same way. This guy has survived nuclear waste immersion here. Even in my own life, people have said, ‘There’s nothing sacred to you in the area of humor, Jack. Sometimes, Jack, relax with the humor.’ This does not apply to the Joker, in fact, just the opposite. Things even the wildest comics might be afraid to find funny: burning somebody’s face into oblivion, destroying a masterpiece in a museum—a subject as an art person even made me a little scared. Not this character. And I love that.
When asked whether he has any regrets, Jack Nicholson said: “Not that I can think of. I’m sure there are some, but my mind doesn’t go there. When you look at life retrospectively you rarely regret anything that you did, but you might regret things that you didn’t do.”
I’m a different person when suddenly it’s my responsibility. I’m not very inhibited in that way. I would show up [on the set of The Two Jakes] one day, and we’d scouted an orange grove and it had been cut down. You’re out in the middle of nowhere and they forget to cast an actor. These are the sort of things I kind of like about directing. Of course, at the time you blow your stack a little bit. … I’m a Roger Corman baby. Just keep rolling, baby. You’ve got to get something on there. Maybe it’s right. Maybe it’s wrong. Maybe you can fix it later. Maybe you can’t. You can’t imagine the things that come up when you’re making a movie where you’ve got to adjust on the spot.
I think people think I’m more physical than I am, I suppose. I’m not really confrontational. Of course, I have a temper, but that’s sort of blown out of proportion.
They’re prescription. That’s why I wear them. A long time ago, the Middle American in me may have thought it was a bit affected maybe. But the light is very strong in southern California. And once you’ve experienced negative territory in public life, you begin to accept the notion of shields. I am a person who is trained to look other people in the eye. But I can’t look into the eyes of everyone who wants to look into mine; I can’t emotionally cope with that kind of volume. Sunglasses are part of my armor.
You only lie to two people in your life: your girlfriend and the police. Everybody else you tell the truth to.
When asked about his opinion on marriage, Jack Nicholson said: “I never had a policy about marriage. I got married very young in life and I always think in all relationships, I’ve always thought that it’s counterproductive to have a theory on that. It’s hard enough to get to know yourself and as most of you have probably found, once you get to know two people in tandem it’s even more difficult. If it’s going to be successful, it’s going to have to be very specific and real and immediate so the more ideas you have about it before you start, it seems to me the less likely you are to be successful.”
Almost anyone can give a good representative performance when you’re unknown. It’s just easier. The real pro game of acting is after you’re known—to ‘un-Jack’ that character, in my case, and get the audience to reinvest in a new and specific, fictional person.
I hate advice unless I’m giving it. I hate giving advice, because people won’t take it.
My motto is: more good times.
Beer, it’s the best damn drink in the world.
I hate giving advice, because people won’t take it.
The less people know about me, the easier my job is.
I only take viagra when I am with more than one woman.
I’ve grown out of talking like I know something when I don’t.
I’m not a raver anymore, all good things must come to an end.
[on “On a Clear Day You Can See Forever”] All I am in the movie is bad.
You only lie to two people in your life: your girlfriend and the police.
On Jessica Lange: She is like a delicate fawn, but crossed with a Buick.
With my sunglasses on, I’m Jack Nicholson. Without them, I’m fat and seventy.
As an actor, I have no desire for anybody to understand my past work. Period.
I don’t want people to know what I’m actually like. It’s not good for an actor.
Star quality is if you’re on stage and a cat walks on and they still watch you.
[on the birth of his son after having had two daughters:] “I finally got it right.”
The thing I like about The Joker is that his sense of humor is completely tasteless.
Just because you’re a perfectionist doesn’t mean you’re perfect. – On Stanley Kubrick.
When I read the part, I knew I’d win the Oscar for it. [regarding “Terms of Endearment”]
I was particularly proud of my performance as the Joker. I considered it a piece of pop art.
I’m so rich that I’m going to sell myself like an ordinary person. I’m not into money at all.
(2011) I am from a different era of movie acting. My career doesn’t depend on explosions and pyrotechnics.
[on Stanley Kubrick] Everyone pretty much acknowledges him as The Man, and I still think that underrates him.
It was one of the few times when it was money well spent. [about the $5 million he earned for “A Few Good Men” ]
A star on a movie set is like a time bomb. That bomb has got to be defused so people can approach it without fear.
The average celebrity meets, in one year, ten times the amount of people that the average person meets in his entire life.
A question you always ask in acting is, Where were you going if this scene didn’t interrupt the movements of the character?
If you get an impulse in a scene, no matter how wrong it seems, follow the impulse. It might be something and if it ain’t – take two!
[advice to Harry Dean Stanton on screen-acting] Just let the wardrobe be the character. You play yourself. That’s the way you approach it.
I come from the Lynchs of Sligo (Ireland). You know, I went there, but I looked in the phone book and there are nine million Lynchs in Sligo.
“I don’t believe in God now. I can still work up an envy for someone who has a faith. I can see how that could be a deeply soothing experience.” (1992)
“You’re new here, aren’t you?” Nicholson, who rarely is seen in public without his sunglasses, replied when asked by a photographer to take off his glasses for a photo.
I’m not worried about wrinkles, in myself or in women. I find them interesting. I can’t see so well, so sometimes I look in the mirror and I see how I was as a young man.
(2011) On set I’m an actor like every other actor. Most times, for every part I play, I can think of other actors who would be better. I worry from the moment I take a job.
“I just wish every film I liked wasn’t either foreign or made in America but with such terrible difficulty. This is the worst period ever for trying to do interesting work.” (1996)
I’m very contra my constituency in terms of abortion because I’m positively against it. I don’t have the right to any other view. My only emotion is gratitude, literally, for my life.
I’m the age where we didn’t have television as kids. So when I saw my nieces and nephews watching _Howdy Doody_, “Kukla, Fran and Ollie”, and so forth, I thought the world had gone mad.
I love discourse. I’m dying to have my mind changed. I’m probably the only liberal who read Treason, by Ann Coulter. I want to know, you understand? I like listening to everybody. This to me is the elixir of life.
There’s a period just before you start a movie when you start thinking, I don’t know what in the world I’m going to do. It’s free-floating anxiety. In my case, though, this is over by lunch the first day of shooting.
I don’t know if this is a true statistic, but I heard somewhere that there are three times as many single women over forty as single men. That’s what we got from the women’s movement. The chickens have come home to roost.
It’s not so nice when you are 71 and looking for some action. I feel uncomfortable doing it in the limelight – so from now on I’ll do it when it’s right. Happily, when it comes to girls hitting on me, I’m not undernourished.
I think it is very unattractive for me to be seen fawning over little, tiny girls. I didn’t feel that for a long time but now I do. If I could slip them out the back entrance wrapped in a blanket, that’s a different story. (February 2004)
I always hesitate to say things like this in interviews because they tend to come back to haunt you, but if I were an Arab-American, I would insist on being profiled. This is not the time for civil rights. There are larger issues for Americans.
After September 11, I held my tongue. All of the public positions had been taken — for, against, good, evil. I had nothing more to add. So I thought, Bring in the clowns, you know what I mean? That’s why I’ve done a coupla years’ worth of comedies.
[on turning down the role played by Robert Redford in “The Sting”] “I liked the period, the whole project and I knew it would be commercial. But at the time, I needed to put my energies into a movie that really needed them. I needed to take a risk”.
For a long time, I was afraid to be alone. I had to learn how to be alone. And there are still times when I think, Uh-oh! I gotta talk to somebody here or I’m gonna go crazy! But I like to be alone. Now I do. I really do. There’s a big luxury in solitude.
So I mean it when I say that if you can’t appreciate Brando, I wouldn’t know how to talk to you. If there’s anything obvious in life, this is it. Other actors don’t go around discussing who is the best actor in the world, because it’s obvious – Marlon Brando is.
[on Debra Winger] She’s real smart, very dedicated, extremely resourceful about her work. You put up with her contentiousness because there is always something at the bottom. You get something you wouldn’t get unless you took the trip with her. The girl’s got boom.
[on working with Michelangelo Antonioni on “The Passenger”] Antonioni was like a father figure to me. I worked with him because I wanted to be a film director and I thought I could learn from a master. He’s one of the few people I know that I ever really listened to.
I would be so happy if I didn’t smoke, for a lot of reasons. I can’t believe that I can’t break the habit. I don’t want to be lying around, dying in Cedar’s Sinai Hospital and thinking that I was as stupid enough, a man who is as petrified of dying as I am, to have done it to myself. I’m a real fraidy-cat about mortality.
When I come up against a director who has a concept that I don’t agree with, or maybe I just haven’t thought of it or whatever, I’d be more prone to go with them than my own because I want to be out of control as an actor, I want them to have the control, otherwise it’s going to become predictably my work, and that’s not fun.
Every director implored me, “Jack, can’t you talk a little bit faster?” It was like a hot button for me and I would become hateful. So when Roman started to say it, I began and he said, “Jack, this movie is 100-and-something pages long. To have a movie that is screen able, you’ll have to talk a little faster”. [Roman Polanski directed him in “Chinatown”].
I’d prefer if people had no impressions of me. As a kid, I had to tell my own family, “Please, just don’t talk about me!” Because they always got it wrong. Always. I just didn’t want them to tell anyone anything about me. God knew, they had a great opinion and they loved me and meant well, but it was like, Please, you don’t have this right. You know what I mean?
[on Michelle Pfeiffer] She’s a good egg, I’m crazy about her… You couldn’t really say Michelle is glacial, but there’s obviously something oscillating beneath the surface there. Her first look at people is “Yeah, well, what do you want?” It’s a form of protection because she’s very sensitive. You never could steamroll Michelle. She’s always very tough in that sense.
(2011) I would never complain about my life, even though I really would like to have a mate. It’s not like I’m starved for company – I have a few very good lady friends – but there’s only a certain amount of times a woman wants to see you and never go out for dinner. I got tired of arguing with women about going to have dinners, so I hired somebody to cook. The food is better at my house.
We were moving to a freer society before AIDS. Most people who investigated this knew that if you were not shooting up or getting f***ed in the heinie, you were as likely to get AIDS as you were to have a safe fall on your head while walking down Wilshire Boulevard. But you could not proselytize this view. The facts were almost useless. You couldn’t give a woman the facts and have her respond, ‘Oh, all right.’
(2011, on his own own mortality) One of the toughest parts of aging is losing your friends. At first it starts quietly, then pretty soon it’s every month, and you can’t help but think, “When is that bell going to go off for me?” And on top of that you feel this constant loss. At this time of life, you feel just a sword’s point from death. It’s frightening – who wants to face God and the clear white light? I know I definitely don’t. Yet.
I was talking to Sean Penn on the phone today. I told him it was interesting that they managed to leave me off this long list of Method actors they’d published in some article. I told him, “I’m still fooling them!” I consider it an accomplishment. Because there’s probably no one who understands Method acting better academically than I do, or actually uses it more in his work. But it’s funny — nobody really sees that. It’s perception versus reality, I suppose.
[on being nominated for an Oscar for the third time for “The Last Detail”] “The first time I was up for an Oscar, I thought I would win it. But I didn’t have as sharp a view as I do now. The second time…I expected to lose, and deservedly lose, to George C. Scott. But even getting a nomination blows my mind. I’d love to win but now that I’ve had several good performances that people at large have liked, it becomes harder to excite them. And familiarity breeds contempt”.
Explaining his controversial remarks on the death of Heath Ledger: What I actually said was, ‘I warned them.’ I had a bad experience with those sleeping pills that Ledger apparently took. I took one of these pills and had just gone to sleep when I had a phone call to go to an emergency at a friend’s house. I jumped up, went outside and some time later woke up on the driveway. It sounds amusing but I live in the mountains and it could’ve been worse. I didn’t know Heath Ledger, but I know those pills.
There’s no one before or since like Marlon Brando. The gift was enormous and flawless, like [Pablo Picasso]. Brando was a genius who was the beginning and end of his own revolution….You didn’t rush him. He had a tremendous gift just in his stillness. I was in high school when I saw “The Wild One”. He changed my life forever…a monumental artist….There was no way to follow in his footsteps. He was just too large and just too far out of sight. He truly shook the world, and his influence will be there long into the future.
[on his signature glasses] They’re prescription. That’s why I wear them. A long time ago, the Middle American in me may have thought it was a bit affected maybe. But the light is very strong in southern California. And once you’ve experienced negative territory in public life, you begin to accept the notion of shields. I am a person who is trained to look other people in the eye. But I can’t look into the eyes of everyone who wants to look into mine; I can’t emotionally cope with that kind of volume. Sunglasses are part of my armor.
[on “The Passenger”] Antonioni says he just tries to make something beautiful because truth is beautiful and beauty is truth. That’s what I’m really into. I like making beautiful things. Maybe that sounds ridiculous but when I choose a film to do, it’s because it interests me in that way rather than any other. I look at every character I play on the screen as being completely separate. You can say most of them are outsiders, but it’s hard today to think of any character in a film who isn’t an outsider. All I ask is that they relate to the truth in some way.
(When asked would he see “The Dark Knight”) I’m not inclined to watch it because of what I said. But if it’s a good movie, I’ll catch up with it somewhere. I don’t think they ever really captured Tim Burton’s spirit [since he stopped being involved]. They kind of drove the franchise into the ground. Tim Burton’s a genius. He had the right take on it. That’s why I did the movie. I did the movie based on a single conversation with him. We both come from the cartoon world originally. We had similar ideas. Tim said the Joker should have a humorous dark side to him. Burton is one of the great movie makers. I think the world of him. He’s the most unassuming man. And he doesn’t feel pressure. That’s what I love about him. Once he’s in there, he’s smiling making the movie. That’s it!
(2011) I’ve had everything a man could ask for, but I don’t know if anyone could say I’m successful with affairs of the heart. I don’t know why. I would love that one last real romance. But I’m not very realistic about it happening. What I can’t deny is my yearning. I’ve been in love in my life, but it always starts with obsession that lasts exactly 18 months and then it changes. If I’d known and been prepared for that, I may have been able to orchestrate the whole relationship thing better…But when I’m with someone I’ve often defied every one of my conventions. I’ve been so struck I’ve said, “Come on, let’s go, let’s get married.” But no woman has ever recognized what I say as being legitimate. They think of my reputation, Jack the Jumper. I’m damned by what people think. Now I think I have a gap I won’t ever cross.
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