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Jack Nicholson

Jack Nicholson: The Early Years

Robert Crane
Christopher Fryer
Series: Screen Classics
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 248
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  • Book Info
    Jack Nicholson
    Book Description:

    Originally published as Jack Nicholson: Face to Face in 1975, Jack Nicholson: The Early Years is the first book written about the enigmatic star and the only one to have Nicholson's participation. In 1975 Nicholson was just becoming a household name in spite of having already starred in, written or produced 25 films including classics such as Easy Rider (1969), Five Easy Pieces (1970), The Last Detail (1973) and Chinatown (1974). To date, Nicholson has been nominated for twelve Academy Awards and won three, has garnered seven Golden Globe awards, and took home the American Film Institute's Life Achievement Award at the age of 57.

    Authors Robert Crane and Christopher Fryer interviewed Nicholson for what began as a thesis for a University of Southern California film class but which quickly morphed into a larger portrait of Nicholson's unique craft. Crane and Fryer conducted their interviews with Nicholson with the intent of showcasing the young star as he saw himself, while also interviewing many of Nicholson's close friends and fellow filmmakers, including Dennis Hopper, Roger Corman, Hal Ashby, Ann-Margret, Robert Evans and Bruce Dern, providing a comprehensive profile of the actor's early years in the industry. The result is a true insider's look at Nicholson not only as a writer, director and actor, but also offers insights into a private man's private life. Jack Nicholson: The Early Years stands as a testament to his incredible success in Hollywood.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-3639-4
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[vi])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [vii]-[viii])
  3. Introduction to the Paperback Edition
    (pp. 1-6)

    Sometimes it’s good to be naive. Perhaps more than anything our original book,Jack Nicholson: Face to Face,was a result of youthful naïveté, an unfettered notion that a couple of twenty-year-old film students could call Jack Nicholson on the phone and then spend several days talking movies with him in his living room. Our attitude was, “How could he possibly say no?” Our guilelessness was accompanied by a boisterous enthusiasm and passion for the New American Cinema that was coming of age just as we were.

    In 1969 there were no multiplex cinemas. Any film of conscience or consequence...

  4. Jack Nicholson: First Interview
    (pp. 7-26)
    Jack Nicholson

    The varied and highly successful film career of Jack Nicholson began in 1958 withThe Cry Baby Killer.Before that, the native of Neptune, New Jersey, bounced around studios, doing odd jobs and occasional television shows, such asDivorce CourtandMatinee Theatre.After doingThe Cry Baby Killer,Nicholson was featured in a series of psycho-exploitation films with titles likeThe Little Shop of Horrors, Too Soon to Love, The Terror,andThe Wild Ride.In the latter film, Nicholson first became acquainted with Monte Hellman, who was a significant influence behind Nicholson’s venture into film production. Together, in...

  5. Roger Corman
    (pp. 27-34)
    Roger Corman

    One of the necessary stops for a young actor or director in Hollywood was to work on a Roger Corman project. Jack Nicholson, of course, is the most famous alumnus of Corman films, having appeared inThe Little Shop of Horrors, The Raven,andThe Terror,among others, and having writtenThe Trip.Writer-director Francis Ford Coppola (The Godfather, Patton, The Great Gatsby) wrote and directed his first feature-length film,Dementia 13,under Corman’s supervision in 1963. Peter Bogdanovich (The Last Picture Show, What’s Up, Doc?) worked as an assistant to Corman onThe Wild Angels,and later was given...

  6. Karen Black
    (pp. 35-44)
    Karen Black

    Karen Black worked with Jack Nicholson on several occasions. She was seen briefly inEasy Rideras one of the prostitutes in the New Orleans cathouse who tripped out with Hopper and Fonda on LSD. She didn’t really have any scenes with Jack, so they saw each other very little. A year later Black played Nicholson’s leading lady inFive Easy Pieces.Her performance as the naive but loving Rayette Dipesto opposite Jack’s scolding Bobby Dupea was quite touching. She later appeared in Nicholson’s own film,Drive, He Said,where she played Olive, a lady mixed up in two ultimately...

  7. Richard Rush
    (pp. 45-54)
    Richard Rush

    Richard Rush was an integral part of Jack Nicholson’s development as an actor. Very early in Jack’s career, Rush directed him in a controversial film about abortion,Too Soon to Love.Though this film went virtually unnoticed (as many of Jack’s early films did), it was the first in a trilogy of free spirited, socially conscious appraisals of then-current phenomena. Producers tend to label this genre “now movies.”

    In 1967 Rush directed Nicholson again inHells Angels on Wheels,a much better film than the title suggests. It was at this point that Nicholson first suggested glimpses of a future...

  8. Jeremy Larner
    (pp. 55-58)
    Jeremy Larner

    It is hard to describe Jeremy Larner’s appearance because we never saw him.

    Larner was always behind some project but never out in front. He was a speech writer for Eugene McCarthy during his campaign in 1968. Many of Larner’s experiences on the political trail were transformed into his screenplay forThe Candidate,which starred Robert Redford. Larner won the Oscar for best original screenplay.

    In 1970 Jack Nicholson chose a fairly obscure, yet controversial, novel to make his directorial debut in film. The novel, Larner’sDrive, He Said,was a character study of an eclectic group of people at...

  9. Bruce Dern
    (pp. 59-78)
    Bruce Dern

    Bruce Dern gained widespread popularity for killing John Wayne. He did it in the Mark Rydell filmThe Cowboys,where he played a lunatic cattle rustler.

    Dern, like his good friend Jack Nicholson, became an overnight success after about ten years in the business. He rose to stardom through a lot of low-budget horror and exploitation films and by playing numerous small roles in major films. In the first category there were films likeThe Trip, Hush . . . Hush Sweet Charlotte,andThe Wild Angelswith Peter Fonda. And in the second there wereWaterhole #3, Will Penny...

  10. Jack H. Harris
    (pp. 79-82)
    Jack H. Harris

    A great deal of the time spent on this book was done so in a search for pictures and materials from Jack Nicholson’s films. Jack Harris was the producer who distributed the two Jack Nicholson–Monte Hellman WesternsRide in the WhirlwindandThe Shooting,and he not only granted us permission to use the stills and posters from those films but also graciously agreed to be interviewed. Some of the other Jack H. Harris productions includeDinosaurusi, The Blob(which starred Steve McQueen), the 1968 Claude Chabrol filmLes Biches,and a series of films titledThe Oldest Profession....

  11. Sally Struthers
    (pp. 83-90)
    Sally Struthers

    Though she was on the screen for less than five minutes inFive Easy Pieces,we felt that Sally Struthers would be able to give us an interesting point of view about Jack Nicholson. She did not know him prior to the film, and only worked with him for what amounted to about a week. In that short period, however, she was able to make some definite observations about the man.

    Struthers is probably best known for her portrayal of Gloria Stivik, Archie Bunker’s daughter, on television’s miracle showAll in the Family.Before that she was seen as the...

  12. Illustrations
    (pp. None)
  13. Dennis Hopper
    (pp. 91-98)
    Dennis Hopper

    From 1965 to 1974 there was perhaps no American film that had as significant an effect on filmmaking and filmgoers asEasy Rider.Certainly the instrumental force behind this monstrous success was writer-director-star Dennis Hopper. Besides receiving two Academy Award nominations, the picture grossed in the neighborhood of $60 million.

    Hopper, who was born in Dodge City, Kansas, made his acting debut at the age of eighteen inRebel Without a Causewith James Dean. Hopper worked with Dean again in 1956 in George Stevens’sGiant.It was during the shooting ofFrom Hell to Texasin 1958 that he...

  14. Ann-Margret
    (pp. 99-106)

    It took a long time, but Ann-Margret finally put down her sex-kitten image and began to emerge as a serious actress. The public and the industry’s recognition of this metamorphosis came after her fine performance as Bobbie opposite Jack Nicholson’s Jonathan inCarnal Knowledge.For her role she won an Academy Award nomination in the Best Supporting Actress category.

    Up untilCarnal Knowledge,Ann-Margret had starred in a great many films, but none that were ever really taken seriously. Her early films includedPocketful of Miracles, State Fair,and 1963’sBye Bye Birdie,the last bringing Ann-Margret well into the...

  15. Monte Hellman
    (pp. 107-112)
    Monte Hellman

    Unknown in his own country to all but a small handful of film buffs, though wildly praised in France, Monte Hellman was one of a number of American directors to have his reputation made in Europe.

    His association with Jack Nicholson produced four of his films from 1964 to 1966. In 1964 Hellman traveled to the Philippines with Nicholson to direct him inBack Door to HellandFlight to Fury,which Nicholson also wrote.

    In 1965 he produced, directed, and edited back-to-back films starring Nicholson: two European-flavored Westerns written by Adrien Joyce (Carole Eastman) and Nicholson. The two films,...

  16. Henry Jaglom
    (pp. 113-130)
    Henry Jaglom

    Henry Jaglom and Jack Nicholson have been friends for a long time, and when we approached him about doing an interview, he was happy to oblige us with his insights into Jack’s character.

    Jaglom, a member of the Actors Studio, received many fine reviews for his cinematic exposé of the female mind,A Safe Place,in which Nicholson costarred. Jaglom wrote and directed this picture, which in addition to Nicholson starred Orson Welles, Tuesday Weld, and Philip Proctor.

    ThoughA Safe Placewas the first film that Jaglom made himself, it wasn’t the first time that he and Nicholson had...

  17. Mitzi McCall
    (pp. 131-134)
    Mitzi McCall

    Our interview with comedienne Mitzi McCall came about purely through coincidence when we arrived at the Sahara Tahoe to interview Ann-Margret. We were met in the hotel’s posh lounge by Allan Carr and were taken immediately backstage to meet the other people connected with the Ann-Margret Show—among them the comedy team of Mitzi McCall and Charlie Brill. They were a very funny opening act for the show. As we got to talking about why we were there, the pixieish McCall announced that she had once been in a film with Jack Nicholson. On further questioning, we discovered that the...

  18. William Tepper
    (pp. 135-142)
    William Tepper

    Drive, He Saidoffered filmgoers two “firsts”: Jack Nicholson’s directorial debut, and the rookie performance of a promising young actor, William Tepper.

    Tepper is truly representative of the seventies film personality. A graduate of a university film school, he wrote a few unproduced screenplays. He also wrote and directed a short film. He proved to be a natural and multifaceted actor inDrive, He Said. At the time of the interview, Tepper was in the process of getting ready to go to Europe for a film.

    After a few phone conversations between Tepper, his agent, and ourselves, our interview was...

  19. Hal Ashby
    (pp. 143-150)
    Hal Ashby

    To see a gray-bearded Hal Ashby sitting cross-legged on top of his bed on the second floor of his home high atop Laurel Canyon suggested a misplaced guru.

    Ashby was, in fact, a film editor turned director. He had a long and successful association with Norman Jewison that culminated with winning the Academy Award in 1967 for editingIn the Heat of the Night.In 1969 Jewison produced Ashby’s directorial debut,The Landlord,which was critically acclaimed but did only fair business at the box office. In 1971 his second film,Harold and Maude,was released to a totally lesser...

  20. Robert Evans
    (pp. 151-158)
    Robert Evans

    Many people in the film industry may be inclined to say that Robert Evans almost single-handedly saved Paramount Pictures from dissolution when he became the company’s executive vice president in charge of worldwide production. During his tenure, Paramount produced such landmark hits asThe Godfather, Love Story, Goodbye, Columbus, True Grit, The Odd Couple, Rosemary’s Baby, Lady Sings the Blues, Paper Moon, Serpico,andGodfather II.

    At the age of twenty, Evans was a long way from the motion picture industry as he joined his brother Charles and Joseph Picone as a partner in their rapidly growing clothes firm, Evan-Picone,...

  21. Jack Nicholson: Second Interview
    (pp. 159-170)
    Jack Nicholson

    On the spur of the moment we arranged to do a second interview with Nicholson. He was leaving the next day for a month’s vacation in Colorado.

    Sunning herself on the front porch as we drove up was Helena Kallianiotes (the talkative hitchhiker fromFive Easy Pieces). She escorted us into the living room, where we set up our equipment while waiting for Jack to come downstairs. As always, Jack was comfortably dressed. He was wearing a terry-cloth wraparound and an open shirt, but this time he was sporting a full beard.

    Whereas the first interview was more film oriented,...

  22. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 171-172)
  23. Filmography
    (pp. 173-202)
  24. Index
    (pp. 203-214)
  25. Back Matter
    (pp. 215-216)