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Jackthe lad

An Oscar cert for As Good As It Gets, JACK NICHOLSON has turned decades of playing the wolfish rogue into something of an artform. Words: Hannah Fries

At the 1993 Academy Awards, Billy Crystal introduced the presenter of the Best Picture Oscar. He only said ‘Jaek’. and everybody knew who was coming. Jack Nicholson is a legend. and it is now impossible to conceive of him any other way. To be in his presence is to go weak at the knees and marvel at his subversive wit. his coruscating charm. his roguish nobility. Nicholson the actor is paradoxically wicked and loveable. dangerous and vulnerable. But when you meet these qualities in the flesh. it is astonishing. as if Jack Nicholson were playing himself before your eyes.

He arrives for the interview wearing shades and. once seated. smokes like Humphrey Bogart reincarnate. He sits there for half an hour and when he leaves, you realise that he has eluded you with his wit. ‘I like to think of myself as like Lamont Cranston.’ he says. referring to the real identity of fictional character The Shadow. ‘l’m right here. but you can’t see me. That’s part of what’s attractive about the job.’

His answers hint at something personal, but are often only jokes that play to the crowd. For example, on the subject of manners he says: ‘I rather jump from immaculately polite to violent. There’s not much rudeness in between. Rude is for amateurs.’ Growling laconically. he does admit to being attracted to devilish parts. ‘I can’t be 30- years-old any more.’ he concedes. ‘and in that respect there’s a certain limitation on me now. I don’t want to play the judge. There’s no devil in him.’

When he watches his old films. Nicholson is either appalled or ‘once again in love with myself’. but insists on giving writers their due. ‘l’d like to take the credit.’ he says of his latest role. as an obsessive- compulsive misanthrope embarking on an unlikely affair in As Good As It Gets. ‘but. after all. this is one of the best parts I’ve ever been offered.’

And he’s never boastful except. of course. by design: ‘When somebody has a script that has some literary resonance. I think most directors would be interested in working with me. because of the way I have designed what I do. because I don’t eliminate

lack Nicholson

’l rather jump from immaculately polite to violent. There’s not much rudeness in between. Rude is for amateurs.’

Devil may care: Jack Nicholson in As Good As It Gets

something for them.’

Although Nicholson’s appetite for challenging. character-driven scripts has led him to Oscars for One Flew Over The Cuckoo 's Nest and Terms Of Endearmenr. as well as another Best Actor nomination this year. he is not overly awed by awards. Or. for that matter. by Katherine Hepburn. on whose all-time Oscar nominations record Nicholson is closing.

‘I don’t compete with women.’ he drawls. deadpan. “And if I was going to pick someone to beat. it wouldn’t be Katherine Hepburn. I can assure you of that. Basically all awards are false. But I’m a clown. not a mystic. and I enjoy it. I love glamour and I always love the evenings. My idea of a great evening is to be nominated for an Academy Award and know that I am not going to win. Because l’ll have a fantastic night with people 1 don’t really see much. and it’s very relaxed and fabulous.’

We might be hoping he wins. but if we are denied the pleasure of seeing him on stage. there may yet be future acceptance speeches to look forward to. Nicholson is 6| this year. but has no plans to retire. Why not? ‘I feel you’d miss me. honey.’ he replies. The devil. (Hannah Fries)

General release from Fri 13 Mar. See review.

Rough cuts

The column that knows where to stick its Oscars.

THE ACADEMY AWARDS will be a bit more keenly regarded by the British film industry this year, with four of the five Best Actress nominees hailing from these isles (including top tip Judi Dench for BBC Scotland's Mrs Brown) and The Full Monty proving a dark horse in the Best Film category. So if you want to experience a bit of atmosphere and excitement. don't watch them at home: get along the Filmhouse in Edinburgh for the annual all-night Oscars party in aid of Cruisaid Scotland.

The event begins at 9pm on the evening of Mon 23 Mar. As well as live broadcast of the ceremony in the late-night bar, two as-yet- unreleased films will be screened - Pedro Almodovar's steamy crime melodrama Live Flesh and Shall We Dance?. a feelgood Japanese movie that scored a surprise hit at the US box office. There's also an auction of movie memorabilia, which this year includes items from Titanic and Event Horizon, and personal donations from stars such as Susan Sarandon. Glamour is the name of the game. so get dolled up and cheer on your favourites. Tickets, costing £15, are available now from Filmhouse.

DISAPPOINTED THAT TARANTINO'S latest flick, Jackie Brown. doesn't receive a Scottish release until Fri 10 Apr? Then get your blaxploitation fix as the Fleapit Film Club makes has its first screening at Glasgow‘s King Tut's. Shaft is the cool dude in question. and he’s diggin' it on Wed 18 Mar. Contact Fleapit at PO Box 4711, Glasgow, G12 8YF or for details about tickets.

And the winner is: who'll join Mel Gibson in Oscar glory this year?

6—19 Mar 1998 THEUSTTI