Jack Nicholson - RP McMurphy, One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)
Wild Jack, Crazy Jack, Jack the Lad: the Nicholson myth is founded on madness, deranged, eye-bulging Looney Tunes insanity that’s spilled off the screen into his private life.
It all stems from his star turn in this ensemble drama, a potent antiestablishment allegory in which – ironic, this – Mad Jack plays the only sane man on a mental ward. Bucking against the powers that be - personified by Louise Fletcher’s steely ice queen Nurse Ratched – Nicholson’s wild-haired, wild-eyed, grinning rapscallion helps the inmates take over the asylum.
Billeted in a real-life asylum during the production (“It was basically being an inmate – with dinner privileges out”) Nicholson chatted to nutters and even watched some electroshock therapy.
Did he learn much? Not really. Most of McMurphy comes from within. Nicholson plays him as a braggart and a brawler, scoring bonus points for getting the tough guy details just right.
Greatest moment: Failing to lift the hydro therapy sink: “Well I tried, goddamit. At least I did that.”
Also see: George Hanson (Easy Rider), Robert Dupea (Five Easy Pieces), David Staebler (The King Of Marvin Gardens), Billy ‘Bad Ass’ Buddusky (The Last Detail), Jake Gittes (Chinatown), Jack Torrance (The Shining), The Joker (Batman), Warren Schmidt (About Schmidt).