Warren R. Schmidt, the protagonist of Alexander Payne’s 2002 play “About Schmidt,” is a major departure for actor Jack Nicholson. Throughout his career, Nicholson has played a wide variety of roles that are intense, sometimes even broad. Even when he plays professional characters or plays lead roles, he carries with him an intense intellect, a confidence, a terrifying latent rage that often finds his characters popular. intense and high.
Schmidt is perhaps the only time Nicholson plays a character defined by his simplicity. Warren Schmidt is a man of habit. He works in a room smaller than a gray box. His home is a clean, luxurious mausoleum erected by his pepper-pot wife (June Squibb). When Warren quit his job as an actuary, he was at a loss. When his wife died, he was not too sad because he was pushed into an empty scene. Looks like his only break is a TV commercial from US Plan that begs him to send money and letters to an impoverished child in Tanzania. Oh yes, and his daughter (Hope Davis) – whom he somewhat shuns – is getting married and needs his presence. Warren, perhaps for the first time in his life, begins to simmer with resentment that can only be spoken aloud before the movie ends.
No one knows more about the career departure that “Schmidt” represents than Nicholson. In a 2008 interview with the Independent, he talks about leaving not only about the emotional, but also about the physical bravery that “Schmidt” needs in him. It was one of the first films where he, then 65, dared look old.
What if I have trouble?
The interviewer introduced Rob Reiner’s 2007 best friend comedy “The Bucket List” as a new wrinkle in Nicholson’s career. In that film, he plays a man diagnosed with cancer who decides to write down a list of experiences he wants to have before he dies. A scene from “The Bucket List” featured Nicholson wearing make-up to look extremely sick, pale-skinned and thin. Nicholson points out that intentionally looking messy is something he also had to learn to do with “Schmidt” about five years earlier. He say:
“I did look better, I agree. I also had that experience on ‘About Schmidt.’ I really got into a mess with that picture and every day I look in that mirror and think, in horror: ‘What if I got stuck in this character? What would happen? out if I can’t come back to me?’ Then I guess I’ve always looked like the extreme up there.”
Schmidt, as an actor can understand him, is an insidious character. It’s not that he wants to harm the characters around him, but rather insidious in the way he can hack into a performer’s DNA. He doesn’t talk much, with much of his emotional experience still uncomfortably tucked in. Warren Schmidt’s inability to express his feelings – with the exception of a boy in Tanzania he has never met – can leave an actor feeling “stuck inside”, as it is.
Beautiful Jack Nicholson
Jack Nicholson, while extremely charming, is rarely asked to play flashy, glamorous characters. He’s certainly played many compelling characters, but he was never cast as the square Indiana Jones-style matinee hero. However, he recalls a time when the director asked him to play a beautiful boy, and it was a very small role in a very strange movie:
“In my entire career, there’s only been one time when a director said to me, ‘Okay, get off the camera and look beautiful, Jack.’ That’s Ken Russell from the movie ‘Tommy.’ But movies only take away your dignity. The last thing you want to do is be self-conscious about it, that kills everything.”
“Tommy” is a 1975 rock opera film based on the album by The Who. In “Tommy,” the protagonist becomes deaf, dumb, and blind as he witnesses his mother, played by Ann-Margret, in Oliver Reed’s arms. Nicholson plays a doctor called in to assess the boy’s sudden condition. This may be one of the only times you’ll see Nicholson sing on screen. Leave it to a notoriously bad director like Ken Russell to harness the unknown erotic powers of Jack Nicholson.
But Nicholson’s comment on the loss of dignity is the most interesting of all. He always seems to be willing to put aside the composure of a movie star for the role. Perhaps Schmidt was the first time he was able to let it all go. It definitely shows. One can’t get past the final moment of “About Schmidt” – Nicholson’s close-up – and not get emotional.
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