When Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep first worked together a decade ago on ‘Heartburn' their director Mike Nichols was adamant that the two stars would not meet until their first moment before the cameras.
On film it resulted, according to the legendary Nicholson, in a sequence ‘electric with excitement'. Streep agrees but today reveals that Nicholson had, as she puts it, broken the ice before their supposed first encounter:
‘I was sitting in my trailer getting my hair curled and looking like hell and I get this knock on the door and he said:'' Hi, this is Jack Nicholson. Can I use your toilet?'' ‘
Nicholson remains hugely amused by the story broadcasting a grin that roars with mischief. She adores Nicholson and has made four movies with him, but nevertheless had to break the director's rule, had to rebel. The man with the satirical approach to macho has written his own script for decades.
Today, at nearly 60, he is the indispensable actor of modern American cinema. He is also one of the richest stars in Hollywood . ‘He's the mayor of the town,' says his friend and sometime co-star Harvey Keitel.
It's his talent that got him elected but most certainly his charm which has kept him in office. Arguably the world's most powerful actor he became a star with one film, ‘Easy Rider' in 1969, and with ‘Five Easy Pieces' a year later a leader of the 1970s New Wave movies. ‘ Chinatown ' in 1974 made him a millionaire and anointed him a superstar. He's played the part perfectly ever since.
He talks about retiring but he and everyone else knows that is just a little way of getting attention. He likes attention. Which he will be getting by delivering moviegoers a double helping of his talent over the next two weeks. Or rather, a hat trick of Nicholson.
In ‘Mars Attacks!' (Feb 28) he is the doltish U.S. President and a wonderful Las Vegas sleaze, a grinning goose bump of a real estate hustler. He's surrounded by a marvellous gathering of players including Glenn Close, Annette Bening, Danny DeVito,Sarah Jessica Parker, Pierce Brosnan, Rod Steiger,Tom Jones and Paul Winfield who says Nicholson inspired constant laugh attacks during filming: ‘He literally had us on the floor laughing -- he was having such a great time making fun of himself in the role'.
British screenwriter Jonathan Gems who director Tim Burton met while he was guiding Nicholson's Joker in ‘Batman' explained the key to getting the outrageous homage to 1950s sci-fi movies made:
‘When Jack signed on everything settled into place. He is that important to a movie. If he's on board so are the studio and all the rest that goes with it'. Indeed, Glenn Close and Annette Bening both said they took the film to work with Nicholson. Brosnan boasted: ‘I have one six page scene with the man'.