‘An over-the-top kind of guy’

Success stories intrigue me and I am always curious as to the reason that people become successful.

Not long ago, I saw a two-hour biography about Jack Nicholson, a movie legend and an American icon.

Strange that I would write about Jack Nicholson, but I love watching him and just get a kick out of him as an actor. What is it? Is it his timing, quirkiness, or humor that makes everyone love him? His closet friends say that no one really knows the real Jack and describe him as an over-the-top kind of guy.

I noticed different threads that wove through his career, making him stand out from others. Nicholson has had as many failures as successes. That was reassuring. I am sure we can all relate to that. His friends say that he was a genius even when the box office considered the movie a flop. The genius was because he took risks, choosing parts that were not popular and that could make or break his career. They all commented that he had great integrity towards the parts he chose, studying and discovering the fiber of the character until he brought that character over the top.

Who can call something a failure when it made him better? In the ’60s and his early years in film, he wanted to write and direct, so he left acting in order to write screen plays. After several failures, he went back into acting. Because of those experiences though, he had an intricate understanding about the work which made him a better actor.

Who can forget the quote of the decade, “You can’t handle the truth!” There were many moments when he took a line or two and turned the movie into a success. But whether he played a bit part, just a walk on, or more, the movie would revolve around him. He had a way of making even a small part become the most important scene in the movie.

Nicholson could have selected “safe” parts, but he always takes the risk, taking on parts that other actors shun away from. The parts didn’t have to be great, he made them great. He brought something to them that other average actors struggle to do.

His peers say he made no difference in treating everyone the same. The new kid on the block and the actor with an ego gets the same treatment. Nicholson understood the integrity of the whole. He had no trouble giving place to another actor. He could easily take the second billing only making his character equally as important.

As artists, we try new things, and some things work and some don’t. We keep moving forward, ignoring the failures, but always learning from them. Have we asked of ourselves to be satisfied with small opportunities, having integrity toward the whole of the situation, making them better than they are? Others will wonder why they missed the opportunity and wished that they had seen it first. Funny, it wasn’t that important until you made it important.

As artists, what can we learn from someone like Jack Nicholson? I believe that failures are necessary if we are going to reach beyond the general public’s opinion. He didn’t seem to notice the failures, because to him, he did what the part required. He took risks and continues to do so. He gives his all to any part, large or small. He is not difficult to work with, and does not use his fame to run over people. He plays the part over the top and is thereby unforgettable. He is flawed just like everyone else, but that doesn’t seem to matter in his success as an actor.

Final Brushstroke: We are all actors on the stage of life playing our part whether big or small. And if we can make it better than what it is, then hold on for the encore!.

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