University News

Nicholson, panel give behind-the-scenes insight

By
Senior Staff Writer
Sunday, April 26, 2009

A star-studded panel featuring actor Jack Nicholson P’12, producer Robert Evans and Paramount CEO Brad Grey P’10 P’12 spoke to a full Salomon 101 on Saturday to discuss the roles of individuals in the movie-making process.

Between questions from producer and panel moderator Peter Bart, several lengthy clips from the Hollywood stars’ film careers were played, after which the panelists explained the process that had led to that scene.

Grey spoke about producing the HBO series “The Sopranos,” a television show which “absolutely defined a moment in history” according to Bart. Grey said his initial involvement was financially motivated. “I was really greedy and wanted to make a lot of money,” he added.

While on the topic of films about the Mafia, Evans – who was the head of Paramount Pictures during the production of “The Godfather” – said he pushed for Italian-American director Francis Ford Coppola for the Oscar-winning 1972 film because many other mobster movies were “made by Jews.”

Nicholson added that he was offered a role in The Godfather, but “I turned it down.”

Nicholson later spoke about his iconic role as the alcoholic lawyer George Hanson in 1969’s “Easy Rider.” Though he said he thought “a moron could play this part” after reading the script, he added that he is still grateful to the film because “it made (him) a movie star.”

Still, not everything with the film went well. After laying in a jail cell for a scene, Nicholson said, “I had lice for a month.”

Nicholson’s presence on Saturday was a “rare treat,” said Bart, since the star infrequently does panel appearances and dislikes missing the Los Angeles Lakers, who played the Utah Jazz in a playoff game Saturday night.

Nicholson had many other entertaining stories to share with the audience. After viewing a clip of “The Departed” in which his character pulls a gun on Leonardo DiCaprio’s character, Nicholson said he had arranged for the prop man to bring him the gun and neither DiCaprio nor director Martin Scorsese knew about the improvisation.

As for the 1974 psychological drama “Chinatown,” produced by Evans and starring Nicholson, Nicholson joked about the fedora he wears throughout the film. 

“No actor ever checks their hat in the back,” he said, but Nicholson had always prided himself on making sure his hats were properly arranged in the back of his head. However, after one scene with water, the hat became wet and shrunk, so for the rest of the film, it failed to cover his head properly.

The panel also discussed the inner workings of Hollywood and the films “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” “Harold and Maude,” “Babel” and the 1989 version of “Batman.”

After discussion, the panel opened the floor to questions, most of which were directed at Nicholson.

When asked about his favorite role, Nicholson said, “I think they’re all good.”

Later, responding to a question about which actor he would like to work with, he said he would prefer not to make a list, adding, “you don’t want to hurt your employment chances.”

As for the most difficult part of the job, Nicholson said it was early wake-up calls. “Once you’re there (on the set), it’s a ball … but I’m no good at nine in the morning. Although I don’t know how much better I am at noon.”

Nicholson did not confine his opinions to cinema. After speaking about The Godfather, he added, “I think Brown was wrong to eliminate Columbus Day.”

The panel was the keynote event for the Ivy Film Festival, which concludes Sunday.