Jack Nicholson’s Greatest Performances - Opinion Piece

Fri 24/Feb/23

Jack Nicholson’s Greatest Performances - Opinion Piece


Widely regarded as one of the greatest American actors of all time, Jack Nicolson’s over 60 year career has seen him become one of only a handful of actors to be awarded 3 Academy Awards. We honour the screen legend by looking at two of his greatest roles, and recommending the books to go with them, both of which are available absolutely free via the Libby App. All you need is your library card.


One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest


One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest (1975)


Miloš Forman’s classic drama became only the second film to bag all 5 major Academy Awards (Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress & Best Screenplay) upon its release in 1975, including Nicholson’s first award for his portrayal of Randle McMurphy, a rabble rousing patient at a psychiatric hospital. At once uplifting and tragic, the film is noted for a number of outstanding performances aside from Nicholson’s. Most notable is Louise Fletcher’s portrayal of the sadistic nurse Ratched, a character so iconic she was the subject of a Netflix series focusing on her origins in 2020.


Just like the film, Ken Kasey’s 1962 novel of the same name focusses on McMurphy having himself transferred to a psychiatric institution to avoid a custodial sentence following a conviction. The plot is very similar to that in the film. The book is narrated by ‘Chief’ Bromden, the gentle giant Native American who presents as a deaf-mute and conspires with McMurphy to escape the unit.


Get your copy on Libby, by Overdrive here.


Ten Days That Shook the World


Reds (1981)


Warren Beatty’s epic labour of love chronicling the life of radical journalist John Reed, who documented the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution in his 1919 book Ten Days That Shook the World. The film was co-written, directed and produced by Beatty. Nicholson stars as playwright Eugene O’Neill who, along with Reed and socialite Louise Bryant (played by Diane Keaton), are part of a group of radical artists and activists based in Greenwich Village, New York City. They soon become embroiled in a complicated love triangle, complicated further by Reed and Bryant becoming involved in the Bolshevik Revolution and the early days of the Soviet state. Nicholson’s performance marries magnetic charm with an underlying menace and earned him another Oscar nomination.


John Reed’s real life account of the Russian Revolution was both celebrated and condemned upon its release in 1919, and while Reed’s self declared partisanship means it is far from an objective account of events, Reed was a journalist, not a historian, and his intimate access to some of the major figures of the Revolution and the trust placed in him by them, makes this an invaluable look at one of the most seismic events in human history.

Get your copy on Libby, by Overdrive here.