SYDNEY: Monday January 12, 1998
– 15.00 EADST:
Jack Nicholson revealed today that it was only his admiration and
respect for writer/director James L. Brooks that convinced him to
take the role of Melvin Udall in As Good As It Gets, a role for
which Nicholson has already received a Best Actor Golden Globe nomination.
At the press conference just concluded in Sydney, Nicholson
praised Brooks, who was sitting on his right: "I’ve
always thought of Jim as one of the best scriptwriters. He’s
a very important filmmaker." If it wasn’t for that
belief, Nicholson may not have taken the role, after reading the
first draft, which was written by another writer before Brooks
took on the project.
"After a while in this business," said Nicholson,
"you start to feel a bit . . . you know, what’s it all
about, Alfie. . ."
Relaxed and flashing the infamous Nicholson grin with benign
generosity, Nicholson was dressed in a suit and tie, being at
once entertaining and sincere. To everyone’s credit at
Columbia TriStar, as well as to the stars, the press conference
went according to schedule, and was notable for its good humour.
Greg Kinnear, who admitted to losing at golf to Nicholson the
day before, said he learnt a lot from working with Nicholson,
"but not by way of him taking me aside and saying, This is
how you do this. I learnt by his example. He’s very
professional and very generous."
Kinnear related how in one scene where Nicholson’s Melvin
tells Kinnear’s Simon (a gay artist and neighbour)
"Don’t ever bother me again . . not ever, ever, ever,
ever, ever." Kinnear said he was standing facing Nicholson
with the camera behind him over his shoulder, and he "just
lost it. . . I had tears pouring down my cheeks. Afterwards, I
apologised to Jack, but he said, ‘No, that was great, it
gave me something to work off.’"
Responding to our question about writing the screenplay,
Brooks confirmed he had written Udall with Nicholson in mind. He
went on to explain that casting the character of Simon was the
hardest casting job he had ever undertaken, for reasons that
aren’t altogether clear. What clinched it for Greg Kinnear?
"He just nailed the character," said Brooks.
When asked if he agreed with some critics who have compared LA
Confidential with Nicholson’s film, Chinatown, Nicholson
slid into diplomacy, citing the old saying that "all
comparisons are odious . . . I’d prefer you compared it to
The Two Jakes. . ." to the amusement of the 100 journalists
and 20 photographers gathered in the staid Treasury Room of
Sydney’s InterContinental Hotel.
Speaking of the photographers, Nicholson fielded a question
about his feelings towards papparazzi, he said "As long as
the children aren’t involved, the thing that’s
important is no bad pictures!"
One tv reporter asked Nicholson if he was nicer in real life
than Melvin Udall, the rumbuctious romance novelist of As Good As
It Gets, or indeed any of his screen characters. Nicholson
grinned: "I’m much nicer."