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Jack Nicholson, one of the greatest living American screen actors gave a press conference in Sydney. Accompanied by Greg Kinnear, his co-star in As Good As It Gets, and writer/directorJames L. Brooks, he revealed he nearly didn't take the part. Andrew L. Urban and Louise Keller report on the press conference.

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."

Greg Kinnear and James L. Brooks at the Sydney Press Conference
Photo by John Curtis - taken on a digital camera

As Good As It Gets has recently been nominated for six Golden Globe Awards:

  • Best Film
  • Best Actor
  • Best Actress
  • Best Supporting Actor
  • Best Screenplay
  • Best Director

February, 1998

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Jack Nicholson’s distinguished career includes Academy Awards for his work in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Terms of Endearment. Other memorable performances include A Few Good Men, Prizzi’s Honour, Batman, Chinatown, Easy Rider and more recently, Mars Attacks.


Greg Kinnear is best known to Australian audiences for his role as David Larrabee in the remake of Sabrina opposite Harrison Ford and Julia Ormond. He first came to prominence in the US as host of a late night television talk show and has recently starred in the comedy film, Dear God.


James L. Brooks’ feature film directorial debut, Terms of Endearment, resulted in three Academy Awards, including Best Film. His follow-up film, Broadcast News, was also nominated in the same category. He is also the producer of some of the most celebrated shows ever to hit the small screen including The Simpsons, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Rhoda and Taxi.



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