Jack Nicholson: Roles He Missed That Other Actors Made Famous

Jack Nicholson: Roles He Missed That Other Actors Made Famous
By Richard Risemberg | Wednesday, 23 Dec 2015 05:01 PM


Beginning with the famous sandwich rant in “Five Easy Pieces,” Jack Nicholson has also portrayed maniacs, drunks, and losers (sometimes all in one character) in ways that somehow imbue them with charm.

Indisputably a famous movie star, the list of Jack Nicholson roles on IMDb stretches to 74 films ”“ and that doesn’t count voice work or production credits.

From “Easy Rider” to “The Shining” to “The Bucket List,” Nicholson has defined elegance in mayhem, logging his final listing in 2010’s “How Do You Know.”

But one of Hollywood’s hardest-working actors didn’t always get the part. Among many blockbusters, here’s a short list of famous roles that almost featured Jack Nicholson:

“The Graduate” (1967)

Would Nicholson have done a better job than Dustin Hoffman in this strange, sad film? He would certainly have been different.

“The Godfather” (1972)

Jack Nicholson turned down the part of Michael Corleone, which turned out to be a role of a lifetime for Al Pacino.

According to The Sun, Nicholson turned down the job because he felt it wasn’t a fit for him.

“I knew ‘The Godfather’ was going to be a great film, but at that time I believed Indians should play roles written for Indians and Italians should do the same,” said Nicholson.

“The Great Gatsby” (1974)

Jack Nicholson was considered for the title role in this 1974 production of Fitzgerald’s great novel, but ultimately the part went to Robert Redford.

Despite rejecting the role of Jay Gatsby to do “The Passenger,” Nicholson felt he was a better fit for the character than Redford, according to Jack Nicholson biographer Patrick McGilligan.

“Gatsby tugged at Nicholson the hardest. ‘I think I was righter than Bob Redford,’ Jack would say ruefully years later, ‘He looks like a privileged person. He would not worry about chopping his way up. He would not worry about being well-groomed,'” McGilligan wrote.

“Apocalypse Now” (1979)

Nicholson actually turned down the lead role of Willard in Francis Ford Coppola’s sprawling reimagining of Joseph Conrad’s novella, “Heart of Darkness.”

The part went to Martin Sheen instead, whose seriousness in the role was perhaps more appropriate for this unremittingly dark and philosophical war story.

“Down and Out in Beverly Hills” (1986)

Jack Nicholson was offered the role of the homeless man Jerry Baskin, but was already contracted to work another film with an overlapping production schedule, according to director Paul Mazursky.

Nick Nolte played the role in the Golden Globe-nominated comedy instead. The film which also starred Bette Midler, who was also nominated for a Golden Globe for her performance, and Richard Dreyfuss. The film, a comback of sorts for the three actors, was nominated by The Casting Society of America for Best Casting for Feature Film, Comedy, according to IMDb.

“Hoosiers” (1986)

As a courtside fixture at Lakers games, Nicholson was interested in role of mercurial Indiana high school basketball coach Norman Dale, but reportedly backed out because of scheduling conflicts.

According to the Los Angeles Times, “Hoosiers” director David Anspaugh and Nicholson later shared a laugh at what wasn’t meant to be.

“Anspaugh says he once told Nicholson that he always wondered how the film would have turned out if he had taken the role. Nicholson raised an eyebrow, wrapped an arm around Anspaugh and replied, ‘A mega-hit, kid. A mega-hit,'” reported Mike Penner of the L.A. Times.

Gene Hackman, who landed the role of Dale, created one of the most beloved performances of his career.

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