Watch: Jack Nicholson explains why he turned down 2 iconic roles in vintage interview


It’s hard to believe it’s been over a decade since we’ve seen Jack Nicholson in a film. Nicholson, arguably one of the biggest movie stars of all-time, dominated the movie screens of the 70s, 80s, 90s, and beyond.

The actor, director, and producer appeared in some of the biggest movies of the past two centuries — but his 85th birthday saw an old interview go viral, one that saw him explain why he turned down to undisputed cinematic classics.

All the Right Movies recently posted a clip from an 80s-era interview with Jack and the interviewer points out that Nicholson turned down principal roles in not only the widely acclaimed and highly profitable con artist movie The Sting, but also a part in what is often praised as the greatest film ever made, The Godfather.

Explaining his thoughts on the matter, Nicholson points out that he was, by that point in his career, well aware that both movies would be successful. His reasons had nothing to do with money or acclaim. “I happen to think [The] Last Detail and Chinatown are… to me they were the more interesting of the films.”

The man has a fair point. Though certainly not as widely praised as The Godfather (face it, what is?), Chinatown, despite its problematic director, is still widely regarded as a cinematic masterpiece and in many ways protagonist Jake Gittes, is Nicholson’s signature role.

The Last Detail is much less known than The Sting, but Nicholson’s performance as Signalman 1st Class Billy L. “Badass” Buddusky is often praised as one of his finest, while it also offered him the opportunity to work with the legendary Hal Ashby, director of Harold and Maude and Shampoo.

Another reason Nicholson did without a role in The Godfather is for a reason more in keeping with this era than that of the 1970s. Nicholson felt the role (presumably that of Michael Corleone, played in the film by Al Pacino) should go to an Italian-American.

In any case, his decisions didn’t exactly tarnish his star or prevent him from another few decades worth of hit movies, with the screen legend and three-time Oscar winner currently enjoying his self-imposed exile.