Jack Nicholson Once Turned to Comedy Films to Avoid ‘Depressing People’

Actor Jack Nicholson was once known for doing a variety of movies back in his heyday. But there came a point where the Hollywood icon gravitated more towards comedy films than other genres.

This was a deliberate choice made by Nicholson, who was reluctant to do dramas after a while.

Jack Nicholson once shared he liked to ‘mix it up’ when it came to his film roles

Jack Nicholson at the AFI Lifetime Achievement Awards
Jack Nicholson | Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

Nicholson’s versatility as an actor has contributed much to his career success. From horror films like The Shinning to dramas like A Few Good Men, the superstar has shown his range isn’t limited to one genre.

From the beginning of his career, it became important for Nicholson to have variety in his work. If only because he didn’t want to be pigeon-holed as a particular type of actor.

“Almost by training, I like to mix it up. I did the Joker not for a commercial success but because I wanted to work in a mask. I don’t wanna get trapped doing one kind of thing. When people start understanding me too quickly, I start behaving oddly. I try to put them off,” he once said in an interview with Roger Ebert.

Nicholson felt maintaining this versatility helped him avoid being complacent, which he believed many successful actors would become.

“The terrible thing for American actors is, if they have a success, everyone that they collaborate with wants them to repeat that success. And then maybe they’re successful again and they repeat it again,” Nicholson continued. “By the third or fourth time, it begins to wear thin. So now they try a departure from the formula, and if it doesn’t work, they’re dead. They have to go back to repeating what they did they once worked. Years go by. They may never get free again.”

Jack Nicholson stopped doing comedies because he didn’t want to depress audiences

With the exception of a few movies like The Departed, the early 2000s saw Nicholson starring in lighter comedy films. In 2002 and 2003 he acted in About Schmidt, Something’s Gotta Give, and Anger Management all in a row. Nicholson revealed that this was a deliberate choice he made that was motivated by a national tragedy.

“The way I reacted to 9/11 was I decided I didn’t want to do any movies that are sad or critical. I decided I didn’t want to make my living depressing people or making them go home sick, so I just decided I wanted to do comedy for a while and study it for a while. It doesn’t mean everybody should do that, but that was my reaction,” he once said in an interview with Total Film.

After he made this decision, Nicholson developed a strategy when pursuing his newfound comedy career. The plan simply consisted of putting a lot of smiles on people’s faces.

“With the exception of The Departed,” Nicholson once said in an interview with Independent. “Since then, I have done five or six comedies in a row.”

Jack Nicholson didn’t let his darker roles get to him

Despite his reasons for doing more comedic films, Nicholson shared that playing dark characters didn’t really influence him. The Batman star didn’t use too much method acting to get into the head-space of his roles. This allowed him to slip in and out of his characters on a whim with little difficulty.

“No, I’ve been around a long time in this business and I’ve never believed in getting so wrapped up in a character that I take on his moods. We all have a lot of different emotions rattling around inside our heads and it’s simply a question of digging up what you need and using that for the benefit of the part you’re playing,” he once said in an interview with Cinema.

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