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Jack Nicholson in Supporting Roles: 5 Times Star Shined Without Being Lead Actor

Image: Jack Nicholson in Supporting Roles: 5 Times Star Shined Without Being Lead Actor
The stars and director of the film "A few good men" pose together after winning two peoples choice awards for fave dramatic movie and for fave movie. Shown (L-R) are Jack Nicholson, Tom Cruise, Demi Moore and the film's director Rob Reiner. (Fred Prouser/Reuters/Landov)  

By    |   Tuesday, 24 Mar 2015 07:09 PM

Jack Nicholson doesn't always have to be cast as the lead actor to shine on film.

Here are five stellar supporting performances that prove the star can turn any role, no matter how small, into a scene-stealer.

1. “A Few Good Men” (1992)

Who among us isn’t familiar with the famous movie quote, “You can’t handle the truth!”? Truth be told, in the hands of another actor, there’s no way that phrase would have been nearly as memorable. The American Film Institute ranked it No. 29 of the 100 Greatest Movie Quotes of All Time.

Fun fact: Nicholson only had four scenes in this movie. Yet he made every one of them count, earning a Best Supporting Actor nomination in the process. He also took home a whopping $5 million for his brief turn as Navy Col. Nathan Jessup.

2. “The Departed” (2006)

This probably ranks as Nicholson’s most recognizable performance in recent history, playing the feared and crazed crime boss Frank Costello in this Boston-set thriller.

He was nominated for a British Academy of Film and Television Arts award and a Golden Globe but received no Oscar recognition.

Vote Now: Who Is Your Favorite Actor of All Time?

According to The Telegraph, in an effort to instill genuine terror in Leonardo DiCaprio during a pivotal interrogation scene, Nicholson pulled a live gun on his co-star. Not only was the gun real, but his character wasn’t even supposed to be using one in the scene. It was a total surprise to everyone involved, director Martin Scorcese told The Telegraph.

"And then he pulled a gun on him. He didn't tell me he had a gun. It was great,” Scorsese said.

3. “Reds” (1981)

Directed by Warren Beatty, this underrated and sometimes forgotten 1981 political drama featured Jack Nicholson in a small role as American playwright Eugene O’Neil. Apparently the Academy agreed his role was worthwhile, nominating him for yet another Oscar, which he lost to John Gielgud.

4. “Batman” (1988)

Okay, this one is cheating a little bit. While technically a supported actor in the strictest interpretation, Nicholson had plenty of screen time alongside Michael Keaton.

Even though his performance was a bit surreal, he took this role as seriously as any other, if not more. Nicholson's (unauthorized) biographer, Marc Eliot, told CNN, "Playing the Joker was not a gag for him. For Jack, (appearing in 'Batman') was a chance to connect to childhood.”

In fact, Nicholson was so enamored with the role that he spent $70,000 to buy the Joker’s costume, even though he made it back and more, as the role proved to be the most profitable of his career, according to CNN.

5. “Terms of Endearment” (1983)

Based on the novel by Larry McMurtry, this family drama centered on the relationship between mother, Shirley MacLaine, and daughter, Debra Winger, but featured Nicholson prominently in a supporting role. Here Nicholson did some dramatic heavy-lifting, and it paid off when the film won accolades and Oscars alike, including a Best Supporting Actor for Nicholson.

Vote Now: Which of These Actors Stands the Test of Time?

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Jack Nicholson doesn't always have to be cast as the lead actor to shine on film. Here are five stellar supporting performances that prove the star can turn any role, no matter how small, into a scene-stealer.
jack nicholson, roles, supporting, star, shined
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2015-09-24
Tuesday, 24 Mar 2015 07:09 PM
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