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Jack Nicholson on The Bucket List

Published January 2, 2008 in Movie Interviews
By Fred Topel | Image property of Warner Bros Pictures.
When Edward Cole (Jack Nicholson) finds out he only has one year to live, he convinces his hospital bedmate Carter Chambers (Morgan Freeman) to join him in living their last year to the fullest. They set off on an adventure to cross off a list of items they want to do before they kick the bucket. It sounds cool, but some think it may be irresponsible for cancer patients to go skydiving and travel the world.

Jack Nicholson's Bucket List

"You recognize certain structural things," said Nicholson. "We knew we had to make that believable. So it’s in the script, if you look at it. It pays of in the line where Morgan’s in the bathtub and he says, 'Why do you think I did this?' 'Because I talked you into it.' My character, he’s a guy who’s good at moving people. And Morgan just says, 'You’re not that strong.' Say what you like, we’re in this boat together. You could make your decision but the real reality is you can’t talk to nobody else but me about this. Everybody else has got issues, agendas, things they think. More people die from visitors than from diseases, which is true."

Cole may seem like the alpha male of the duo, but it turns out they are more even partners. "Someone will ask you how much research did you do? Well, we both spent a lot of time in hospitals, whether it’s visiting friends or [being a patient]. That’s part of our lives. It’s in the script. I’m glad you asked the question because it’s resolved. My character does feel a little bad. Maybe he did the wrong thing for selfish reasons, and like many things in this, his character says, I don’t know what his subtext was, this guy probably thinks he talked me into this. 'You ain’t that strong, buddy,' you know what I mean? So that’s what I mean by sentiment, not sentimentality. That’s not a sentimental beat in the scene. For this guy at this point to say, 'You don’t really get it yet, you know?' It’s good storytelling, in my opinion."

The Bucket List The Bucket List

The Bucket List The Bucket List

The Bucket List The Bucket List

The Bucket List The Bucket List

The dynamic on the set was not that different. "Other than where it’s goal of the character, like I have to push to get him in this trip, but other than that, I don’t think either of us are pushers as actors. I think each of us is more than enough for the other. I told him when I first met him, 'You know, Morgan, this might be something somebody didn’t say about you, but I consider you the modern James Dean. I’m talking about this one thing. You know, there’s acting and there’s cinema.' Dean had this quality, when they wear a hat or a coat, you don’t see a graphically non-telling image of Morgan ever. I mean you don’t have to do too much and he does plenty. But I don’t think he’d heard that about himself. Apropos of watching one another, I bring this up because I’d thought that about him for a long time. I could almost list the various hats, or coats, and what they meant to the character, and why it was not only right for the character, but it served the big picture. And this is what I thought was Dean. Dean knew how to be photographed. I think that was his main talent."

To add another layer to the film, Cole is actually a hospital executive, so becoming a patient is no easy task for him. "A lot of this movie was informed by my being not what I thought I would be, an excellent patient. I was a poor one. That happened by coincidence just before this movie. Nothing as frightening as what these fellas had to go through, but another one of my favorite lines is: this guy who sets up this whole system in hospitals and how they’re run, when they ask him about it, all he’s got to say is, 'Well, I’ve never been sick before' which I think says a lot about everybody. Suddenly you think you’ve got it and now you’re in this situation, Jesus Christ."

The Bucket List is out in theaters now.

For the trailer, stills, review and more movie info, go to The Bucket List Movie Page.

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Compiled By (Sources)
Fred Topel
Sources: Image property of Warner Bros Pictures.

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