Do you love to act? I mean, do you really love to act? Do you act regardless of remuneration? Regardless of what’s going on in your life? Regardless of the earth and sky falling upon your head? Are you consistently in class honing your craft? Do you get together with fellow thespians to run lines and perfect scenes? Do you learn new monologues and spend hours and days and weeks developing them? Do you treat acting as if it were a career? Do you believe your acting might give comfort, laughter, and perspective to someone who is hurting or broken? Do you love to act?

Jack Nicholson loves to act. In fact, director Rob Reiner tells a story of Jack’s infamous “You can’t handle the truth!” scene in the critically-acclaimed legal drama A Few Good Men illustrating Jack’s commitment and love for the craft. It seems while portraying military officer Col. Nathan Jessup, Nicholson had been giving a camera-ready performance when he was indeed off-camera feeding lines to Tom Cruise. “Every time we did the scene, Jack did it perfectly,” Reiner says laughing. “After a couple of takes, I said, ‘Jack, maybe you want to save a little bit for when we’ve got the camera on you.’ And he replied, ‘Rob, you don’t understand — I love to act.’” Reiner goes on to say, “When the camera came around to him, he did the exact same performance that he gave off-camera. And it was great every time.”

Imagine having someone like that as a scene partner! Hollywood film sets are littered with actors who crush it on their own close-ups but are half-baked when it comes to the off-camera work. Which begs the question: How much joy, skill, and passion do you pour into each of your opportunities to perform–even when the camera is not focussed on you?

Although Jack Nicholson’s reputation had already been cemented long before the filming of A Few Good Men, his performance in that particular 1992 film arguably took him into a different stratosphere. Not to mention, “You can’t handle the truth!” has become an iconic line right up there with “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn,” and “I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse.” And it all happened because of one man’s undeniable love of acting.

Jack has performed for over 60 years and his work has been honored with 12 Academy Award nominations. That makes him the most-nominated male actor in the Academy’s history. And he’s taken home three Oscars for his performances in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, As Good As It Gets, and Terms of Endearment. And although he is semi-retired from acting ever since his last film in 2010 How Do You Know, he is scheduled to make a comeback in the remake of the Oscar-nominated German father-daughter comedy Toni Erdmann. So, hopefully, we’ll soon be seeing Jack once again pursuing his love of acting on the silver screen. Rainer is hoping for his return as well, saying, “[Nicholson] is one of the great American film actors of all time.”

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