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It’s been ten years since we’ve seen Jack Nicholson in a movie and up on the big screen in a new release, and we’re all the worse for it.

You’ll be pleased to know, Netflix is now showing Milos Forman’s 1975 masterpiece One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. And although we’d seen Jack Nicholson as the effervescent masochist Wilbur Force in 1960’s The Little Shop of Horrors, the well-heeled attorney in Easy Rider, as well as the screwball Navy man in The Last Detail, Cuckoo’s Nest was the first time we’d really witnessed the gargantuan personality and immeasurable talent of the one and only Jack Nicholson.

Based on the novel by infamous LSD psychonaut Ken Kesey, Cuckoo’s Nest documents the art of war as practiced between the no-holds-barred rapscallion R.P. McMurphy (Nicholson) and the cold-hearted snake Nurse Ratched through McMurphy’s stay at an Oregon State Mental Institution. This film won a record five Academy Awards—Best Picture, Actor, Actress, Director, and Screenplay, and was nominated for another four including Best Cinematography and Best Original Score.

However, the heart and soul of the film is Nicholson’s brilliant portrayal of a lover of life trapped by the strictures of a society which fears freedom and resists joy. So convincing was Jack’s personality, Milos Foreman said, “I knew Jack socially before the film, and I never knew if that man is crazy or sane in real life—and that’s McMurphy!” To get an understanding of Jack’s approach to the role, Milos had this to say, “He was McMurphy, even behind the camera for all the guys, all the goons, all the looneys; they were his guys. And that’s a pretty intense psychological state you have to be in.”

The last time we saw Jack Nicholson in a movie was 2010’s How Do You Know. Critics lambasted the film as being dull and formulaic. Moviegoers seemed even less impressed, as the romantic comedy bombed at the box office. Three years earlier, Nicholson paired with the great Morgan Freeman for the boomer-buddy movie The Bucket List. The Bucket List performed quite well at the box office, but the critical reception was not the greatest. Still, a guy like Jack Nicholson can have ten pictures bomb. Any producer worth their salt would still gamble on him because of his prodigious talent and otherworldly aura. So we can only speculate as to the exact reasons why Jack has remained out of the spotlight. 

However, Nicholson did leave us some not-do-subtle clues. In a 2013 interview with The Sun, Jack himself said, “I’m not going to work until the day I die, that’s not why I started this. I was driven—but I’m not, I don’t have to be out there anymore. In fact, there’s part of me that never really liked being out there.”

The former wild man went on to say, “I learned how to function within ‘out there.’ Then you get older, you change. I mean, I’m not a loner, I’m not a recluse, but I don’t need all that any more. I don’t enjoy it, simple as that.”

Gotta admit, it’s hard to hear him say that. So, do you think we’ll ever have the pleasure of seeing the Mulholland Man in another movie? And would you yourself ever give up acting? Or do you plan to do it until the wheels come off?