Jack Nicholson is hitting back after rumours that he was retiring from acting due to memory loss. The heresy was inspired by the fact that Nicholson hasn’t been in a film since 2010’s How Do You Know, which caused industry observers to speculate his health might be to blame. In an interview with The Sun, however, Nicholson gave a far more compelling reason: it’s not his age, but that he doesn’t like the violent films that dominate mainstream movie theatres.
Refuting claims of memory loss by saying he has “a mathematician’s brain,” Nicholson didn’t mince words when it came to the state of contemporary films: “I had the most chilling thought that maybe people in their twenties and thirties don’t actually want to be moved anymore. They may want just to see more bombs, more explosions, because that is what they have grown up with. And I’ll never do that type of movie.” Now, having reached an age where he can be particular about projects, Nicholson no longer feels “driven” to chase down parts in such films.
Nicholson’s point hits on a common complaint about films these days: that nuance, story, and feeling have been replaced by explosions, 3D, and franchise bait. It’s not that Nicholson himself has never acted in violent or disturbing films—just watch The Shining, Chinatown or The Departed—but those works grounded their violence in something more than mere entertainment. In that regard, if we were Nicholson and could pick and choose our parts, we wouldn’t want to partake in some loud, mindless popcorn flick either. (Of course, none of this explains why Nicholson decided to act in How Do You Know, but that’s another can of worms.)
At the same time, Nicholson is writing off a whole generation far too easily. If he wants inspirational movie-making he need look no further than the thriving independent cinema movement taking place across his country. Not all audiences want to watch things go bang and to say so makes the actor sound a bit like a grumpy old man. To quote Nicholson himself: “You’re getting old, Jackie boy.”