There a few on this plane of physical and cosmic existence that rival the one and only Jack Nicholson. As the stories about him will corroborate, the legendary thespian operates on his own frequency more often than not.
Matt Damon shared a hilarious behind-the-scenes story about Nicholson during the filming of Martin Scorsese’s The Departed. And it paints a perfect picture of Nicholson’s genius in all things acting.
The story revolves around the scene where Nicholson’s Frank Costello executes a man and a kneeling woman. As it is revealed, the original scene:
- Was no longer than 1/8 of a page
- Scripted Costello executing a single man alone
- With nothing more than, “Costello executes man kneeling in the marshes”
“OK, I can do that, but I think I can make it better,” says Nicholson, according to Damon.
“I come from the Roger Corman School, so I’m not gonna add any time, and I’m not gonna add to your budget.”
Nicholson began making the scene his own, and a lot more changed beyond the gender of his victim.
Starting with the addition of Ray Winstone’s character, Arnold/Mr. French character, the moment soon evolved with some off-the-cuff comments about the way she falls post-execution, the presence of an axe, even a necrophilia joke – and all the implications this holds from the mind of Nicholson himself.
“Now, you could end the scene there, but if you keep the camera rolling, I turn to Ray and say, ‘Wait, I think I want to fuck her again.’ … Now that’s a very sinister line because it means I had raped her already.”
“I get it, I get it,” Damon had apparently said to Nicholson.
A surprising amount of Nicholson’s improvisation actually made it into the final cut. Watch the full story in the link below, as told by Damon himself – and get a better insight on how Nicholson brought one of the most iconic roles in his career to life.