There are many masters of the cinematic freakout. Just last week we interviewed one such master, Laura Dern, on the very literal method to her madness. But over the course of seven decades of cinematic work, Jack Nicholson has distinguished himself as one of the true savants of the form, a roiling ball of barely repressed rage that explodes within the frame of the screen. A new video from Nerdwriter presents a taxonomy of the legendary actor’s onscreen freak-outs, and it may change the way you view his work.
The key is in the physicality of his performances: the flailing and clapping hands, off-kilter smiles, stamping feet, the way he lunges or menacingly leans. These “weird contortions and spasms,” as Nerdwriter calls them, are specific to each type of anger, and more importantly to what lies beneath them. Anger, after all, is never a pure, unmotivated action, but instead the manifestation of other insecurities, fears, and pressures. This creates a sort of texture to each anger that Nicholson is a master at expressing.
Nerdwriter analyzes a lot of Nicholson’s most iconic moments from movies like The Shining, A Few Good Men, and Batman, but somehow leaves Wolf off.
Perhaps we can pick apart that performance in a later video.