The Collected Wisdom of Jack Nicholson

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Jack Nicholson has been an enigmatic figure for his entire career, from his early days in counterculture classics like Easy Rider and Psych-Out to his ’70s heyday to his more recent, grumpy-old-man days (As Good As It Gets, About Schmidt). He’s palled around with some of pop culture’s most divisive icons, including Keith Richards and Roman Polanski. And he’s probably slept with more women than we’ve even met.

Nicholson really opened up in a recent interview with The Daily Mail (unlikely, we know). At 73 years old, he seems to have reflected a great deal on the life he’s led, and his insights are truly impressive. The entire piece is a great read, but we’ve picked out some of Nicholson’s greatest nuggets of wisdom — on women, debauchery, legalizing pot, and growing old — after the jump.

On aging gracefully: “I’m definitely still wild at heart. But I’ve struck bio-gravity. I can’t hit on women in public any more. I didn’t decide this; it just doesn’t feel right at my age.”

On men’s priorities: “If men are honest, everything they do and everywhere they go is for a chance to see women.”

On being treated like Hollywood royalty: “I hate it. I don’t want to be treated like the Medusa or the Lincoln Memorial. People have an idea of me which is not the reality. On set I’m an actor like every other actor. Most times, for every part I play, I can think of other actors who would be better.”

On partying smart: “I always looked after myself. I’ve woken up in trees, I’ve woken up almost hanging off cliffs, but I’ve always known how to sort myself out.

Keith [Richards] would stay up seven nights in a row. I stayed up late, but I slept in late, too. I always believed in taking care of myself. There was always a discipline within my partying structure.”

On plastic surgery: “I haven’t had surgery. I don’t want to be judgemental, but some of the things you see these days in Hollywood are a bit horrifying. I mean, I don’t know what’s going on here, but I don’t want to scare people.”

On wrinkles: “I’m not worried about wrinkles, in myself or in women. I find them interesting.”

On legalizing pot: “I don’t tend to say this publicly, but we can see it’s a curative thing. The narcotics industry is also enormous. It funds terrorism and — this is a huge problem in America — fuels the foreign gangs. More than 85 per cent of men incarcerated in America are on drug-related offences. It costs $40,000 a year for every prisoner. If they were really serious about the economy there would be a sensible discussion about legalisation.”

On materialism: “I’m totally solid with the ‘truth is beauty/beauty is truth’ idea. But if I’m around it too long I start to feel trapped in this material world. I think I mustn’t get owned by my possessions, I mustn’t fall prey to materialism. Sometimes I think, ‘Hell, I’m going to burn them all.'”

On learning the truth about love: “I’ve been in love in my life, but it always starts with obsession that lasts exactly 18 months and then it changes. If I’d known and been prepared for that, I may have been able to orchestrate the whole relationship thing better.”

On mortality: “One of the toughest parts of ageing is losing your friends. At first it starts quietly, then pretty soon it’s every month, and you can’t help but think, ‘When is that bell going to go off for me?’ And on top of that you feel this constant loss. At this time of life, you feel just a sword’s point from death. It’s frightening — who wants to face God and the clear white light? I know I definitely don’t. Yet.”