Jack Nicholson is ambling down the stairs of his place on Mulholland Drive, in Los Angeles, a little late, having just zipped up. He's lived here for more than thirty years -- a two-story stucco-type pad bought for $80,000 that is packed to the gills with soft chairs, easygoing couches, priceless art, Oscars (three), books (The Popular Medical Encyclopedia, Primal Scream), a former para-Marine named Oz, who is now his cook, an eyeglasses case marked "Reading" (helpfully), a bowl of fruit (he doesn't eat fruit, but Oz hasn't given up), tubes of both Rembrandt and Close Up toothpaste (he's peripatetic that way), much fear for the world at large, and huge historical problems with even the general concept of monogamy, not to mention echoes of past orgiastic parties and overheated assignations too numerous to count. It's entirely his place. It's where, in the late Sixties, as a matter of self-help, he spent three months walking around in the nude, at all hours of the day, no matter who stopped by, his daughter included. It's where his closest neighbor, the late Marlon Brando, used to come calling when Jack wasn't home and root around in his fridge (usually because he'd padlocked his own), and for some reason leave behind his underpants, which would then mysteriously turn up in the laundry. It's where today, after successfully negotiating the trimming of his toenails, he ends up in his living room, which is dominated by a white-brick fireplace smack-dab in the middle ("so I can't be cornered," he says). He's wearing a polo shirt, khakis and fuzzy black slippers, with his thin hair combed back flat, sixty-nine years old but looking good, despite a tummy on the round side and occasional issues with heartburn. He angles himself into a chair, settles, and in his great gravelly Jack voice gives further explanation for his late arrival.
"Oh, you know how it is," he rasps. "At the last minute, those old boys' bladders --"
Then he lights up a cigarette and leans back, never bothering to finish the sentence he's started, which is often the way it is with him, completion indicated only by the skyward hoisting of his thick pyramidal eyebrows. At other times, though, he gathers in a full breath of air, starts talking, usually in fat, orotund paragraphs, and never stops. For instance: On the topic of his latest movie, The Departed, directed by Martin Scorsese and co-starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Matt Damon, in which he gives another Oscar-worthy performance, as Boston-Irish mob boss Frank Costello, probably the worst, most criminal criminal ever -- in one gruesome scene, he steps out from behind closed doors covered in blood, well up past his elbows -- and over which he, the loosest and most experimental of actors, was expected to lock horns with Scorsese, the tightest and most controlled of directors.