It’s been 15 years since director Rob Reiner guided Jack Nicholson to a Best Supporting Actor nomination for “A Few Good Men” yet it comes as no surprise the duo’s latest collaboration, “The Bucket List,” is generating awards buzz.
The dramedy stars Nicholson and Morgan Freeman as cancer patients who make a list of things they’ve always dreamed of doing (skydiving, drag racing) and decide to live life to its fullest in their final months.
“It’s about living. It’s not about dying,” said Reiner, who was on hand at the Arclight Wednesday night. “Ultimately, that was the challenge, to make a movie about death that celebrates life. I don’t think Warners would’ve gone through with it if it didn’t have that uplifting feeling. To think of going into a
studio and saying, alright, it’s going to be about two old guys who are dying of cancer, give me 45 million dollars! They don’t do that so fast. So the challenge was to balance the humor and the emotion.”
Reiner signed on to direct the film after reading the first ten pages of Justin Zackham’s script and prepared himself for an uphill battle when pitching the movie to Warner Bros., though it helped having two consummate professionals in his corner. “We made sure going in that Morgan and Jack were already
attached to the project. I don’t think I would’ve gone in [otherwise].”
Pic was postponed for more than a month after Nicholson suffered a health scare of his own, but the actor drew on that experience to help create the crotchety character of Edward Cole. “Jack is a true artist and he approaches everything as an artist,” said Reiner. “He gets richer and better with every performance.”
The 60 year-old filmmaker went on to compare the film to his earlier effort “Stand By Me,” which also concerns male friends on a journey to deal with death, and how friends help see each other through difficult times. “I was much younger when I made ‘Stand By Me’ and that meant something to me at the time, but now I’m getting older and you start to think about your own mortality,” said Reiner. “Have you lived a meaningful life? Have you done what you wanted to do with your life? When you die, are you going to feel like you’ve lived a life? Those are all things you start to think about when you get older.”
“The Bucket List” opens on Christmas Day in New York, Los Angeles and Toronto before going wide on January 11.