Actor supports awards but not long campaign

Jack Nicholson is in an unusually feisty mood the morning Variety calls to talk Oscar.

“Can you do an honest interview anymore on this type of subject?” asks the “Bucket List” star, who holds more noms (12) and wins (three) than any leading man in Oscar history.

“I’m a big supporter of the Oscars from the beginning because I look at it for what I believe it was intended. However, for a very long time — and I don’t voice this very much — I’m disturbed by what they call the ‘Oscar race.’ I’ve noticed that it’s gradually spread, as though it were an election.

“This thing totally possesses the movie business for three months — and it’s now spreading to five months. Well, this cannot be really good for movies. I know, I’ll admit to you openly, the minute somebody says ‘Oscar,’ whether you say you don’t pay any attention, you start going, ‘And I wanna (thank the Academy)’ in your mind. This is when it first started to disturb me. I’m down here trying to learn my lines, and I felt I couldn’t concentrate completely on whatever picture I was working on. An actor’s supposed to pretend inside the movie, not outside the movie.

“All the public relations people say, ‘Jack, what is wrong with you? Politicians fall when they’re honest, blah blah, so you can’t talk to Variety and be honest about this,’ but the fact of the matter is, I have practical experience.”

Thinking back, he remembers how Oscar heat surrounding “The Aviator” interfered with pre-production on “The Departed,” distracting the movie’s director and star, Martin Scorcese and Leonardo DiCaprio.

“Marty and Leo and all of ‘em … I knew they wouldn’t do anything for the three months between when we started and when the Oscars were over — and of course I was correct. And then the day after the Oscars, I landed on them, and from there on in, it was wonderful,” Nicholson recalls.

“I always and always will be for the Oscars. But the race is feeding the other media, and I don’t think it’s good for where I work: the movies.”

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