Warren Beatty is equally as famous for the many Hollywood actresses he has dated, as is he is for his acting and directing. He frequently complicated matters by co-starring with his current or former lovers in his movies. There was also a rumor that he sought out women who had won Oscars. Reds is one of the best-known examples of Beatty co-starring with and directing his girlfriend – in this case, Diane Keaton. And Jack Nicholson had the unenviable task of playing Beatty’s love rival.
Beatty apparently ‘tricked’ his friend Jack Nicholson into accepting the supporting role of Eugene O’Neill, according to a lengthy Peter Biskind article about the making of Reds in Vanity Fair from 2007; “As the story goes, Beatty tricked Nicholson into accepting the smallish but important part by ostensibly asking for advice.”
“‘I told him I needed someone to play Eugene O’Neill, but it had to be someone who could convincingly take this woman away from me,’ Beatty once told an interviewer. Without missing a beat, Nicholson responded, ‘There is only one actor who could do that – me!'”
There was a problem though, as Nicholson was in a physical ‘state,’ having just finished filming The Shining with the exacting Stanley Kubrick. According to executive producer Simon Relph; “Warren worried and worried about casting Jack, because, frankly, both of them were too old to play the parts. When we met with Jack, he was doing The Shining.”
“It was towards the end of the film, and Kubrick had got him into the most shambolic state. A kind of grotesque figure appeared. We only had three or four months before shooting. Warren said to me, ‘Do you think Jack can get in shape?’ I said, ‘If he wants to do it, I’m sure he can.’ He did really want to do it. When it was time, he appeared, having shed a huge amount of weight, and all the years. He was fantastic.”
It’s hardly surprising that filming one of the best horror movies of all time affected Nicholson so much, but that’s the price to be paid for greatness. Check out our guide to the best Stanley movies for more brilliance.