Mr. Nicholson, do you often think about dying?
Yes, these are subjects that we think about all the time but don’t necessarily talk about. Everybody has thought about if they want to be cremated, buried, or whatever.
What’s your preference?
I want a big 25-foot pink statue that holds my grave. Or I also might like the way the Indians did it. They hang you up on the top of a tree and the birds eat you. No, really I would probably choose cremating.
Are there any positive aspects of aging?
Plenty. You are more thoughtful because you don’t act as quickly anymore. When I turned 70 it was the first time I felt young for my age. Fifty dropped on me like a ton of bricks – there is something about that number – but when 70 came along I felt good about it.
What made you feel younger?
I don’t know. I mean why relate to a number anyway? I used to be very quick, I would be able to leave the room and be back before you noticed. When you can’t do that anymore you need to change the style of how you do things. But I’m very interested in life and you don’t want to lose that.
What were the highlights of your life?
The first screening of Easy Rider in Cannes, because I had been there before sneaking around. When I was sitting in the screening I realized that I was actually going to be a movie star. When I was over there I was pretty much already thinking about directing because I had been doing movies for 10 or 12 years by then. And everybody said I was good, but being known and not having a big film success is almost tougher than being completely new. It just kind of turned my life around and was definitely a highlight.
Do you ever get that same buzz now?
When they say I’m a great actor, I close my ears because it’s not good for you to think that way.
You seem pretty confident though.
Well, you know, I put on a good show.
Would you say you’re mean to people?
I’m in the movie business; it’s meant to be very cutthroat. But you won’t find anybody that ever says I cheated them or manipulated them.
Not even girls?
The girls only did that because they missed me more than they thought they would.
Are you a womanizer?
Do you use your acting skills on women?
I never separate.
What do you like the most about women?
I just want them to be a person. I just started a book about how the genders are in two different conversations and it feels like this book was written specifically against me. The male character in that book is my generation and thinks that you have to be your own man, but what the women want is a whole different conversation. She wants reassurance and wants to be supported, yet feels manipulated when it happens. The idea of the book is that we are all talking different languages.
Do you like it when women take the first step?
That would be nice but it doesn’t happen to me. Women are sort of like motorcycle gangs with me. They get really shy and polite. I don’t know why.
What’s your secret?
Are you more of a one-night stand guy or are you more interested in relationships?
Of course I’m capable of being someone’s one-night stand, but I don’t approach it that way.
Do you have a “love of your life”?
More than one unfortunately. At 55 I said the probability is I won’t have another relationship. I just didn’t want to start another family. Between my own bizarre criteria and taste and the fact that I’m not available for many things I thought it was unlikely. Once you know the science about it, I don’t think anybody should consider being committed to a real eternal relationship until you’re through something called the infatuation circle.
How long does that take?
It’s 18 months and it hasn’t changed since the beginning of time. In the first 18 months anything can happen and you are fine with it. For a long time I thought I really loved everything about a girl and then I found out it wasn’t like that.
What about the bizarre criteria you mentioned?
I’m sure I’m something of an egoist in that sense. Who I’m attracted to is not narrow but it’s a high. I’ve also been married once. The mother of my first kid wanted to get married on a Wednesday and on Friday we were married. I always thought it counterproductive to have a policy in this area. If it is difficult to know yourself as an individual, it seems to be more complex as a couple. So if you say, “Oh I like a person who is like this and that,” you might take away the possibility of seeing the only one that might be right for you.
Do you have any regrets in your life?
Not that I can think of. I’m sure there are some, but my mind doesn’t go there. When you look at life retrospectively you rarely regret anything that you did, but you might regret things that you didn’t do.