[on playing “Jack Dawson” in Titanic] I’m not haunted by it but it certainly follows me. I’ve been to the Amazon and people with no clothes on – and I’m not exaggerating – know about that film. I’ve accepted it.
(2010) Probably the only thing I knew with complete clarity was that I wanted to be an actor. But there was a lot of rejection early on, and so it never felt like, Hey, I’ve got something here. There was always an element of me that needed to prove something to myself. It’s something I don’t want to get rid of, because it’s what drives me. I’m never settled and I’m never satisfied.
[on making Shutter Island] Usually when I’m on a movie set, I’m able to detach myself from the process at the end of the day and go home and learn my lines for the next day, but this situation was a whole lot different. There were a couple of weeks when I was in a hole and it was the deepest I’ve ever gone with a character, emotionally
[2010 – On relaxing outside films] “I go out and have a drink every once in a while. Ooh, I know that’s controversial, isn’t it? I sometimes go on a vacation, too. I take what I do very seriously, and when I’m on the set that’s all I focus on, so my vice is to hang out with my friends and talk about absolutely nothing of importance whatsoever and act like a complete idiot because I’ve got to filter out a lot of the serious stuff I’m dealing with all the time. It’s like therapy to just be a complete idiot with my friends and it’s fantastic.
[on the night River Phoenix died] – When I was eighteen, River Phoenix was far and away my hero. Think of all those early great performances – My Own Private Idaho. Stand by Me. I always wanted to meet him. One night, I was at this Halloween party, and he passed me. He was beyond pale – he looked white. Before I got a chance to say hello, he was gone, driving off to the Viper Room, where he fell over and died. That’s a lesson.
Out of any actor, I can’t think of anyone who’s got more memorable moments in cinema than Jack Nicholson. Jack never takes a single line straight on. Never takes an emotion written in the script at face value. He brings terror into what you thought was supposed to be a light moment and makes a light moment out of a cutthroat vicious line. He flips everything on its side.
In this business nothing is as dangerous and as feared as loneliness. You shoot films in the most remote areas of the world; you’re separated from your family and your friends. And at some point you’re in your hotel room looking at yourself in the mirror and you realize how lonely you are and how far you are from leading a normal life. That is quite a punch in the gut.
The best thing about acting is that I get to lose myself in another character and actually get paid for it. It’s a great outlet. As for myself, I’m not sure who I am. It seems that I change every day.