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Jack Nicholson's ''classic'' parts

To the foremost American actor, literary roles are nothing compared to the Wolfman

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It wasn’t a dearth of prestige roles that led Jack Nicholson to get low-down and furry in Mike Nichols’ Wolf. Hollywood’s most revered actor hints that it’s part of his master plan. “The Devil (in The Witches of Eastwick), or the Joker, or any bigger-than-life [characters] are really the classical parts for American actors. So I thought I’d like to play them all,” says Nicholson, who thinks American actors should avoid the literary. “We’ll always have a problem finding the fashion that would make Ibsen, Shaw, Shakespeare, immediately germane.” His next role, however, will be neither literary nor larger than life. He’ll star as a jewelry store owner in Sean Penn’s The Crossing Guard later this year.