Jack Nicholson's face-off -- With the opening of ''Hoffa'' and ''A Few Good Men,'' will the actor have to compete with himself at the box office?

By Gregg Kilday
Updated October 23, 1992 at 04:00 AM EDT
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The first movie-scheduling wrestling match of the Christmas season, which promised to offer up dueling Jack Nicholson films, instead has led to a strategic withdrawal. Hoffa, Twentieth Century Fox’s Danny DeVito-directed biopic, starring Nicholson as the gutsy labor leader, was supposed to open Dec. 11. Then Columbia Pictures moved A Few Good Men, its military-courtroom drama starring Nicholson, Tom Cruise, Kiefer Sutherland, and Demi Moore, from its original Dec. 18 date to…Dec. 11. It would have marked the first time in recent memory that a major star opened against himself on competing screens.

Reason for the switch: After successful test screenings, Columbia was eager to advance Good Men‘s opening while avoiding following Hoffa into the marketplace, and it expected that Hoffa, faced with Good Men‘s turbo-charge of Nicholson and Cruise, would back off.

But Fox didn’t blink — at first. ”Any time you said A Few Good Men, you mentioned Hoffa,” says Fox executive vice president Tom Sherak. ”That was good for Hoffa.” But a source close to Columbia complained, ”Fox is mind-f—ing with us.”

Though after milking the minidrama for a few days, Fox did change its mind. Hoffa will now open Christmas day on 1,000 screens. ”It wasn’t a question of us blinking,” insists Sherak. ”It was a question of us playing it out as long as we could and then going to the right date. A Few Good Men will be huge and that will help us with Hoffa.”

Columbia chairman Mark Canton is relieved. The showdown, he says, ”could have been a headache for Jack.” Instead of competing with himself, Nicholson is now scheduled to open against another big-budget biopic, TriStar’s Chaplin. Unless, of course, somebody else blinks.

A Few Good Men

  • Movie
  • R
  • 138 minutes
  • Rob Reiner