Barack Obama may have Oprah on his side, but he doesn’t know Jack … Nicholson, that is. Hillary Clinton does, and as millions have learned thanks to a recently released viral campaign endorsement, the senator from New York has a little star power on her side, even as some pundits write her 2008 campaign epitaph.
The Nicholson video, a mash-up of memorable moments from the three-time Oscar winner’s career, begins with his Joker asking “Who do you trust?” and ends with the actor himself saying that he approves the message, a surprising appearance given his notorious press-shyness. (Nicholson spoke in a rare interview with MTV News last November about “Chinatown ” and “Batman .”)
MTV News’ curiosity was piqued by Nicholson’s seemingly sudden involvement in the ’08 campaign and reached out to the actor to find out why he chose to make a public splash at this time in support of Clinton. Lo and behold, Nicholson was on the phone hours later, happily talking for the better part of an hour about the woman he wholly believes should be the next commander in chief. Check back Wednesday for the second part of the Nicholson interview, in which he discusses what went wrong and right with the Oscars this year and his personal connection to the death of Heath Ledger. (Check out the second part of the Nicholson interview , in which he discusses what went wrong and right with the Oscars this year and his personal connection to the death of Heath Ledger.)
Jack Nicholson: What put it in your head to give me a call today, Josh?
MTV: A lot of people here at MTV News were talking today about this video endorsement of yours that’s suddenly all over the Web.
Nicholson: Yeah, I’m hot in the theaters. [He laughs.]
MTV: So the question is, why now? Why support Hillary in this public way now?
Nicholson: Well, I’m a longtime Clintonite. I guess that’s no secret. I’m not a talking-points guy, Josh. I’m a rolling cannonball. I basically do it on my own.
MTV: The talking heads and pundits would have us believe that the next 24 hours are do or die for Hillary.
Nicholson: The talking heads will have had us believe it’s been important for eight years now. No offense to good old MTV, but my concern is, it all becomes a TV show. It’s only now that people are seeing that [the media has] been harsh to her. It’s disturbing to me how gleeful they are at her imagined demise or any setbacks she has. They’re citizens too. They’re entitled to their opinions. Do you have a horse in this race, Josh?
MTV: I have to admit that, like many Democrats, I’m still going back and forth between Clinton and Obama.
Nicholson: I think this is one of the peculiarities of the election. I think everyone likes both. I’m a person who understands what experience, which is often a euphemism for connections, can mean in the big old world. She’s been there. I was raised by women. I know how tough they are when the tough gets going.
MTV: Policy-wise, what appeals to you about her candidacy?
Nicholson: I’ve just been re-reading Jann Wenner’s fantastic interview with [Daniel] Ellsberg [who in 1971 leaked documents that helped to end the Vietnam War]. One of the things I heard in Hillary’s campaign is she intends to put it all on the Internet and make it a completely transparent government. I think that’s a sign of the times and something that’s very good.
MTV: You mentioned before that you believe Clinton’s been treated harshly by the press?
Nicholson: I think they ask her too many times to explain the same thing. I’m very familiar with film editing, if you know what I mean. That’s why I don’t do television interviews. I don’t want to see something I said 30 years ago come back in a documentary — plus, I’ll feel like I looked so good 30 years ago. The television sets have to have a drama.
MTV: Some have posited that misogyny may be a greater force than racism.
Nicholson: I’ve posited it myself. I don’t want to come to the conclusion that it’s gender bias. My grandmother kind of ran the neighborhood. She’d look at me after one of these bozos left her and she’d say, “Do you think this pr— would treat a man this way, Jackie?” I learned all those lessons early on. They were the right lessons. I’m proud of them. And I think if she were alive she’d be proud of me too.
MTV: Do you believe women are generally tougher on Hillary than men?
Nicholson: They’re always the toughest on one another — and thank heavens or [men would] all be destroyed. But this woman can do this job. Make no mistake about that.
MTV: Did Clinton’s camp contact you directly, asking for your support?
Nicholson: Yes, I got a call. They asked me to do something. I explained to [former] President Clinton that I admire a foot soldier but I’m too old to be one. I’m not looking for so-called followers. I’m not that crazy about being interviewed. I don’t like the sound of my own voice after 20 minutes. On the other hand, I am Irish. I like being involved in the community. As they say, if you don’t educate yourself about the political system you’re doomed to be led by inferior people. That’s one of my fears.
MTV: One attribute Obama seems to possess over Clinton is this uncanny capacity to inspire people.
Nicholson: Well, why would we assume he wouldn’t continue to energize people were he not the nominee? Even his own people know it’s a bit early for him, but these are the circumstances. Believe me, the Republicans are not going to let him slide. MTV doesn’t want to hear this, but he seems youthful. His small mistakes do not get amplified. I love the inspiration of Senator Obama, but we have a representative republic for this very reason. In the original democracy in [ancient Greece], everybody voted and that was it. They realized they didn’t want the hot song of the week to take over the country. The same is true of these superdelegates. These superdelegates are there to make democracy more thoughtful. You can’t just discount super-delegates for one reason or another. These are the rules of the Democratic Party. The only thing I can say is, it’s obvious one person is more experienced.
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