Anyone who’s worked with Jack Nicholson has got to have almost as many stories about him as Jack’s had bedmates. Almost.
At the New York premiere of Nicholson’s new film "The Departed," I tried to get costar Mark Wahlberg to tell me a few.
"I can’t say any of them," said Wahlberg, wimping out. "I can’t incriminate myself or Jack."
But here’s the good news. "We may slip some of them onto ‘Entourage,’" said Wahlberg. "They’re too good."
Even if you’ve never seen it, you probably know that "Entourage" is the hit HBO series loosely based on Wahlberg’s life as a hotshot young actor in Hollywood. He serves as a producer on the show.
"Entourage" concluded its second season a few weeks ago, but Wahlberg says it’s a real possibility that a Jack-inspired character will appear next season.
"We’re always looking for real life inspiration to keep the show fresh and real."
Everybody in this film keeps things fresh and real in this Boston-set Irish mob drama. Director Martin Scorsese culls incredible performances out of his stars — and there are plenty of them in this film, including Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon and Alec Baldwin. Surprisingly, "The Departed" marks the first time Scorsese and Nicholson have worked together.
"The incredible thing with Nicholson was the invention," Scorsese said. "The creating, the layering of the character. Bringing in childhood memories — all sorts of things that we worked on together. Even though he’s in technically less scenes than Leo and Matt, he permeates the entire picture with his presence. You always feel him there."
"I’m never quite sure what he’s gonna do, which is really interesting," Scorsese continued. "And we had long conversations… it was quite a ride, I must say."
The guys all had thick South Boston accents in this film, which I figured came easily to Wahlberg and Damon — the film’s two Boston natives. But Alec Baldwin begged to differ with me.
"The guys who were from Boston did the worst accents in the film. Did you notice that?"
"Can you see Matt over there?" asked Baldwin, pointing to his costar a few feet down the red carpet. "He did the worst Boston accent of everyone. And Wahlberg’s was pretty bad, too. Jack’s from New Jersey and I’m from Long Island and our accents were better than Wahlberg’s and Matt’s."
A few minutes later, I told Matt what Alec had said, and he let out a big laugh before declaring, "The film speaks for itself…. Alec’s funny, I love Alec."
Lauren Bacall came out to support the film. She’s an old friend of Nicholson’s and even had a hilarious cameo this year on Wahlberg’s "Entourage."
But the woman who’s been to more premieres than anyone doesn’t dig the red carpet trip.
"I don’t love this whole scene at all," she told me. "But I love Scorsese, and I love Jack Nicholson, and I can’t think of two better reasons [to be here]."
Billy Joel kinda dug it, though, because his daughter Alexa has followed in her old man’s shoes as a singer-songwriter — and he’s happy to brag about her. "She’s working really, really hard. She’s out on the West Coast right now opening up for Teddy Geiger. And she’s doing great. She’s writing, she’s working and she’s doing it the hard way — which is the right way."
What do you tell her about the business, I ask. He smiles. "Talk to me, kid."
As for Alexa’s mom, Christie Brinkley… I couldn’t help but ask Billy if he had any comment about her divorce from Peter Cook, given all the scurrilous press coverage.
"No, not really," Billy said. "I’m just kinda livin’ my life." (Hmm, funny how that reminds me of a certain lyric: "I don’t care what you say anymore, this is my life. Go ahead with your own life, leave me alone.")
I decided to depart from my "Departed" questions even further by asking some stars about issues dominating the headlines these days.
To Jon Voight… What did you think of Bill Clinton’s interview responses to Chris Wallace on FOX News Sunday?
"I think Bill must have been exhausted… he’d just come from a big event where he brought himself to the end of his energies. And he walked in… I think he was a little paranoid coming in there and looking for the trouble it might spark. And I don’t think the question was out of line at all. And I think on a better day Bill would have answered it in another fashion."
And on his daughter, Angelina Jolie, with whom he’s been estranged: "We haven’t communicated, but I’m very proud of the humanitarian work that she’s done and always wish her the best. Always send my love to her."
To Martin Scorsese, who was once a seminary student and uses Catholism as a major theme in many of his films… What did you think about the Pope’s comments on Islam?
"It’s hard for me to — I didn’t read the entire speech. [But] I think one has to be extremely careful about how people speak about other people’s religions."
And to Lauren Bacall, who’s pretty much seen and heard it all… What do you think of the state of the world these days?
"Oh, I’m not gonna get into politics. I’ll be here for 3 days if I get started — and get ANOTHER ulcer."