Cary Grant once said "Everyone wants to be like Cary Grant, even I want to be Cary Grant." separating the personal from the persona. Every day we get to see the persona of our favorite celebrities, many of them exhibiting crafted concepts for audiences to easily latch on to and support. The roles they take on are usually extensions of that persona and audiences seem to prefer that autonomy. The wacky Robin Williams played silly characters in his films. Even his dramatic performances required that his character be operating on a different wave length than the surrounding "normal" characters. In order to reach the extraordinary mind of Matt Damon's Will Hunting, an equally extraordinary character is required in Robin Williams' Sean Maguire. Once an actor achieves this type of celebrity they become locked into a sandbox of the spectator's choosing. Some performers are allowed more room than others. Daniel Day Lewis has lots of room to play - Channing Tatum, less so. Attempting to move outside of that sand box either results in critical acclaim or backlash, demanding that the performer fall back in line and continue to give the audience what they want. This happened to Jim Carey after he made The Number 23.
It's difficult to watch Jack Nicholson without thinking of him as a ticking time-bomb. At some point or another Jack will lose control and devour all the scenery around him in a spectacular fashion. In Five Easy Pieces he butts heads with a waitress who won't allow him to make any substitutions on his order. At first he appeals to logic describing how absurd such a rule is, but even this intellectual victory isn't enough for Jack. The fires burn too hot and he erupts in a spasm of anger, clearing the table of its plates in silverware before leaving. This freedom of expression becomes wish fulfillment for spectator, who recognizes their own anger at following the mundane rules and laws that dictate their daily lives. Jack Nicholson is the proxy through which the audience gets to experience their desire to let lose of all inhibitions.
For Stephen King, this type of character is not what was needed for the role of Jack Torrance in the film adaptation of The Shining. The character he wrote was supposed to be the good person that ends up committing terrible acts. Jack Torrance was us, not the dream version of us. And perhaps King is correct in surmising that this deadens the effectiveness of the story. If we're expecting Jack to go crazy because Nicholson is playing him, the dramatic weight of his turn from light to dark is nonexistent.
Instead the horror of The Shining comes from some kind of metatextual dramatic irony - we the audience know Jack Nicholson is playing Jack Torrance, but none of the other characters do. We know he'll do exactly what we expect of him because that's his job now as a celebrity. It's as though our very expectations and Jack Nicholson's obligation to fulfill them work in tandem to create the tragedy at the Overlook Hotel.
Acting is about conveying truth to the audience. The performer must find honest motivation behind a characters actions, so the audience can understand how someone unlike themselves act. But what happens when the audience expectations dictates the artists' actions? Is the actor still an artist or a jukebox playing all the hits as requested by the paying customer? What happens when the artist creates a persona to separate the private life from the public, and the persona becomes larger than the art? It's with all this in mind that we present Inevitable Madness.
-Jae et Gail