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June Squibb

Jack Nicholson without the smirk

His beloved NBA Lakers are wheezing, but Jack Nicholson is thriving. In basketball terms, the 65-year-old actor is in the fourth quarter of his career. Yet he seems to be handling it with the savvy of a veteran point guard: all the right moves to compensate for a lost step.

Nicholson wisely resurrected his humility in his latest movie, About Schmidt, which opened Friday. It wasn't easy.

Warren Schmidt, the title character, doesn't date beautiful women nearly four decades his junior. He doesn't flash self-conscious smirks. He sports a big belly and a small wardrobe.

"I couldn't look at myself in the mirror the whole three months I was doing this picture because I...