Broadcast News was one of the biggest movies of the '80s, nominated for seven Academy Awards including best picture, best actor, best actress, best supporting actor, and best original screenplay. William Hurt, Holly Hunter, and Albert Brooks play the lead characters, and they're the ones in the movie poster and all the advertising.
No, that's Brooks on the right, jackass.
Despite this central love triangle, there is another important but small character -- TV anchorman/news legend Bill Rorich. Think Dan Rather/Tom Brokaw. Or if you've just started watching television news in the last few years, think Wolf Blitzer but without severe neurological delays. And, playing this character -- seemingly out of nowhere -- is Jack Nicholson.
How Did This Happen?
Nicholson must have taken quite the shine to writer/director James L. Brooks during the filming of Terms of Endearment, because Nicholson did Brooks' Broadcast News for free. He also asked for his name not to appear in the credits, because he didn't want his celebrity status to distract from the central characters of the film. That actually makes a lot of sense, because as big as Nicholson is now, he was basically a cartoon in the '80s -- the decade in which he played an ax murderer (The Shining), Satan (The Witches of Eastwick), and The Joker (Batman). This subdued cameo works shockingly well, because the character he's playing is supposed to be a TV legend. When he suddenly appeared, the audience in the showing I was at gasped, which is great, because the characters in the movie do too. It's almost like the entire cast is saying, "Hey, fucking Jack Nicholson's in this movie!"
"See, I'm a TV newsman, not an ax murderer or the devil. You can tell because I've combed my hair
and I'm not wearing sunglasses."