TOPSHAM — At the start of a town variety show this month, where local acts raised money for heating fuel assistance, Jack Nicholson strolled through the door.
Well, kind of.
Even if Ed Ezzard were not wearing the shades and tux (or occasionally a Los Angeles Lakers jersey), you would have to do a double-take to make sure you weren’t face-to-face with the lunatic from “The Shining” or the beat-upon private eye from “Chinatown.”
And that’s what Ezzard is banking on. Along with charity gigs, he travels up and down the East Coast working his charm and talent at corporate parties and award presentations. His likeness even got him a part as a double for the real Nicholson in the 2006 movie “The Departed,” in a scene where he cruised Interstate 93.
Ezzard, a former information technology project manager in New York City, retired to Topsham five years ago. His wife has been coming to Peaks Island all her life, and he started coming himself at the age of 17, when they started going out. He’s 68 now.
It was about 15 years ago when somebody – Ezzard’s father-in-law, actually – told him he looked like the famous actor.
“I didn’t really take notice, or even think about it, until about eight, nine years ago,” Ezzard said, “when enough people started telling me ‘you look like Jack.'”
Certainly his wife Elaine didn’t agree, at least until Ezzard stopped parting his hair on the side and tried combing it back to see how much he could look like Nicholson.
“My wife actually appreciated the little more modern look than the part on the side,” Ezzard said with a grin. “She didn’t complain, let’s put it that way.”
The notoriety he started getting turned him into something of a ham. Whenever it’s the least bit sunny, Ezzard dons his Ray-Bans and enjoys the reactions.
Ezzard began taking his act around in 2000. He found an agent in Boston who got him a gig at a New York City-area nightclub that featured a ‘Night at the Oscars” event with Ezzard and a Marilyn Monroe look-alike.
“That went all right,” he recalled. “I was quite nervous the first time out.”
Asked what he did to prepare, Ezzard replied, “I don’t have to do anything; that’s the beauty of it. The hardest part is making small talk with the people that I come in contact with, which is usually at a corporate-type party or a grand opening.”
Conversation subjects can range from which Nicholson films people have seen to how the Lakers’ season is going. And along with the chitchat come the obligatory souvenir photos.
Ezzard isn’t just another pretty face, though. He has worked hard at honing the classic Nicholson voice, which can rise from an eerie whisper to the classic “You can’t handle the truth!” growl from “A Few Good Men.”
“I work on it,” Ezzard said in a voice hovering somewhere between his own and that of Nicholson. “And I listen to tapes. I have some tapes I put in the car when I’m going to a gig and just try to get back into the rhythm. Because it’s his rhythm, and how he accents his words.”
Ezzard wasn’t especially a Nicholson fan before he started playing the part. Now, though, “I follow everything he does,” he said. “And I’ve read all the books that have been written about him.”
Along with “As Good as it Gets,” Ezzard counts “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” among his favorite Nicholson films.
He has met other impersonators and tribute artists at conventions, of varying likenesses and abilities. “I call myself one of the few great Jacks in the nation,” Ezzard said. “There’s not that many.”
One gig he remembers fondly took place at Boston Garden about a month ago, where the Boston Blazers lacrosse team was playing their first home game. Ezzard went out at halftime as a surprise and got mobbed afterward by 18 of the Blazers ‘dancers’ who thought he was the real thing. He was also the recipient of many high-fives from young lacrosse players.
“I don’t know who ended up bursting their bubble,” Ezzard said. “It wasn’t me.”
Ezzard can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ed Ezzard of Topsham is Maine’s answer to Jack Nicholson. (Lear photo)