Director James L. Brooks Is 'Hoping' to Bring Jack Nicholson Out of Retirement: 'He’s the Man' (Exclusive)

Brooks and Nicholson have worked together on four films over the past four decades

<p>Todd Williamson/Getty; Patrick McMullan via Getty </p> James L. Brooks and Jack Nicholson

Todd Williamson/Getty; Patrick McMullan via Getty

James L. Brooks and Jack Nicholson

Jack Nicholson hasn’t appeared in a movie for more than a decade, but director James L. Brooks wants to change that.

Speaking with PEOPLE, Brooks, 83, who directed Nicholson in 1983’s Terms of Endearment, 1987’s Broadcast News, 1998’s As Good as It Gets and 2010’s How Do You Know, says he’s hoping he can get Nicholson on screen again.

“I keep on thinking he's going to get itchy and scratch it,” says Brooks, who keeps in touch with the 86-year-old three-time Oscar winner.

How Do You Know is Nicholson’s most recent acting credit, but Brooks says, “My theory is it’s not his last movie.”

Asked if Nicholson has expressed interest in acting again, Brooks says, “That’s what I’m hoping for. He’s the man.” Nicholson, adds Brooks, is doing “good.”

Related: Jack Nicholson's Life and Career in Photos

The two became close when Brooks made his directorial debut on Terms of Endearment, which turns 40 this month. That movie “began my relationship with Jack, who's one of the great people I've met in my life,” says Brooks.

<p>Noel Vasquez/Getty</p> Jack Nicholson and James L. Brooks in 2012

Noel Vasquez/Getty

Jack Nicholson and James L. Brooks in 2012

Brooks had worked in television on series like The Mary Tyler Moore Show, but had never directed a movie before Terms of Endearment.

He says Nicholson was all too happy to offer pointers. “At the end of the day, you're just sweating bullets just getting through the day,” says Brooks, who recalls how Nicholson would approach him, saying, "You want to know the best direction you gave today? You want to know the worst direction you gave today?"

Brooks didn’t mind getting feedback from the One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest star. “It was just so great,” he says. “I am in love with the guy. America's in love with the guy. He's a lovable guy.”

Related: Every Best Actor Winner in the History of the Oscars

He credits Terms star Debra Winger for getting them connected in the first place. Burt Reynolds was originally supposed to play former astronaut Garrett Breedlove, who romances Shirley MacLaine’s character Aurora Greenway in the movie.

But Brooks says Reynolds dropped out, and Winger gave the script to her friend Nicholson. “When we started to talk about the part, she got me Jack. I don't think I could have gotten Jack to read the script without Debra,” he says, adding that Nicholson “wasn’t the easiest guy” to get a hold of.

Nicholson won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for the role, and he and Brooks worked together three more times over the next several decades. (Nicholson won another Oscar for As Good as It Gets, their third collaboration.)

<p>Bettman/Getty</p> James L. Brooks, Shirley MacLaine and Jack Nicholson


James L. Brooks, Shirley MacLaine and Jack Nicholson

Though Nicholson hasn’t acted lately, he was seen out and about earlier this year, attending several L.A. Lakers basketball games, where he sat courtside.

Despite Brooks’ hopes of getting Nicholson back to work, the screen legend just wants to kick back, according to actor and podcast host Marc Maron.

Speaking with Nicholson’s pal, producer Lou Adler, on a recent episode of WTF with Marc Maron, the host said, according to The Wrap, "A friend of mine wanted to put him in a movie. And he had a conversation with him. But Jack says, 'I don't want to do it.' He goes, 'You know what I did today? I sat under a tree and I read a book.' "

Terms of Endearment will be available Tuesday on 4K Ultra HD as part of the Paramount Presents line.

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