By Liam Allen
Entertainment reporter, BBC News
"The movie business is still Darwinian - you can't make a movie star."
Nicholson and Freeman's approach to the film differed
As one of the world's biggest, Jack Nicholson should know.
He and Bucket List co-star Morgan Freeman - with their combined 78 years of film acting - emphatically confirm Nicholson's belief in the survival of the fittest.
The film tells the moving story of mechanic Carter Chambers (Freeman) and corporate billionaire Edward Cole (Nicholson) who meet in hospital where they are both diagnosed with terminal cancer.
United in their struggle to come to terms with the end of their lives, they embark on an epic and often humorous quest to tick off items on their bucket list - a list of things they want to do before they die.
NICHOLSON AND FREEMAN'S PERSONAL BUCKET LIST WISHES
See children graduate
Speak another language
Learn how to cook
Golf score under 90
Buy a business jet
After jumping out of a plane, race car driving and travelling the world, the two reflect upon the most important things in their lives.
Nicholson, clad in his trademark dark glasses, says he is delighted that a film starring two 70-year-olds has topped the US box office.
"Literature, not just in films but in general, is pretty limited in terms of people beyond 50 - there aren't a lot of stories and the themes are surprisingly limited," he says.
"When I read now and they talk about somebody being 65, you're meant to take from that that it's an ancient person. That makes me laugh - that's a young guy."
Freeman says the film's key message is that "it's never too late for anything".
The sprightly actor, who took up flying at the age of 65, added: "There's only one moment when it's absolutely too late and that's your last gasp."
Both actors said the film had made them consider their own mortality.
I don't do any tricks - it's pure animal magnetism
Jack Nicholson on seduction
Oscar winner Nicholson says: "I used to rely on my legs to solve a lot of problems. I could escape from a party out of the back door and around.
"When you lose a certain amount of your stamina you have to adjust. This applies to other areas as well."
Asked about the art of seduction he jokes: "I don't do any tricks - it's pure animal magnetism.
"This becomes super-structured, you have to learn how to not be shy about it, or stupid about it and hopefully to be funny about it."
While Nicholson is famed for his appreciation of women, Freeman is well known for his on-screen stillness.
Freeman said: "I think it's one of the things that's defined me as a person all of my life, this ability to focus."
"But it's short term. I don't get married to anything - my wife excepted."
JACK NICHOLSON OSCARS
1976 - Best actor: One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
1984 - Supporting actor: Terms of Endearment
1998 - Best actor: As Good As It Gets
Director Rob Reiner said it had initially been hard to attract interest from the studios in the idea of a film "about old guys dying of cancer" in the "ageist" film industry.
"But if you have Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman it makes it more attractive to them. But even with that, most of the studios were not interested," he adds.
Reiner, whose hit films include Stand By Me and This Is Spinal Tap, said he hoped the "massive success" of The Bucket List would prove "there's an audience out there" for films featuring older characters.
Freeman and Nicholson have never worked together before, while Reiner says said it was "a dream come true" to work with "the two best actors in the world".
"In the case of these two guys, they have such respect for each other and they're watching each other's back.
"You see ego in younger actors who are becoming famous, but actors who have been a long time in a profession like this, they know what the gig is."
Despite their longevity, acting success came relatively late for both Nicholson and Freeman.
Nicholson made his screen debut at 21, while Freeman appeared in his first film, Brubaker, in 1980 - at the age of 43. He says he managed to avoid some of the pitfalls faced by young actors.
"Knowing my character, it's probably best that it waited a while before I got a certain level of success - I'm experimental."
But despite their similarities, The Bucket List's leading men have quite different ways of approaching their work.
Nicholson is well known for immersing himself in research for his roles, spending time talking to cancer patients for The Bucket List.
Freeman, meanwhile, insists "you don't really have to do research to create a character".
In the presence of these two Hollywood giants, it's clear they both bring good old-fashioned star quality to the table.
And who better to define that than the effervescent Nicholson, now celebrating his 50th year in films.
"Star quality is if you're on stage and a cat walks on and they still watch you."