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Five Easy Pieces is a 1970 film written by Carole Eastman (as Adrien Joyce) and Bob Rafelson, and directed by Rafelson. The film stars Jack Nicholson, Karen Black, and Susan Anspach. The cast also includes Billy Green Bush, Fannie Flagg, Ralph Waite, Sally Struthers, Lois Smith, and Toni Basil. The film tells the story of a surly oil rig worker, Bobby Dupea, whose blue-collar existence belies his youth as a child prodigy. When word reaches Bobby that his father is dying, he reluctantly takes his girlfriend, Rayette (Black), a dimwitted, pregnant waitress, back home to make peace with his family. Nicholson's character and performance present a powerful picture of a troubled man, born to privilege and culture.

A title sequence as written in the screenplay showed earlier scenes in the Dupea family's life, including 10-year-old Bobby's recital program music: (the apparently fictitious) Grebner's "Five Easy Pieces". However, the sequence was not used, and the film titles open instead with the adult Bobby at the oil rigs.

The soundtrack employed five songs by Tammy Wynette, including "Stand By Your Man."

The film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role (Jack Nicholson), Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Karen Black), Best Picture and Best Writing, Story and Screenplay Based on Factual Material or Material Not Previously Published or Produced.

In 2000, Five Easy Pieces was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congressmarker as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".

Notable filmmakers Lars Von Trier, Joel and Ethan Coen, and Ingmar Bergman have expressed deep admiration for the movie, as have award-winning novelists Cormac McCarthy and William Gaddis.

The chicken salad sandwich scene

The waitress, Bobby, Rayette, Palm and Terry.
The movie's most famous scene takes place in a roadside restaurant where Bobby tries to get a waitress (Lorna Thayer) to bring him a side order of toast with his breakfast. The waitress refuses, stating that toast is not offered as a side item, despite the diner's offering a chicken salad sandwich on toast. Bobby appeals to both logic and common sense, but the waitress adamantly refuses to break with the restaurant's policy of only giving customers what is printed in the menu. Ultimately, Bobby orders both his breakfast and the chicken salad sandwich on toast, telling the waitress to bring the sandwich to him without mayonnaise, butter, lettuce, or chicken, culminating in Bobby's responding to the waitress' incredulity at his order to "hold the chicken" with "hold it between your knees!"

The waitress then indignantly orders them to leave, upon which Nicholson knocks the drinks off the table with a sweep of his arm.

The scene is iconic as a metaphor for the rebellious, free spirit of the youth of the late 1960s and early 1970s, a strong theme in the film as a whole. Thirty years later Nicholson would perform a scene in the movie About Schmidt which directly drew from this scene (available as a "Deleted Scene" extra on the DVD release). Nicholson's character in About Schmidt, an emotionally downtrodden retiree, in contrast, humbly accepts the waitress' "no substitutions" rule.

Trivia

The five classical piano pieces — not necessarily "easy" — played in the movie are:

References

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