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Jack Nicholson and the Red Rooster Cafe: the movie scene that never happened

As urban legends go, it doesn’t get much better than the one involving actor Jack Nicholson and the Red Rooster Cafe in Westholme, south of Chemainus.

Like so many urban legends, this one is also false, yet somehow lives on.

It dates back to the 1970 movie Five Easy Pieces, much of which was filmed on southern Vancouver Island.

In the most famous and enduring scene from that movie, Nicholson is seated at a restaurant table and places an order not on the menu.

“No substitutions,” says the waiter sternly.

Nicholson becomes increasingly frustrated, and eventually tells her to hold the chicken “between your knees” and sweeps everything off the table and onto the floor.

The scene was filmed at a restaurant next to Interstate 5 in Eugene, Oregon. You can actually see the freeway in the background from Nicholson’s table.

So how does the Red Rooster Cafe figure in?


In the final scene from the movie, Nicholson walks out of a Gulf gas station and catches a ride in a logging truck headed northbound across the Chemainus River Bridge.

The flashing Red Rooster Cafe sign is visible in the background.

That is its only connection to the movie.

Fast forward to the same location today.

Both the Gulf station and Red Rooster are long gone, but the Motherhen Barbecue Diner, next to the Chevron station, continues to pay homage to Nicholson and Five Easy Pieces.

There are numerous photos from the movie on the walls. There’s also a stitched-up version of Nicholson’s now-famous dialogue posted.

00:00 / 01:04

One is forgiven for being fooled.

When I approached the front counter to pay for my lunch this week, an elderly gentlemen ahead of me regaled a young waiter about Nicholson and the famous restaurant scene and how it all went down at this very location.

It’s a good story, and he told it well.

Problem is, like most movie scripts, it is a work of fiction.

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— Larry Pynn, Dec. 21, 2023


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