The following biography
John Joseph "Jack" Nicholson (born April
22, 1937) is a highly successful, iconic American method actor known for
his often dark-themed portrayals of neurotic characters.
He has been nominated for an Academy Award twelve
times (winning 3 of them), more than any other male actor, and second only to
Meryl Streep (who has 13 nominations and 2 wins) in total nominations. He is
tied with Walter Brennan for most wins by a male actor, and second to Katharine
Hepburn for most acting wins overall (Hepburn had 4).
He has also won seven Golden Globe Awards and he
received a Kennedy Center Honors in 2001.
Nicholson was born at Bellevue Hospital Center in
New York City to June Frances Nicholson (alias June Nilson), a showgirl of
English and Irish descent who had previously married an Italian-American showman
Donald Furcillo (stage name Donald Rose) six months earlier in Elkton, Maryland,
on October 16, 1936. Elkton was a town known for its "quickie" marriages.
However, Furcillo was already married, and, although he offered to take care of
the child, June's mother Ethel insisted that she bring up the baby, partly so
that June could pursue her dancing career. Jack was brought up believing his
grandparents Joseph (a department store window dresser in Asbury Park, New
Jersey) and Ethel May Nicholson (a hairdresser and beautician and amateur artist
in Neptune, New Jersey) were his parents. He attended high school at nearby
Manasquan High School, where a drama award was ultimately named in his honor.
Nicholson only discovered that his parents were actually his grandparents and
his sister was in fact his mother in 1974 after being informed by a Time
Magazine journalist who was doing a feature on him, while he was filming The
Fortune with Stockard Channing. By this time both his mother and grandmother had
died (in 1963 and 1970, respectively). Nicholson has stated he does not know who
his father is, saying "Only Ethel and June knew and they never told anybody".
Although Donald Furcillo claimed to be Nicholson's father and to have committed
bigamy by marrying June, biographer Patrick McGilligan, who wrote Jack's Life
(published in December 1995) asserted that Eddie King, June's manager, may be
the father and other (see ) sources have suggested that June Nicholson was
unsure of who the father was. Jack Nicholson has chosen not to have a DNA test
or to pursue the matter. Although Nicholson is personally anti-abortion, he is
pro-life: "I'm very contra my constituency in terms of abortion because I'm
positively against it. I don't have the right to any other view. My only emotion
is gratitude, literally, for my life." Nicholson told Vanity Fair in 1992 that
he did not believe in God.
In his adult personal life, Nicholson has been
notorious for his inability to "settle down". He has four children by three
different mothers despite only being married once (Jennifer Nicholson with
former wife Sandra Knight, Caleb Goddard with Susan Anspach, his Five Easy
Pieces co-star, and Lorraine and Raymond Nicholson with Rebecca Broussard). He
has been romantically linked to numerous actresses and models for decades.
Nicholson's longest relationship was for 17 years to actress Anjelica Huston,
the daughter of the legendary director John Huston. However, the relationship
ended when the news reported that Rebecca Broussard had become pregnant with his
Nicholson started his career as an actor, writer,
and producer, working for and with Roger Corman. This included his screen debut
in The Cry Baby Killer (1958), where he played a juvenile delinquent who panics
after shooting two other teenagers, The Little Shop of Horrors (1960), in which
he had a small role as a masochistic dental patient, another small role in The
Raven (1963) and The Terror (1963), co-starring then-wife Sandra Knight.
His work on the LSD-fueled screenplay for 1967's
The Trip, which starred Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper, led to his first big
break in Easy Rider (1969). Nicholson played hard-drinking lawyer George Hanson,
for which he received his first Oscar nomination.
A Best Actor nomination came the following year for
his persona-defining role in Five Easy Pieces (1970), which includes his famous
chicken salad dialogue about getting what you want. Also that year, he appeared
in the movie adaptation of On a Clear Day You Can See Forever as Daisy Gamble
(Barbra Streisand)'s stepbrother.
More of his earlier film roles include Hal Ashby's
The Last Detail (1973), Roman Polanski's Chinatown (1974), and Stanley Kubrick's
The Shining (1980).
Nicholson earned his first Academy Award for Best
Actor for portraying Randall P. McMurphy in Miloš Forman's One Flew Over the
Cuckoo's Nest (1975). His Academy Award for Best Actor was matched with the
Academy Award for Best Actress given to Louise Fletcher for her portrayal of
Nurse Ratched. His next Oscar, the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, came
for his role in Terms of Endearment (1983).
The 1989 Batman movie, where Nicholson played The
Joker, was an international smash hit, and a lucrative percentage deal earned
Nicholson about $50 million.
For his role as hotheaded Col. Nathan R. Jessep in
A Few Good Men (1992), a movie about a murder in a US Marine Corps unit, he
received yet another nomination by the Academy. This film contains Nicholson's
"You can't handle the truth!" scene, which has since become widely known and
imitated Template:Citation Needed.
Nicholson would go on to win his next Best Actor
Oscar for his role as Melvin Udall, the neurotic author, in the romance As Good
as It Gets (1997). Nicholson's Oscar was matched with the Academy Award for Best
Actress honor for Helen Hunt as a Manhattan waitress drawn into a love/hate
friendship with Udall, a frequent diner.
In About Schmidt (2002), Nicholson portrayed a
retired Omaha, Nebraska insurance man who questions his own life and the death
of his wife shortly afterward. The deeply emotional, slow film stands in sharp
contrast to many of his previous roles.
In the comedy Anger Management, he plays an
aggressive therapist assigned to help overly pacifist Adam Sandler.
His most recent film is the 2003 Something's Gotta
Give as an aging playboy who falls for the mother (Diane Keaton) of his young
Not all of Nicholson's performances have been
well-received. He was nominated for Razzie Awards as worst actor for Man Trouble
(1992) and Hoffa (1992). His portrayal of the American President in Mars Attacks
(1996) was widely criticised for being over-the-top and unfunny [citation
Nicholson will return to villainous form as a tough
Boston Irish Mob boss presiding over Matt Damon and Leonardo DiCaprio in Martin
Scorsese's The Departed (2006).
Cesar Romero Actors to portray the Joker
1989 Succeeded by:
Nicholson is also a well-known and highly visible
fan of the NBA's Los Angeles Lakers; he has courtside seats. It is in his
contract that he does not film movies during Lakers games. When he is at a
televised Lakers game, he is invariably sought out for celebrity camera shots
during one or more breaks in the game. While he used to be often accompanied by
a girlfriend, he can usually be seen with one of his young children now.
In 1998, after Nicholson visited Cuba and had a
three hour conversation with Fidel Castro, he told Daily Variety: "He is a
genius". According to former Cuban intelligence officer Delfin Fernandez,
Nicholson's hotel room was bugged with both video and audio recording devices at
the instruction of Castro.
He was asked, along with Warren Beatty and Dustin
Hoffman to play Al Pacino's famed role of Michael Corleone in The Godfather.
He is known to his friends as Pickles.
He was friends with famous Gonzo Journalist Hunter
S. Thompson, who has a humorous account of himself pranking Jack Nicholson at
his home by placing a thawing elk's heart on his doorstep, playing sounds of a
recorded pig slaughter, and firing guns in the air, in his last book before he
died: Kingdom of Fear.
Nicholson's height is 174 cm (5 ft 8.5 in).
Nicholson had a role in the Monkees' history,
co-writing the screenplay for their movie Head (1968) with producer Bob Rafelson
(storylines coming from a weekend of brainstorming with the band, Rafelson and
partner Bert Schneider), and assembling its soundtrack album. He also makes a
cameo appearance in Head, as a production assistant. Rafelson, Schneider, and
Nicholson would next work together on Easy Rider.
When Oona O'Neill Chaplin saw Nicholson in the film
Reds, where he portrayed her estranged father Eugene O'Neill, she wrote him a
letter saying "Thanks to you, I now can love my father". Nicholson has said that
"that is the best compliment I ever got".
According to movie producer Robert Evans in the E!
True Hollywood Story on Nicholson, Evans was looking to get Chinatown off the
ground and they were in need of a male actor. Evans was intent on finding an
unknown who could play the role when Nicholson stepped into an office to deliver
a package. When Nicholson departed the office with his devilish grin, it caught
Evans' eye who went right after Nicholson and told him about Chinatown with an
offer of US$10,000 to star in the film. Nicholson told Evans that he was paying
alimony along with a child to support, if the producer could raise it to
US$15,000. Evans offered him US$12,500, and Nicholson hugged Evans right on the
He lived by friend Danny DeVito in the same New
Jersey neighborhood during their early years. When the two were working on One
Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, Nicholson immediately identified DeVito as a fellow
resident from Asbury Park, New Jersey, their hometown and became close friends.
The basis for DeVito's decision to play the Penguin in Batman Returns was partly
influenced by Nicholson's advice. Nicholson's participation in Batman (1989) was
one of Hollywood's most lucrative roles – his share of the film's profits netted
him somewhere in the neighborhood of $50,000,000 to $60,000,000 US dollars.
The late Batman creator Bob Kane had recommended
Nicholson for the Joker for years prior to his being cast as the Joker for the
The sardonic sailor character Shipwreck from GI
Joe: A Real American Hero animated series of the 1980s was partly based on
Nicholson (and partly based on Popeye the Sailor Man).
Whenever he's asked what he'll do when he retires
from acting. He answers "Well hopefully, go to heaven".
Makes it a must never to do Disney movies,
especially animated movies, as he knows the story, the songs and dialogue will
always outshadow any actor's performance.
Is a fan of professional wrestling. Some of his
favorites include Harley Race, Ric Flair and John Cena
Is a discreet fan of Doctor Who
Nicholson is one of only two actors to be nominated
for an Academy Award for acting (either lead or supporting) in every decade
since the 1960s. The other is Michael Caine.
Year Film Role
2006 The Departed Frank Costello (post production)
2003 Something's Gotta Give Harry Sanborn
2003 Anger Management Dr. Buddy Rydell
2002 About Schmidt Warren R. Schmidt
2001 The Pledge Jerry Black
1997 As Good as It Gets Melvin Udall
1996 Mars Attacks! President James Dale
1996 The Evening Star Garrett Breedlove
1996 Blood and Wine Alex Gates
1995 The Crossing Guard Freddy Gale
1994 Wolf Will Randall
1992 Hoffa James R. 'Jimmy' Hoffa
1992 A Few Good Men Col. Nathan R. Jessep
1992 Man Trouble Eugene Earl Axline
aka Harry Bliss
1990 The Two Jakes Jake Gittes
1989 Batman The Joker/
1987 Ironweed Francis Phelan
1987 Broadcast News Bill Rorich
1987 The Witches of Eastwick Daryl Van Horne
1986 Heartburn Mark Louis Forman
1986 Elephant's Child Narrator
1985 Prizzi's Honor Charley Partanna
1983 Terms of Endearment Garrett Breedlove
1982 The Border Charlie Smith
1981 Reds Eugene O'Neill
1981 The Postman Always Rings Twice Frank Chambers
1980 The Shining Jack Torrance
1978 Goin' South Henry Lloyd Moon
1976 The Last Tycoon Brimmer
1976 The Missouri Breaks Tom Logan
1975 One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest Randle Patrick
1975 The Fortune Oscar Sullivan
1975 Tommy The Specialist
1975 Professione: reporter
aka The Passenger David Locke
1974 Chinatown Jake 'J.J' Gittes
1973 The Last Detail Billy 'Bad Ass' Buddusky
1972 The King of Marvin Gardens David Staebler
1971 A Safe Place Mitch
1971 Carnal Knowledge Jonathan Fuerst
1970 Five Easy Pieces Robert Eroica Dupea
1970 On a Clear Day You Can See Forever Tad Pringle
1970 The Rebel Rousers Bunny
1969 Easy Rider George Hanson
1968 Psych-Out Stoney
1968 Head "Production Assistant" (cameo)
(also screenplay and soundtrack)
1967 Hells Angels on Wheels Poet
1967 The St. Valentine's Day Massacre Gino, Hitman
1967 The Shooting Billy Spear
1967 The Trip (screenplay)
1965 Ride in the Whirlwind Wes
1964 Back Door to Hell Burnett
1964 Flight to Fury Jay Wickham
1964 Ensign Pulver Dolan
1963 The Terror Lt. Andre Duvalier
1963 The Raven Rexford Bedlo
1962 The Broken Land Will Brocius
1960 Studs Lonigan Weary Reilly
1960 The Little Shop of Horrors Wilbur Force
1960 Too Soon to Love Buddy
1960 The Wild Ride Johnny Varron
1958 The Cry Baby Killer Jimmy Wallace
Awards and nominations
1969 - Nominated - Best Actor in a Supporting Role
- Easy Rider
1970 - Nominated - Best Actor in a Leading Role -
Five Easy Pieces
1973 - Nominated - Best Actor in a Leading Role -
The Last Detail
1974 - Nominated - Best Actor in a Leading Role -
1975 - Won - Best Actor in a Leading Role - One
Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
1981 - Nominated - Best Actor in a Supporting Role
1983 - Won - Best Actor in a Supporting Role -
Terms of Endearment
1985 - Nominated - Best Actor in a Leading Role -
1987 - Nominated - Best Actor in a Leading Role -
1992 - Nominated - Best Actor in a Supporting Role
- A Few Good Men
1997 - Won - Best Actor in a Leading Role - As Good
As It Gets
2002 - Nominated - Best Actor in a Leading Role -
Louis Gossett, Jr.
for An Officer and a Gentleman Academy Award for
Best Supporting Actor
for Terms of Endearment Succeeded by:
Haing S. Ngor
for The Killing Fields
for Harry and Tonto Academy Award for Best Actor
for One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest Succeeded by:
for Shine Academy Award for Best Actor
for As Good As It Gets Succeeded by:
for Life is Beautiful
* * * *
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