Jack Nicholson


Photo: Jack Nicholson

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Biography of Jack Nicholson

John “Jack” Joseph Nicholson is an American actor, director, screenwriter and producer, known worldwide for his many roles of crazy characters. Among the most high-profile films with his participation: “The Shining” by Stanley Kubrick, “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” by Milos Forman, “Batman” by Tim Burton. Other noteworthy films are Easy Rider, Five Easy Pieces, Roman Polanski’s Chinatown, The Passenger, Endearment, A Few Good Men, As Good As It Gets, Martin Scorsese’s The Departed.

Every image of Jack Nicholson has a bit of madness

Jack Nicholson was nominated for an Oscar 12 times, of which 3 times turned into a victory: two for Best Actor (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest in 1976, As Good As It Gets in 1998) and one for Best Supporting Actor (“Language of endearment” in 1984). His collection of awards also includes seven Golden Globes. In 1994, Nicholson became the youngest actor in history to receive a lifetime award from the American Film Institute.


Jack was born on April 22, 1937 in Manhattan, in the family of 18-year-old dancer June Nicholson, in whose veins Irish, English and German blood flowed. Six months before the birth of her son, June married her colleague, showman Donald Furcillo. He believed that he was the father of June’s child, and despite the fact that he was already married to another, he offered the girl to take on the costs of raising the child. June’s parents opposed this – they took the baby to their place so that their daughter could calmly continue her career as a dancer.

Childhood photo of Jack Nicholson

Jack grew up in the home of his grandfather, who worked as a window dresser in a store, and his grandmother, a hairdresser and beautician. He believed that these were his parents, and June was his sister. He learned that this was a lie from Time journalists in 1974, when both his grandmother and mother were already dead. There is also a version that manager June Eddie King is his biological father. The actor never found out who his father really is, refusing all the proposed DNA tests.

As a child, Jack Nicholson sang in the church choir

Nick, as Jack’s friends called him, was brought up in the spirit of Catholicism and even sang in the church choir. He took an active part in the life of the church community to which his grandmother belonged, but in high school he moved away from religion. Subsequently, he repeatedly mentioned that he did not consider himself an atheist, but you cannot call him an avid churchgoer either. “I only pray when I run,” Nicholson joked. In 1992, the actor came to the conclusion that he was an agnostic.

Young Jack Nicholson (photo from the school diary)

At the school graduation party in 1954, peers unanimously recognized him as the first class clown. Much later, the school initiated an award for students who make progress in acting, and named it after Nicholson.

Carier start

After graduating from high school, Nicholson moved to Los Angeles with the firm intention of breaking into the film business. He first worked as an errand boy for cartoon legends William Hanna and Joseph Barbera. Soon the studios drew attention to his artistic abilities and offered him a position as an assistant animator, but Jack, who was aiming for actors, refused.

Caricature of the employees of the studio X-B (Jack Nicholson on the right in the top row)

Jack Nicholson’s path to cinema was opened in 1958 by the director of the film “Cry-Baby Killer” Roger Corman. Nicholson made his debut in the title role of a young criminal who began to panic after the murder of teenagers.

1958: Jack Nicholson’s first film role

Two years later, Nicholson got another role, and also an asocial element, and again in the Corman film. Jack became the Little Shop of Horrors pervert who enjoyed a toothache. Later, he took part in the filming of the film “Fear” and even sat in the director’s chair instead of Corman, however, only for one day. He subsequently worked with Corman also on The Raven (1963) and The Valentine’s Day Massacre (1967). In the second half of the 60s, he wrote two scripts for director Mante Hellman and starred in the films based on them: Fire to Kill and Escape to Nowhere (1966).

Screenwriter out of desperation

These roles did not bring him fame, and in 1967, Nicholson decided that he would achieve greater success in the field of writing. That same year, he wrote an LSD-inspired screenplay for the film Trip, starring Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper. Having got a taste, he began to compose the script together with Bob Rafelson. Their collaboration resulted in the musical Head, which starred members of The Monkees. In addition, Nicholson was involved in the selection of the soundtrack for the film.

Jack Nicholson, Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda, 1969

Getting to know Hopper and Fonda helped the young Nicholson get into the cast of Easy Rider. Banal luck was worth thanking: his character was originally written for Rip Torn, who turned down the role due to squabbles with the producer. The role of the ever-drunk lawyer George Hanson was Nicholson’s first breakthrough and earned him his first Oscar nomination.

Jack Nicholson in Easy Rider

The following year, the actor received another Oscar nomination for his role in Five Easy Pieces. That same year, he appeared in On a Clear Day You’ll See Forever with Barbara Streisand, although for most of the film, his character simply lay on the floor.

Five Easy Pieces with Jack Nicholson. excerpt

Soon he tried to get the role of Michael Corleone in Francis Coppola’s The Godfather, but was refused.

In his youth, Jack Nicholson was a rowdy, alcoholic and drug addict.

Behind the cheerful cynicism and imposing buffoonery of Jack’s heroes, one can see the inner honesty, which turns out to be wounded when reality gives bad surprises. It was this Jack that the audience saw in Roman Polanski’s Chinatown thriller, released in 1974. Nicholson’s character – a private detective, rude and completely devoid of sentimentality, brought the actor another Academy Award nomination. In 1975, two more notorious films with his participation appeared on the screens: “Profession: Reporter” and “Tommy”.

Young Jack Nicholson in Chinatown

America’s Idol

After a number of nominations, Jack was finally awarded his first Oscar. The award was brought to him by the main role in the cult film adaptation of Ken Kesey’s novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. According to critics of the time, in this picture, Nicholson reached the highest point of artistic skill. His character is the hot-tempered Irishman R.P. McMurphy, who plays mentally ill to avoid jail time.

Shot from the film “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”

After resounding success, he began to choose more and more unusual roles – in The Last Tycoon, The Missouri Bend with Marlon Brando, Heading South. In 1980, he was cast as the lead in Kubrick’s The Shining, an adaptation of the horror master Stephen King’s novel of the same name. Perhaps the unfortunate writer Jack Torrance, slowly losing his mind in the sinister Overlock Hotel, can be called his most characteristic and striking role.

The famous shot of Jack Nicholson from The Shining

Jack received another top acting award for his supporting role in the film “Tenderness” (1983), reincarnated as a former astronaut, and now an inveterate alcoholic Garrett Breedlove.

Frame from the film “Tenderness”

In the 80s, the actor also appeared in the films The Postman Always Rings Twice, The Honor of the Prizzi Family, The Reds, The Witches of Eastwick, The Thistle – all these are recognized masterpieces of the classics of American cinema.

Bar scene from The Shining with Jack Nicholson

In 1989, the film “Batman” with the participation of Nicholson became a real hit at the box office. The role of the Joker brought the actor a fabulous $ 6 million. In the future, it was planned that he would return to this character in the continuation of “Batman Triumphant”, but the project was canceled.

One of Nicholson’s best roles is the Joker from Batman in 1989.

However, Jack Nicholson became the canon Batman for years to come. Neither Heath Ledger nor Jared Leto, who later played this crazy genius, could embody his image as vividly as Nicholson did.

Joker dance

He also received an Oscar nomination for his role as the hot-tempered Colonel in A Few Good Men (1992). This is where his catchphrase “You can’t stand the truth!” comes from.

The 20th century ended for Nicholson with another Oscar. The third statuette was brought to him by the main role in the film “It doesn’t get better” – a sentimental comedy about an eccentric unsociable person who again found his way to the hearts of others thanks to a dog.

As Good As It Gets: Jack Nicholson and the Dog

However, Nicholson’s work was also marked by anti-prizes. Twice the actor was nominated for the Golden Raspberry: for his roles in the films Hoffa and People’s Troubles.

New century

In 2002, the actor played in the film About Schmidt. This time, his hero is a retired insurance company employee who is tormented by questions about his life. The image contrasted strongly with the “explosive” heroes of his past paintings.

And in the comedy Anger Management, the actor got an aggressive psychiatrist, who was assigned to the character of Adam Sandler to teach him to manage his own emotions. In 2003, Nicholson played an aged playboy in the film Love Without Rules. The character is seriously infatuated with his girlfriend’s mom.

Jack Nicholson and Adam Sandler in Anger Management

In 2006, Jack returned to the “dark side” and played an Irish mafia sadist in the Oscar-winning film “The Departed” with Leonardo DiCaprio and Matt Damon (a remake of “Devil Affairs”).

Shot from the movie “The Departed”

The last role of the actor was to be a man dying of cancer (Until I Played the Box, 2007), who, along with a neighbor in a hospital bed (Morgan Freeman), fulfills his wish list. To play more authentically, the actor visited the cancer hospital in Los Angeles to see how people are struggling with a deadly disease.

In 2007, Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman played in one film.

However, in 2010, the actor starred in the melodrama Who Knows with Reese Witherspoon. The tape failed at the box office.

Personal life of Jack Nicholson

Jack Nicholson himself claims to have slept with two or more thousand women. But he was married only once – to actress Sandra Knight, with whom they starred together in the movie “Fear”. In 1963, she gave birth to the actor’s daughter, Jennifer. The marriage lasted 6 years: from 1962 to 1968.

Jack Nicholson and Sandra Knight in Fear

The actor also has a daughter, Hani (b. 1981), a memory of his relationship with Danish fashion model Winnie Hollman, a son, Caleb (b. 1970), from actress Susan Anspach, and a daughter, Lorraine (b. son Ray (born 1992) with his ex-girlfriend Rebecca Broussard,

Photo: Jack Nicholson and his youngest son Ray

Jack Nicholson now

In January 2013, a close friend of the actor Peter Fonda told the press that Jack Nicholson was retiring. It turned out that this is due to progressive memory loss – due to illness, the actor is simply not able to remember the characters’ lines. He had to turn down a role in Nebraska, where, ironically, he was supposed to play a character with Alzheimer’s.

2016: what Jack Nicholson looks like now

And yet, Nicholson enjoys a life of “retirement.” He still breathes irregularly to the opposite sex and does not shy away from carnal pleasures.

Jack Nicholson on vacation

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