Jack Nicholson

Jack Nicholson books and biography


Jack Nicholson

Dennis Hopper (left) and Jack Nicholson (right) at the 62nd Academy Awards, March 26, 1990
Birth name John Joseph Nicholson
Born April 22, 1937 (age 69)
New York, New York, USA
Height 5 ft 9½ in (177 cm) [1]
Spouse(s) Sandra Knight (1962-1968)
Academy Awards
Best Actor
1975 One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
1997 As Good As It Gets
Best Supporting Actor
1983 Terms of Endearment

This article refers to the actor. For the golfer of a similar name, see Jack Nicklaus

John Joseph Nicholson, better known as Jack Nicholson (born April 22, 1937 in New York, New York) is a highly successful, iconic, three-time Academy Award and seven time Golden Globe winning American method actor known for his often dark-themed portrayals of neurotic characters.

He has been nominated for an Academy Award 12 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.


Biography and personal life

Nicholson was born at Bellevue Hospital Center in New York City to a showgirl, June Frances Nicholson (stage name June Nilson)[1]. June had married Donald Furcillo (stage name Donald Rose), a showman 6 months earlier in Elkton, Maryland, on October 16, 1936[2]. Elkton was a town known for its "quickie" marriages. Furcillo however, 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. Furcillo's parents were Italian, while June Nicholson was of Irish descent on her father's side and English descent on her mother's.[3]

Nicholson was brought up believing his grandparents John J. Nicholson (a department store window dresser in Asbury Park, New Jersey) and Ethel May Rhoads (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 later 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 [4] . 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" [5] .

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 [6] 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.

Nicholson as Wilbur Force in The Little Shop of Horrors (1960).
Nicholson as Wilbur Force in The Little Shop of Horrors (1960).

In his adult personal life, Nicholson has been notorious for his inability to "settle down". He has four children by three different women despite only being married once.

  • Jennifer Nicholson with former wife Sandra Knight
  • Caleb Goddard with Susan Anspach, his Five Easy Pieces co-star
  • Lorraine Nicholson 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 child.

Although he was brought up as a Catholic, Nicholson told Vanity Fair in 1992 that he did not believe in God.[7] Although Nicholson is personally against abortion, he is pro-choice.[8]

Early acting career

Nicholson started his career as an actor, writer, and producer, working for and with Roger Corman, among others. 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, and roles in two other Roger Corman films The Raven (1963) and The Terror (1963), co-starring then-wife Sandra Knight.

As the 60's progressed, and with acting jobs still not easy to find, Nicholson began writing more often. The result of this included Thunder Island (1963), Flight to Fury (1964), Ride in the Whirlwind (1965), and The Monkees' vehicle Head (1968). These films enjoyed little if any success, but the young Nicholson was finally working more steadily. In the TV sitcom world, he also made appearances in two episodes of The Andy Griffith Show as Marvin Jenkins in 1966-1967.

Rise to fame

Jack Nicholson in Easy Rider.
Jack Nicholson in Easy Rider.

With his acting career heading nowhere, Nicholson seemed resigned to a career behind the camera as a writer/director. His first real taste of writing success was the LSD-fueled screenplay for 1967's The Trip, which starred Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper. However, after a spot opened up in Fonda and Hopper's Easy Rider, it led to his first big acting break. Nicholson played hard-drinking lawyer George Hanson, for which he received his first Oscar nomination.

Director Roman Polanski cameos as a gangster who slits Nicholson's nose in Chinatown
Director Roman Polanski cameos as a gangster who slits Nicholson's nose in Chinatown

A Best Actor nomination came the following year for his persona-defining role in Five Easy Pieces (1970), which includes his famous

An American icon

Nicholson earned his first Academy Award for Best Actor for portraying Randall P. McMurphy in Ken Kesey's novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, directed by Miloš Forman in 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.

Nicholson as The Joker in Batman (1989).
Nicholson as The Joker in Batman (1989).

Although he didn't garner any Oscar attention for Stanley Kubrick's adaptation of Stephen King's The Shining (1980), it remains one of Nicholson's most significant roles.

His next Oscar, the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, came for his role of Garrett Breedlove, retired astronaut, in Terms of Endearment (1983).

Nicholson continued to work prolifically in the 80's, starring in such films as The Postman Always Rings Twice (1981), Reds (1981), Prizzi's Honor (1985), The Witches of Eastwick (1987), and Ironweed (1987). Three Academy Award nominations also followed (Reds, Prizzi's Honor, and Ironweed).

The 1989 Batman movie, where Nicholson played The Joker, was an international smash hit, and a lucrative percentage deal earned Nicholson about $60 million. Nicholson was to reprise his role as The Joker in the fifth installment in the franchise Batman Triumphant in 1999, however Warner Bros. Pictures cancelled the project.[citation needed]

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 scene, which has since become widely known and imitated.

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).

Nicholson would go on to win his next Best Actor Oscar for his role as Melvin Udall, a neurotic author with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), 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.

Recent years

Nicholson as Francis
Nicholson as Francis "Frank" Costello in The Departed (2006).

In About Schmidt (2002), Nicholson portrayed a retired Omaha, Nebraska actuary who questions his own life and the death of his wife shortly afterward. His quiet, restrained performance stood in sharp contrast to many of his previous roles, and earned him an Academy Award Nomination for Best Actor.

In the comedy Anger Management, he plays an aggressive therapist assigned to help overly pacifist Adam Sandler.

In 2003, Nicholson starred in Something's Gotta Give as an aging playboy who falls for the mother (Diane Keaton) of his young girlfriend.

In late 2006, Nicholson marked his return to the "dark side" as Frank Costello, a sadistic Boston Irish Mob boss presiding over Matt Damon and Leonardo DiCaprio in Martin Scorsese's The Departed, a remake of Andrew Lau's Infernal Affairs.

Current and future projects

In November 2006, Nicholson is scheduled to start filming his next project, Rob Reiner's The Bucket List. The film will star him and Morgan Freeman as dying men who must fulfill their list of goals. The film is tentatively scheduled to be released in 2007.

Academy Awards and nominations

With 12 nominations thus far, Jack Nicholson is the most nominated actor in Academy Awards history:

  • 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 - Chinatown
  • 1975 - Won - Best Actor in a Leading Role - One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
  • 1981 - Nominated - Best Actor in a Supporting Role - Reds
  • 1983 - Won - Best Actor in a Supporting Role - Terms of Endearment
  • 1985 - Nominated - Best Actor in a Leading Role - Prizzi's Honor
  • 1987 - Nominated - Best Actor in a Leading Role - Ironweed
  • 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 - About Schmidt


  • He has been nominated for an acting (lead or supporting) Academy Award in five different decades: 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s. The only other actor who can say the same is Michael Caine.
  • He was known to his high school friends as "Nick", and was voted "class clown" by the Class of 1954 at Manasquan High School. In 2004, Nicholson attended his 50 year high school reunion, much to the surprise and delight of his fellow classmates. A theatre at the school is named in his honor [9].
Jack Nicholson sitting courtside for a Los Angeles Lakers basketball game in 2005.
Jack Nicholson sitting courtside for a Los Angeles Lakers basketball game in 2005.
  • When he first came to Hollywood, Nicholson worked as a go-fer for animation legends, Hanna-Barbera. Seeing his talent as an artist, they offered Nicholson a starting level position as an animation artist. However, citing his desire to become an actor, he declined. [10]
  • He is a fan of the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Lakers. His attendance at Lakers games is almost legendary, as he has been spotted sitting courtside for the past 25 years at both The Forum and the Staples Center. In a few instances, Nicholson has engaged in arguments with game officials and opposing players, and has even walked onto the court [11]. Those working on his films must sometimes work around his affection for the Lakers [12].
  • In addition to his walking on the court, Nicholson was arguing with officials so much during a 2001 Lakers playoff game that he was assesed a technical foul.
  • Nicholson lived next door to Marlon Brando for a number of years on Mulholland Drive in Beverly Hills. Warren Beatty also lived nearby, earning the road the nickname "Bad Boy Drive". After Brando's death in 2004, Nicholson purchased his neighbor's bungalow for $6.1 million, with the purpose of having it demolished. Nicholson stated that it was done out of respect to Brando's legacy, as the house had become derelict [13].
  • Actor Harry Dean Stanton served as the best man at Nicholson's wedding, and the two have appeared in six films together. He is also a close friend of film director Roman Polanski, whom he has supported through many personal crises including the death of his wife, Sharon Tate, at the hands of the Manson Family. He also supported Polanski through his conviction for statutory rape, a crime which allegedly took place on the Nicholson estate on Mulholland Drive.
  • Nicholson is on Maxim's "Top 10 Living Legends of Sex" with an alleged 2,000 women that he has slept with. [14]


 v  d  e 
Main Filmography
Easy Rider (1969) | Five Easy Pieces (1970) | Carnal Knowledge (1971) | The Last Detail (1973) | Chinatown (1974) | One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975)  | The Passenger (1975)  | The Missouri Breaks (1976) |The Last Tycoon (1976) | The Shining (1980) | The Postman Always Ring Twice (1981) | Reds (1981) |Terms of Endearment (1983) | Prizzi's Honor (1985) | Heartburn (1986) | The Witches of Eastwick (1987) | Ironweed (1987) | Batman (1989) | A Few Good Men (1992) | Hoffa (1992) | Wolf (1994) | Mars Attacks! (1996) | As Good as it Gets (1997) | About Schmidt (2002) |Anger Management (2003) |Something's Gotta Give (2003) |The Departed (2006


Preceded by
Art Carney
for Harry and Tonto
Academy Award for Best Actor
for One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
Succeeded by
Peter Finch
for Network
Preceded by
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
Preceded by
Geoffrey Rush
for Shine
Academy Award for Best Actor
for As Good As It Gets
Succeeded by
Roberto Benigni
for Life is Beautiful
Preceded by
Cesar Romero
Actors to portray the Joker
1989 - Batman
Succeeded by
Mark Hamill


  1. ^ Young Jack Nicholson: Auspicious Beginnings, Eve Berliner, 2001
  2. ^ Marriage certificate of June Nilson and Donald Furcillo, Young Jack Nicholson: Auspicious Beginnings, Eve Berliner, 2001
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^,2540,21,00.html
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^ McGilligan, P.: Jack's Life. W.W. Norton & Company, 1994
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^ ^

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