Nance as Pete Martell on Twin Peaks, 1990
|Born||Marvin John Nance
December 21, 1943
Boston, Massachusetts, United States
|Died||December 30, 1996
South Pasadena, California, United States
|Other names||Jack Nance
|Spouse(s)||Catherine E. Coulson
Kelly Jean Van Dyke
|Relatives||Jerry Van Dyke (father-in-law)|
Nance was born in Boston, Massachusetts and was raised in Dallas, Texas. He graduated from South Oak Cliff High School. His father retired from Neiman Marcus. He worked for some time with the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco. In the 1970s, Nance met David Lynch, who cast him as the lead in Eraserhead. At the time, Nance was married to the actress Catherine E. Coulson (the future Log Lady in Twin Peaks), but they divorced in 1976.
In his later years, Nance grew a small white moustache and was a distinctive presence in many films with his peculiar twisted smile and blue eyes. After Eraserhead, Nance remained on good terms with Lynch, who cast him in nearly all of his projects:
- Dune (1984): small role; as the Harkonnen Captain Iakin Nefud.
- Ghoulies (1984): small role; as "Wolfgang".
- Blue Velvet (1986): supporting role; as Paul, a friend/henchman of Dennis Hopper's villain character.
- The Cowboy and the Frenchman (1988): as Pete, one of the cowboys.
- Wild at Heart (1990): small role; as "00 Spool".
- Twin Peaks (1990–1991): co-starring role as Pete Martell, the henpecked sawmill gaffer.
- Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me (1992): reprised his role as Peter Martell, but his scenes were deleted.
- Lost Highway (1997): small role; as Phil, a garage mechanic (one of his final acting roles).
Nance also guest-starred on a 1995 episode of My So-Called Life entitled "Weekend", in which he played an innkeeper. He also made a cameo appearance with actress Mary Woronov in Suicidal Tendencies' 1983 "Institutionalized" music video.
In May 1991 Nance married Kelly Jean Van Dyke, the daughter of Jerry Van Dyke. She worked in the adult film industry under the name Nancee Kelly. On November 17, 1991, Nance, who was in Bass Lake, California, filming Meatballs 4 at the time, called Van Dyke to end the relationship. He attempted to console her on the phone as she threatened suicide, telling Nance that if he hung up the phone, she would take her own life. At that point, a lightning storm knocked out the phone lines in Bass Lake.
In the pouring rain, Nance went to the nearby lodgings of the film's director, Bobby Logan, seeking help. Logan recalls in I Don't Know Jack, 'He says, "I think my wife just killed herself." Jack and I had a relationship on the set where we were always playing practical jokes on one another. I figured he was doing that to me. So I said, "Being married to you, who could blame her?" And when I said that, suddenly a little tear trickled down his cheek, and I realised it wasn't the rain that had hit him in the face...'
With most of the phones in the area still out, it took Nance and Logan 45 minutes of driving around to find a deputy sheriff who contacted Los Angeles police and the apartment manager. They broke in and found that she had hanged herself.
Nance died in South Pasadena, California on December 30, 1996 under mysterious circumstances. Nance told friends he had been beaten by a young man outside a Winchell's Donuts store in early hours of December 29.
Later that day, he lunched with friends Leo Bulgarini and Catherine Case. Nance had a visible "crescent shaped bruise" under his eye and when asked about it, he related to them the story about the fight. He soon went home, complaining of a headache. The injuries he received caused a subdural hematoma, resulting in his death the following morning. Nance died alone in his apartment. His body was discovered on the bathroom floor by Bulgarini. An autopsy revealed that the actor's blood alcohol level was .24 percent at the time of his death. A subsequent police investigation failed to find evidence of the alleged fight.
A documentary about Nance funded by Lynch, titled I Don't Know Jack, was released in 2002.
- Fools (1970)
- Jump aka Fury on Wheels (1971)
- Eraserhead (1977)
- Breaker! Breaker! (1977)
- Hammett (1982)
- Dune (1984)
- City Heat (1984)
- Johnny Dangerously (1984)
- Ghoulies (1985)
- Blue Velvet (1986)
- Barfly (1987)
- Colors (1988)
- The Blob (1988)
- Wild at Heart (1990)
- The Hot Spot (1990)
- Whore (1991)
- Motorama (1991)
- Meatballs 4 (1992)
- Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me (Scenes deleted, 1992)
- Love and a .45 (1994)
- Voodoo (1995)
- The Demolitionist (1995)
- Across the Moon (1995)
- The Secret Agent Club (1996)
- Little Witches (1996)
- Lost Highway (1997)
- Weekend (1984)
- Crime Story (1 episode, 1987)
- Tricks of the Trade (1988)
- Twin Peaks (27 episodes, 1990–1991)
- Another Midnight Run (1994)
- My So-Called Life (1 episode, 1995)
- Fallen Angels (1 episode, 1995)
- Assault on Dome 4 (1996)
- Kyle Smith; Lorenzo Benet (February 10, 1997). "The Death of Twins Peak actor Jack Nance was as strange as the characters he played.". People. Retrieved 13 March 2014.
- "Jack Nance, 53, An Actor Known For 'Eraserhead'". The New York Times. January 11, 1997.
- "Mary Woronov Interview" by Cynthia Rose
- Jack Nance at the Internet Movie Database
- Jack Nance at Find a Grave
- Jack Nance Eraserhead Interview