Jack Nance

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Jack Nance
Jack Nance Eraserhead.jpeg
Nance on the poster for Eraserhead (1977)
Marvin John Nance

(1943-12-21)December 21, 1943
DiedDecember 30, 1996(1996-12-30) (aged 53)
Other namesJohn Nance
Years active1970–1996
(m. 1968; div. 1976)
(m. 1991; died 1991)

Marvin John Nance (December 21, 1943 – December 30, 1996), known professionally as Jack Nance, was an American actor. A longtime collaborator of filmmaker David Lynch, Nance portrayed the lead in Lynch's directorial film debut Eraserhead (1977). He continued to work with Lynch throughout his career, including as a series regular on the ABC mystery drama Twin Peaks (1990–1991).

Early life[edit]

Nance was born in Boston, Massachusetts and was raised in Dallas, Texas.[2] He graduated from South Oak Cliff High School. Nance 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.[3]

Later career[edit]

After Eraserhead, he remained on good terms with Lynch, who cast him in nearly all of his projects:

Nance guest-starred on a 1995 episode of My So-Called Life entitled "Weekend", in which he played an innkeeper. He appeared with actress Mary Woronov in Suicidal Tendencies' 1983 "Institutionalized" music video.[4]

Personal life[edit]

Nance married Catherine E. Coulson in 1968. They divorced in 1976.[1] In May 1991, he married Kelly Jean Van Dyke, who worked in the adult film industry under the name Nancee Kelly. Van Dyke was the daughter of Jerry Van Dyke (briefly making Nance his son-in-law) and niece of Dick Van Dyke.

Second wife's suicide[edit]

Van Dyke died by suicide on November 17, 1991. According to her younger brother Ronald, Nance, who was in Bass Lake, California, filming Meatballs 4 at the time, attempted to console her on the phone as she threatened suicide. After a lightning storm knocked out the phones in Bass Lake, Nance and the director, Bobby Logan, found a deputy sheriff who contacted Los Angeles police and the apartment manager. They broke in and found that she had hanged herself.[citation needed]


On December 29, 1996, Nance 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 a brawl outside a Winchell's Donuts store that morning. He described the incident as, "I guess I got what I deserved."[1] He went home, complaining of a headache.

The injuries he sustained caused a subdural hematoma, resulting in his death the following morning. His body was discovered on the bathroom floor of his South Pasadena, California apartment by Bulgarini, on December 30, 1996. An autopsy revealed that the actor's blood alcohol level was 0.24% at the time of his death.[3]


The song "I Gotta Move" by Frank Black and the Catholics, from their 1997 eponymous debut album, refers to the circumstances of Nance's death, as well as the murder of Peter Ivers, who composed and performed the song "In Heaven, Everything is Fine" from Eraserhead.[5]

A documentary about Nance funded by Lynch, titled I Don't Know Jack, was released in 2002.[citation needed]

Part 17 of Twin Peaks: The Return was dedicated to Nance.[citation needed]




Music videos[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Kyle Smith; Lorenzo Benet (February 10, 1997). "The Death of Twins Peak actor Jack Nance was as strange as the characters he played". People. Archived from the original on 2016-03-19. Retrieved 2021-06-25.
  2. ^ "Jack Nance, 53, An Actor Known For 'Eraserhead'". The New York Times. January 11, 1997.
  3. ^ a b Potter, Maximillian (1997). "Premiere Magazine Article: Erased – Jack Nance". Premiere. Retrieved 2007-04-30.
  4. ^ "Mary Woronov Interview" by Cynthia Rose
  5. ^ https://ew.com/music/2020/01/05/peter-ivers/

External links[edit]