Nance on the poster of Eraserhead
Marvin John Nance
December 21, 1943
|Died||December 30, 1996 (aged 53)|
|Cause of death||Subdural hematoma|
|Other names||John Nance|
Catherine E. Coulson
(m. 1968; div. 1976)
Kelly Jean Van Dyke
(m. 1991; died 1991)
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.
After Eraserhead, Nance remained on good terms with Lynch, who cast him in nearly all of his projects:
- Dune (1984): a small role as the Harkonnen Captain Iakin Nefud.
- Blue Velvet (1986): a supporting role as Paul, a friend of Dennis Hopper's villain character.
- The Cowboy and the Frenchman (1988): plays Pete, one of the cowboys.
- Wild at Heart (1990): a small role as "00 Spool".
- Twin Peaks (1990–91): as Pete Martell, the henpecked sawmill gaffer.
- Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me (1992): reprised his role as Pete Martell, but his scenes were deleted.
- Lost Highway (1997): a small role as a garage mechanic named Phil (his final acting role).
- Twin Peaks: The Missing Pieces (2014): deleted scenes from Fire Walk with Me were released in 2014 as its own film.
- Twin Peaks (2017): footage featuring Nance from the pilot episode of the original series was used in "Part 17," which was dedicated to Nance.
Nance also guest-starred on a 1995 episode of My So-Called Life entitled "Weekend", in which he played an innkeeper. He also appeared with actress Mary Woronov in Suicidal Tendencies' 1983 "Institutionalized" music video.
Nance married Catherine E. Coulson in 1968, but the couple divorced in 1976. 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.
Second wife's suicide
Van Dyke committed suicide on November 17, 1991. According to her younger brother Richard, 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.
Nance died in South Pasadena, California, on December 30, 1996, under mysterious circumstances. On December 29, 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 a brawl outside a Winchell's Donuts store on the morning of December 29. He described the incident as, "I told off some kid. I guess I got what I deserved." 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 0.24% at the time of his death.
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; composer of the score to Eraserhead.
A documentary about Nance funded by Lynch, titled I Don't Know Jack, was released in 2002.
- Fools (1970) – Hippie
- Jump (1971) – Ace
- Eraserhead (1977) – Henry Spencer
- Breaker! Breaker! (1977) – Burton
- Hammett (1982) – Gary Salt
- Dune (1984) – Nefud
- City Heat (1984) – Aram Strossell, the Bookkeeper
- Johnny Dangerously (1984) – Priest
- Ghoulies (1985) – Wolfgang
- Blue Velvet (1986) – Paul
- Barfly (1987) – Detective
- Colors (1988) – Officer Samuels
- The Blob (1988) – Doctor
- Wild at Heart (1990) – 00 Spool
- The Hot Spot (1990) – Julian Ward
- Whore (1991) – Man Who Helps Liz
- Motorama (1991) – Motel Clerk
- Meatballs 4 (1992) – Neil Peterson
- Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me (1992) – Pete Martell (scenes deleted)
- Love and a .45 (1994) – Justice Thurman
- The Demolitionist (1995) – Father McKenzie
- Across the Moon (1995) – Old Cowboy
- Voodoo (1995) – Lewis
- The Secret Agent Club (1996) – Doc
- Little Witches (1996) – Father Michael
- Lost Highway (1997) – Phil (final film role)
- Twin Peaks: The Missing Pieces (2014) – Pete Martell (deleted scenes from Fire Walk with Me)
- Weekend (1984)
- Crime Story (1 episode, 1987) – Charlie Green
- Tricks of the Trade (1988) – Al
- Twin Peaks (27 episodes, 1990–91) – Pete Martell
- Another Midnight Run (1994) – Reilly
- My So-Called Life (1 episode, 1995) – Warren
- Fallen Angels (1 episode, 1995) – Sheriff
- Assault on Dome 4 (1996) – Mellow, Dome 4 Oldtimer
- Twin Peaks (1 episode, 2017) – Pete Martell (archive footage)
- 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.
- Potter, Maximillian (1997). "Premiere Magazine Article: Erased – Jack Nance". Premiere. Retrieved 2007-04-30.
- "Mary Woronov Interview" by Cynthia Rose