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John Joseph "Jack" Nicholson (born April 22, 1937) is an American actor, film director, producer, and writer. Throughout his career, Nicholson has portrayed unique and challenging roles, many of which include dark portrayals of neurotic and psychopathic characters. Nicholson's 12 Oscar nominations make him the most nominated male actor in the history of the Academy Awards.
Nicholson has won two Academy Award for Best Actor; one for One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and the other for As Good as It Gets. He also won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for Terms of Endearment. Nicholson is tied with Walter Brennan and Daniel Day-Lewis as one of three male actors to win three Academy Awards. He is well known for playing Frank Costello in The Departed, Jack Torrance in The Shining and the Joker in 1989's Batman.
Nicholson is one of only two actors to be nominated for an Academy Award for acting in every decade from the 1960s to the 2000s; the other was Michael Caine. He has won six Golden Globe Awards, and received the Kennedy Center Honor in 2001. In 1994, he became one of the youngest actors to be awarded the American Film Institute's Life Achievement Award. Notable films in which he has starred include Easy Rider, Five Easy Pieces, The Last Detail, Chinatown, The Passenger, The Shining, Reds, Wolf, A Few Good Men, The Pledge, About Schmidt, and The Departed.
Nicholson was born in Neptune City, New Jersey, the son of a showgirl, June Frances Nicholson (stage name June Nilson). June had married Italian American showman Donald Furcillo (stage name Donald Rose) six months earlier in Elkton, Maryland, on October 16, 1936. Furcillo was already married. Although he reportedly 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 and partly because June was only 16 or 17 years old when she gave birth to Jack. Although Furcillo claimed to be Nicholson's biological father and to have committed bigamy by marrying June, biographer Patrick McGilligan asserted in Jack's Life that Latvian-born Eddie King (originally Edgar A. Kirschfeld), June's manager, may have been Nicholson's biological father. Other sources suggest June Nicholson was unsure of who the father was. Nicholson's mother was of Irish, English, and Pennsylvania Dutch (German) descent, though he and his family reportedly self-identified as Irish.
Nicholson was brought up believing that his maternal grandparents, John Joseph Nicholson (a department store window dresser in Manasquan, New Jersey) and Ethel May (née Rhoads, a hairdresser, beautician and amateur artist in Manasquan), were his parents. Nicholson only discovered that his "parents" were actually his grandparents and his "sister" was his mother in 1974, after a journalist for TIME magazine who was doing a feature on Nicholson informed him of the fact. By this time, both his mother and grandmother had died (in 1963 and 1970, respectively).
Nicholson grew up in Neptune City, New Jersey. He was raised in his mother's Roman Catholic religion. Before starting high school, his family moved to an apartment in Spring Lake, New Jersey. "Nick", as he was known to his high school friends, attended nearby Manasquan High School, where he was voted "class clown" by the Class of 1954. He was in detention every day for a whole school year. A theatre and a drama award at the school are named in his honor. In 2004, Nicholson attended his 50-year high school reunion accompanied by his aunt Lorraine.
When Nicholson first came to Hollywood, he worked as a gofer for animation legends William Hanna and Joseph Barbera at the MGM cartoon studio. 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.
He made his film debut in a low-budget teen drama The Cry Baby Killer, in 1958, playing the title role. For the following decade, Nicholson was a frequent collaborator with the film's producer, Roger Corman. Corman directed Nicholson on several occasions, most notably in The Little Shop of Horrors, as masochistic dental patient and undertaker Wilbur Force, and also in The Raven, The Terror, and The St. Valentine's Day Massacre. He worked frequently with director Monte Hellman as well on low-budget westerns, though two in particular, Ride in the Whirlwind and The Shooting, initially failed to find interest from any US film distributors but gained cult success on the art house circuit in France and were later sold to television. Nicholson also appeared in two episodes of the Andy Griffith show, one as Mavin Jenkins, a townsman accused of stealing merchandise from a local hardware store, originally aired in 1967. He also played a father who, with his wife, left a baby on the courthouse steps in the episode entitled, "Opie and the Baby".
Rise to fame
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 screenplay for the 1967 counterculture film The Trip (directed by Corman), which starred Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper. Nicholson also co-wrote, with Bob Rafelson, the movie Head, which starred The Monkees. In addition, he also arranged the movie's soundtrack. 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. The part of Hanson was a lucky break for Nicholson—the role had in fact been written for actor Rip Torn, who was a close friend of screen writer Terry Southern, but Torn withdrew from the project after a bitter argument with the film's director and co-star Dennis Hopper, during which the two men almost came to blows. In interview, Nicholson later acknowledged the importance of being cast in Easy Rider: "All I could see in the early films, before Easy Rider, was this desperate young actor trying to vault out of the screen and create a movie career."
A Best Actor nomination came the following year for his persona-defining role in Five Easy Pieces (1970). Also that year, he appeared in the movie adaptation of On A Clear Day You Can See Forever, although most of his performance was left on the cutting room floor. He was the first choice to play the role of Father Damien Karras in The Exorcist, but the role was turned over to Jason Miller.
Other Nicholson roles included Hal Ashby's The Last Detail (1973), for which he was awarded Best Actor at the Cannes Film Festival, and the Roman Polanski noir thriller, Chinatown (1974). Nicholson was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor for both films. Nicholson was friends with the director long before the death of Polanski's wife, Sharon Tate, at the hands of the Manson Family, and supported him in the days following the deaths. After Tate's death, Nicholson began sleeping with a hammer under his pillow, and took breaks from work to attend the Manson trial. It was at Nicholson's home where the rape for which Polanski was convicted occurred. Nicholson would go on to star in The Who's Tommy (1975), directed by Ken Russell, and Michelangelo Antonioni's The Passenger (1975).
Nicholson earned his first Best Actor Oscar for portraying Randle P. McMurphy in the movie adaptation of Ken Kesey's novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, directed by Miloš Forman in 1975. His Oscar was matched when Louise Fletcher received the Best Actress Award for her portrayal of Nurse Ratched. After this, he began to take more unusual roles. He took a small role in The Last Tycoon, opposite Robert De Niro. He took a less sympathetic role in Arthur Penn's western The Missouri Breaks, specifically to work with Marlon Brando. He followed this by making his second directorial effort with the western comedy Goin' South.
Although he garnered no Academy Award for Stanley Kubrick's adaptation of Stephen King's The Shining (1980), it remains one of his more significant roles. His second Oscar, the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, came for his role of retired astronaut Garrett Breedlove in Terms of Endearment (1983), directed by James L. Brooks. Nicholson continued to work prolifically in the 1980s, starring in such films as The Postman Always Rings Twice (1981), Reds (1981), Prizzi's Honor (1985), The Witches of Eastwick (1987), Broadcast News (1987), and Ironweed (1987). Three Oscar nominations also followed (Reds, Prizzi's Honor, and Ironweed).
Nicholson introduced several acts at Live Aid at the JFK Stadium in July 1985. He turned down the role of John Book in Witness. The 1989 Batman movie, wherein Nicholson played the psychotic murderer and villain, The Joker, was an international smash hit, and a lucrative percentage deal earned him a percentage of the box office gross estimated at $60 million to $90 million. For his role as hot-headed Col. Nathan R. Jessup in A Few Good Men (1992), a movie about a murder in a U.S. Marine Corps unit, Nicholson received yet another Academy nomination.
In 1996, Nicholson collaborated once more with Batman director Tim Burton on Mars Attacks!, pulling double duty as two contrasting characters, President James Dale and Las Vegas property developer Art Land. At first studio executives at Warner Bros. disliked the idea of killing off Nicholson's character, so Burton created two characters and killed them both off. 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). However, Nicholson's performance in Hoffa also earned him a Golden Globe nomination.
Nicholson went on to win his next Academy Award for Best Actor for his role as Melvin Udall, a mean-spirited, compulsive obsessive neurotic author in As Good as It Gets (1997), again directed by Brooks. His Oscar was matched with the Academy Award for Best Actress for Helen Hunt as a Manhattan waitress drawn into a love/hate friendship with Udall, a frequent diner in the restaurant in which she worked. In 2001, Nicholson was the first actor to receive the Stanislavsky Award at the 23rd Moscow International Film Festival for "conquering the heights of acting and faithfulness".
In About Schmidt (2002), Nicholson portrayed a retired Omaha, Nebraska actuary who questions his own life following his wife's death. His quietly restrained performance earned him an Academy Award Nomination for Best Actor. In Anger Management (2003), he played an aggressive therapist assigned to help an overly pacifist man (Adam Sandler). In 2003, Nicholson also 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 Oscar-winning The Departed, a remake of Andrew Lau's Infernal Affairs. The role earned Nicholson world-wide critical praise along with various award wins and nominations including a Golden Globe nomination for supporting actor.
In November 2006, Nicholson began filming his next project, Rob Reiner's The Bucket List, a role for which he shaved his head. The film starred Nicholson and Morgan Freeman as dying men who fulfill their list of goals. The film was released on December 25, 2007 (limited), and January 11, 2008 (wide). In researching the role, Nicholson visited a Los Angeles hospital to see how cancer patients coped with their illnesses. His last film role to date saw him reunite with Terms of Endearment and As Good as It Gets director James L. Brooks for a small supporting role as Paul Rudd's father in How Do You Know.
On September 4, 2013, reports spread around the internet from various sources claiming that Nicholson was retiring from acting due to memory loss, unable to remember the lines for his scripts. Hours later, an unidentified source informed NBC News that the rumors were false and that Nicholson was actively reading scripts and is looking forward to his next project.
Nicholson's only marriage was to Sandra Knight from 1962 to 1968. They had one daughter together, Jennifer (born 1963). Actress Susan Anspach contends that her son, Caleb Goddard (born 1970), was fathered by Nicholson, though he is not convinced he is the father. He dated Michelle Phillips in the early 1970s. Between 1973 and 1990, Nicholson had a high-profile but intermittent relationship with actress Anjelica Huston that included periods of overlap with other women, including Danish model Winnie Hollman, by whom he fathered a daughter, Honey Hollmann (born 1981). From 1989 to 1994 Nicholson had a relationship with actress Rebecca Broussard; they had two children together: daughter Lorraine (born 1990) and son Raymond (born 1992).
In a criminal lawsuit filed on February 8, 1994, Robert Blank stated that Nicholson, then 56, approached Blank's Mercedes-Benz while he was stopped at a red light in North Hollywood. After accusing the other man of cutting him off in traffic, Nicholson used a golf club to bash the roof and windshield of Blank's car. A witness confirmed Blank's account of the incident, and misdemeanor charges of assault and vandalism were filed against Nicholson. Charges were dropped after Nicholson apologized to Blank and the two reached an undisclosed settlement, which included a reported $500,000 check from Nicholson.
Nicholson later expressed regret about the incident in an interview with Us Magazine, calling it "a shameful incident in my life." He explained that a close friend had recently died, and that he had also been under a good deal of stress during the shooting of his most recent movie, The Crossing Guard. According to Nicholson, he went "out of [his] mind" after being cut off and snatched one of his golf clubs from the trunk of his car. Though press reports of the incident variously reported that the club in question had been a three- or a five-iron, Nicholson (who started golfing seriously after learning the game for the filming of 1990's The Two Jakes) cleared up the issue in a 2007 interview with Golf Digest. "I was on my way to the course, and in the midst of this madness I somehow knew what I was doing," he says, "because I reached into my trunk and specifically selected a club I never used on the course: my two-iron."
The road rage incident was not the last time Nicholson's volatile temper made news. A legendary fan of the Los Angeles Lakers professional basketball team, Nicholson has more than once been threatened with ejection from his courtside seats because he argued with or shouted at the game's referees. As BBC News reported, Nicholson was almost ejected from a Lakers playoff game against the San Antonio Spurs in May 2003 after he yelled at the game's referee for calling a third foul on Lakers star Shaquille O'Neal. The incident occurred shortly after the release of his latest movie at the time, Anger Management, where he played the role of a therapist.
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 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 it had become too expensive to renovate the "derelict" building which was plagued by mold.
Nicholson shared a friendship with author-journalist Hunter S. Thompson, described in Thompson's autobiography Kingdom of Fear where, according to Thompson, they would exchange "bizarre" presents which resulted in a perceived assassination attempt against the actor. Thompson appeared outside Nicholson's home on the night of Nicholson's birthday, having set off a high-powered spotlight and gunfire, playing a tape of animal cries through an amplifier to awaken him. Thompson then left a freshly cut-out elk's heart on Nicholson's door as a joke before leaving when it appeared that nobody would exit the house. Following the death of Thompson in 2005, Nicholson and fellow actors Johnny Depp, John Cusack, and Sean Penn attended the private memorial service in Colorado.
Nicholson is a fan of the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Lakers. He has been a Laker season ticket holder since 1970 and has held courtside season tickets for the past 25 years next to the opponent's benches at both The Forum and the Staples Center, missing very few games. In a few instances, Nicholson has engaged in arguments with game officials and opposing players, and even walked onto the court. Studios were rumored to schedule filming around the Lakers home schedule although he disputed this claim in an interview with BBC radio in 2008. Traditionally, television shots of the various celebrities at Lakers games conclude with a shot of Nicholson.
In addition to be being an avid basketball fan, Nicholson also enjoys boxing, and is frequently seen at ringside for major fights in the United States.
Nicholson is a collector of 20th century and contemporary art, including the work of Henri Matisse, Tamara de Lempicka, Andy Warhol, and Jack Vettriano. In 1995, artist Ed Ruscha was quoted saying that "Jack Nicholson has one of the best collections out here".
Former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and First Lady Maria Shriver announced on May 28, 2008, that Nicholson would be inducted into the California Hall of Fame, located at The California Museum for History, Women and the Arts. The induction ceremony took place on December 15, 2008, where he was inducted alongside 11 other legendary Californians.
In 2011, Nicholson received an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree from Brown University at its two hundred and forty-third commencement. At the ceremony Ruth Simmons, Brown University's president, called him, "the most skilled actor of our lifetime".
Awards and nominations
With twelve Academy Award nominations (eight for Best Actor and four for Best Supporting Actor), Nicholson is the most nominated male actor in Academy Awards history. Only Nicholson, Michael Caine, and Laurence Olivier (1930s–1970s) have been nominated for an acting (lead or supporting) Academy Award in five different decades: the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, and the 2000s.
With three Oscar wins, he also ties with Walter Brennan, Daniel Day-Lewis, Ingrid Bergman, and Meryl Streep (who has the most acting nominations of anyone) for the second-most Oscar wins in acting categories. Only Katharine Hepburn, with four Oscars, has won more.
At the 79th Academy Awards, Nicholson had fully shaved his hair for his role in The Bucket List. In 2013, Nicholson co-presented the Academy Award for Best Picture with first lady Michelle Obama. This ceremony marked the eighth time he has presented the Academy Award for Best Picture (1972, 1977, 1978, 1990, 1993, 2006, 2007, and 2013). Nicholson is an active and voting member of the Academy.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Jack Nicholson.|
- Jack Nicholson Online - a fansite
- Jack Nicholson at the Internet Movie Database
- "Jack Nicholson: A Singular Guy" - Rolling Stone Interview with Jack Nicholson, September 20, 2006