John "Jack" Joseph Nicholson (born April 22, 1937) is an American actor, director, producer, and screenwriter, internationally renowned for his often dark-themed portrayals of neurotic characters.
Nicholson has been nominated for an Academy Award 12 times, and has won three: two for Best Actor and one for Best Supporting Actor. He is tied with Walter Brennan for most acting wins by a male actor (three), and second to Katharine Hepburn for most acting wins overall (four). He is also one of only two actors nominated for an Academy Award for acting (either lead or supporting) in every decade since the 1960s; the other is Michael Caine. He has won seven Golden Globe Awards, and received a 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 that he starred in include, in chronological order, Easy Rider, Five Easy Pieces, Chinatown, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, The Passenger, The Shining, Terms of Endearment, Batman, A Few Good Men, As Good as It Gets, About Schmidt, Something's Gotta Give, and The Departed.
Nicholson was born in Manhattan, New York City, 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. 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. 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 Latvian-born Eddie King (originally Edgar A. Kirschfeld), June's manager, may be the father and other sources have suggested that June Nicholson was unsure of who the father was. Nicholson has chosen not to have a DNA test or to pursue the matter. Nicholson's mother was of Irish, English, and Dutch descent though he and his family self-identified as Irish.
Nicholson was brought up believing that his grandparents, John Joseph Nicholson (a department store window dresser in Manasquan, New Jersey) and Ethel May Rhoads (a hairdresser, beautician and amateur artist in Manasquan, New Jersey), were his parents. 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. 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."
Nicholson grew up in Neptune City, New Jersey. He was raised in his mother's Catholic religion. 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. 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 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.
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 a sado-masochistic dental patient (Wilbur Force), and also in The Raven, The Terror and The St. Valentine's Day Massacre. He also worked frequently with director Monte Hellman, most notably on two low-budget westerns (Ride in the Whirlwind, The Shooting) which failed initially to find interest from any US film distributors, though they became a cult success on the art house circuit in France and were later sold to television.
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 (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 Dennis Hopper, during which the two men almost came to blows.
A Best Actor nomination came the following year for his persona-defining role in Five Easy Pieces (1970), which includes his famous chicken salad dialogue about getting what you want. 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.
Other early, notable Nicholson roles included Hal Ashby's The Last Detail (1973), for which he was awarded Best Actor at the Cannes Film Festival, and the classic Roman Polanski noir thriller, Chinatown (1974) (he was Oscar-nominated for Best Actor in a Leading Role for both films). He also starred 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. His first movie as a director was a 1971 quirky release called Drive, He Said.
Although he did not garner any Academy Award 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 retired astronaut Garrett Breedlove in Terms of Endearment (1983), directed by James L. Brooks. Nicholson continued to work prolifically in the 80s, 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 Oscar nominations also followed (Reds, Prizzi's Honor, and Ironweed).
Nicholson 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 Nicholson about $60 million. Nicholson was rumored to reprise his role as The Joker in the fifth installment in the franchise Batman Triumphant in 1999, but Warner Bros. Pictures canceled the project. As of now, Jack Nicholson is the only still-living actor to play the Joker in an official live-action Batman film, as Cesar Romero, the Joker from the live action Batman TV show, died in 1994 and Heath Ledger, the Joker from The Dark Knight, died in 2008.
For his role as hot-headed Col. Nathan R. Jessep in A Few Good Men (1992), a movie about a murder in a U.S. Marine Corps unit, Nicholson received yet another Academy nomination. This film contained the court scene in which Nicholson famously explodes, "You can't handle the truth!", in one of the Aaron Sorkin-penned soliloquies to become part of popular culture. 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 property developer Art Land.
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 a Golden Globe nomination.
Nicholson would go on to win his next Academy Award for Best Actor for his role as Melvin Udall, a neurotic author with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), in the romance As Good as It Gets (1997), again directed by James L. Brooks. Nicholson's 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 Moscow International Film Festival for "conquering the heights of acting and faithfulness".
Nicholson is a keen sports fan, regularly to be seen in courtside seats at Los Angeles Lakers basketball games at Staples Center and the former Great Western Forum. In 1999 he appeared on the UK TV chat show Parkinson, where he described himself as a "lifelong Manchester United fan".
In About Schmidt (2002), Nicholson portrayed a retired Omaha, Nebraska actuary who questions his own life following his wife's death. 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 Oscar-winning The Departed, a remake of Andrew Lau's Infernal Affairs.
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 him 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.
As of March 2008, it has been rumored that Paul Thomas Anderson has been keen to write and direct Robert Evans' Power Play with Nicholson in the lead role.
He has been romantically linked to numerous actresses and models, including Michelle Phillips, Bebe Buell, and Lara Flynn Boyle. Nicholson's longest relationship was for 16 years to actress Anjelica Huston, from 1973 to 1989, the daughter of film director John Huston. However, the relationship ended when the media reported that Rebecca Broussard had become pregnant with his child.
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 took place on the Nicholson estate on Mulholland Drive.
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 exactly $5 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.
During a road rage incident in 1994, he allegedly smashed another driver's car window with a golf club.
Nicholson is a fan of the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Lakers. His attendance at Lakers games is legendary, as he is a season ticket holder since 1970 and has held courtside season tickets for the past 25 years 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 has even walked onto the court. His ardent refusal to miss a Lakers home game means that studios must schedule filming around the Lakers home schedule.
Nicholson is a collector of twentieth century and contemporary art, including the work of Scottish artist Jack Vettriano.
In an interview with Vanity Fair, Nicholson explained that he did "not believe in God anymore, but envied those who did". This is mirrored in his recent role in The Bucket List, where he played an atheist.
Though he has not been very public about his political views, Nicholson has considered himself a lifelong Democrat. On February 4, 2008, he announced his endorsement of Senator Hillary Clinton in her race for the President of the United States. In an interview on Rick Dees' radio program, Nicholson said, "Mrs. Clinton has been involved in issues, everything from health care, which we know and prison reform and helping the military, speaking for women and speaking for Americans. And besides, it's about time we have a Prez with a nice tush."
California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and First Lady Maria Shriver announced on May 28, 2008 that Nicholson will be inducted into the California Hall of Fame, located at The California Museum for History, Women and the Arts. The induction ceremony will took place December 10 and he was inducted alongside 11 other legendary Californians.
Nicholson has been nominated for an acting (lead or supporting) Academy Award in five different decades: 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s. The only other actors who can say the same are Michael Caine and Paul Newman. With 12 nominations thus far (8 for Best Actor and 4 for Best Supporting Actor), Jack Nicholson is the most nominated male actor in Academy Awards history. With three Oscar wins, he also ties with Walter Brennan for the 2nd highest number of Oscar wins in acting categories (all of Brennan's wins were for Best Supporting Actor).
At the 79th Academy Awards, Nicholson had fully shaved his hair for his role in The Bucket List. Those ceremonies represented the seventh time he has presented the Academy Award for Best Picture (1972, 1977, 1978, 1990, 1993, 2006, and 2007).
Nicholson is an active and voting member of the Academy. He had attended almost every ceremony, nominated or not, during the last decade. At the 2005 ceremony it was visible that he was disappointed as he read the envelope for Best Picture for Crash. It was later revealed that he had voted for Brokeback Mountain to win. He can be seen mouthing "what happened?" When he presented the nominee Good Night, and Good Luck, he jokingly began to walk away as if he had given a farewell.
Birth name: John Joseph Nicholson
Nickname: Mulholland Man
Born: 22nd April, 1937
Where: Neptune, New Jersey, USA
Height: 5' 9¾" (1.77 m)
Awards Won: 72 (details)
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