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Jack Nicholson (born John Joseph Nicholson on April 22, 1937, New York City) is a highly successful, iconic American method actor known for his often dark, comedic portrayals of neurotic characters. He received Kennedy Center Honors in 2001, and has been nominated for an Academy Award twelve times (more than any other male actor), winning three of them. He has also won seven Golden Globe Awards.
Born at Bellevue Hospital Center in New York City to June Frances Nicholson (alias June Nilson), a showgirl of English and Irish descent who had previously married an Italian-American showman Donald Furcillo (stagename Donald Rose) six months earlier in Elkton, Maryland, on October 16, 1936.
Elkton was a town notorious for its "quickie" marriages. However, Furcillo was already married, and, although Furcillo 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. So Jack was brought up believing his grandparents John (a department store window dresser in Asbury Park, New Jersey) and Ethel May Nicholson, a hairdresser and beautician and amateur artist in Neptune, New Jersey were his parents.
He attended high school at nearby Manasquan High School, where a drama award was ultimately named in his honor. Nicholson only discovered that his parents were actually his grand parents 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, while he was filming The Fortune. By this time both his mother and grandmother had died (in 1963 and 1970).
Jack Nicholson has stated he doesn't know who his father is, saying "Only Ethel and June knew and they never told anybody". Although Donald Furcillo claimed to be Nicholson's father and to have committed bigamy by marrying June, the Patrick McGilligan Biography, Jack's Life, published in December 1995, asserted that Eddie King, June's Manager, may be the father and other sources have suggested that June Nicholson was unsure of who the father was. Jack Nicholson has chosen not to have a DNA test or to pursue the matter. Although Nicholson is personally anti-abortion, he is pro-choice: "I'm very contra my constituency in terms of abortion because I'm positively against it. I don't have the right to any other view. My only emotion is gratitude, literally, for my life."
In his adult personal life, Nicholson has been notorious for his inability to "settle down". He is known to have four children by three different mothers despite only being married once (Jennifer Nicholson with his now ex-wife Sandra Knight, Caleb Goddard with Susan Anspach, his Five Easy Pieces Co-star, and Lorraine and Raymond Nicholson with Rebecca Broussard). He has been romantically linked to numerous actresses and models for decades. Nicholson's longest relationship was for 17 years to actress Anjelica Huston, the daughter of the legendary director John Huston. The couple split when Rebecca Broussard became pregnant with Nicholson's child.
Nicholson started his career as an actor, writer, and producer, working for and with Roger Corman. This included his screen debut in The Cry Baby Killer (1958), where he played a juvenile delinquent who panics after shooting two other teenagers, and Little Shop of Horrors, in which he had a small role as a masochistic dental patient.
His work on the LSD-fueled screenplay for The Trip, which starred Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper, led to his first big break in Easy Rider (1969). In Easy Rider, Nicholson played hard-drinking lawyer George Hanson for which he received his first Oscar nomination. 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.
Other early movies he is known for include Hal Ashby's The Last Detail (1973), Roman Polanski's Chinatown (1974), Milos Forman's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975), for which he received his first Oscar, and Stanley Kubrick's The Shining. Nicholson won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role in Terms of Endearment (1983).
The 1989 Batman, where Nicholson played the supervillain The Joker, was an international smash hit, and a lucrative percentage deal earned Nicholson about $50 million. Nicholson later advised close friend Danny DeVito to take the part of the Penguin in the sequel Batman Returns as a potential investment.
For his role as hotheaded Col. Nathan R. Jessep in A Few Good Men (1992), a dark movie about a murder in a US Marine Corps unit, he received yet another nomination by the Academy. This film contains Nicholson's "You can't handle the truth!" scene, which has since become widely known and imitated.
Not all of Nicholson's performances are praised; his take on the U.S. President in Mars Attacks! (1996) was widely criticized for being over-the-top and unfunny.Nicholson would go on to win his next Oscar for his role as the neurotic lead in the romance As Good as It Gets (1997).
In About Schmidt (2002), Nicholson portrayed a retired Omaha, Nebraska insurance man who questions his own life and the death of his wife shortly afterward. The deeply emotional, slow film stands in sharp contrast to many of his previous roles. In the comedy Anger Management, he plays an aggressive therapist assigned to help overly pacifist Adam Sandler. His most recent film is the 2003 Something's Gotta Give as an aging playboy who falls for the mother of his young girlfriend.
Nicholson will return to villainous form as a tough Boston Irish Mafia boss presiding over Matt Damon and Leonardo DiCaprio in Martin Scorsese's The Departed (2006).
Ї Nicholson is also a well-known and highly visible fan of the NBA's Los Angeles Lakers; he has courtside seats. It is in his contract that he does not film movies during Laker games. When he is at a televised Lakers game, he is invariably sought out for celebrity camera shots during one or more breaks in the game. While he used to be often accompanied by a girlfriend, he can usually be seen with one of his young children now.
Ї In 1998, after Nicholson visited Cuba and had a three hour conversation with Fidel Castro, he told Daily Variety that, "He is a genius." According to former Cuban intelligence officer Delfin Fernandez, Nicholson's hotel room, in Cuba, was bugged with both video and audio recording devices at the instruction of Castro.
Ї Was asked, along with Warren Beatty and Dustin Hoffman to play Al Pacino's famed role of Michael Corleone in The Godfather
Ї He is known to his friends as Pickles.
Ї Was friends with famous Gonzo Journalist Hunter S. Thompson, who has a humorous account of himself pranking Jack Nicholson at his home by placing a thawing elk's heart on his doorstep, playing sounds of a recorded pig slaughter, and firing guns in the air, in his last book before he died: Kingdom of Fear.
Nicholson's height is 5'9".
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