One of the most honored actors of all time, Jack Nicholson has been making films both in front of and behind the camera for over sixty years. From a deranged mental patient in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” to an angry US marine Colonel in “A Few Good Men” to an obsessive compulsive novelist in “As Good As It Gets,” Jack Nicholson has given the world some of film history’s most brilliant performances.
Here are some true facts about the brilliant Nicholson that you can’t handle.
37. The Fall of Rome
He turned down the title role in Bob Guccione’s infamous barely-not-porno film “Caligula,” preferring not to play a hedonistic Roman emperor. But instead, he attempted to live like one.
36. Who’s My Daddy?
Don Furcillo is only one of Nicholson’s possible fathers. Another possibility was Edgar A. Kirschfeld, a Latvian-born entertainer known as Eddie King. Nicholson has not pursued any investigation.
35. About Time
In fact, Nicholson didn’t learn the truth about his mother and grandmother until 1974, when he was 37 and already famous. The truth was uncovered by a Time magazine reporter who was doing a profile on Nicholson. Both June and Ethel had already since passed. On the revelation, Nicholson said it was “a pretty dramatic event, but it wasn’t what I’d call traumatizing. I was pretty well psychologically formed.”
34. In Accordance with Prophecy
He was voted by his classmates as the 1954 Manasquan High “Class Clown,” which was prescient for a man who went on to play one of the most famous clowns of all time, the Joker.
33. Everybody’s Gotta Eat
When Nicholson was a young man, he worked a number of odd jobs, including working as a Jersey Shore lifeguard. Lucky for him, this was pre-Snookie. Or lucky for Snookie, she was post-Nicholson.
32. Good Career Choice
His first job in show business was as an assistant to animators William Hanna and Joseph Barbera of Hanna-Barbera cartoon fame. They two animators liked him so much they offered Nicholson a job in the art department. He turned them down, deciding he’d rather win Oscars than draw Scooby-Doo over and over again.
31. A Star is Born
Nicholson’s feature film debut was in a film called “The Cry Baby Killer” (because nobody likes a cry baby) which kicked off a long working relationship with director Roger Corman.
30. The Three Amigos
Nicholson, Bruce Dern, and Harry Dean Stanton had a great friendship during the early 1960s when they were all struggling actors, finding work wherever they could in westerns or on TV.
Jack and Harry
29. When Harry Met Jack
Nicholson was especially fond of Harry Dean Stanton. So much so, that he would find a way to write Stanton’s name or initials into every film he made either via graffiti on a wall or carving it into a tree or any other methodologies employed by a lovesick high schooler.
28. Monkee See Monkee Do
Nicholson collaborated with the Monkees, writing their 1968 film “Head,” a psychedelic collection of music video vignettes. Inexplicably, the Monkees’ hit song “Goin’ Down” was not included on the soundtrack for “Head.”
27. Torn Up
Rip Torn was originally supposed to star in “Easy Rider,” but he got into a near-violent fight with Dennis Hopper and was fired, paving the way for Jack Nicholson to take what turned out to be his breakthrough role.
Fonda and Nicholson in Easy Rider
26. Hold the Mayo
The famous scene in “Five Easy Pieces” where Nicholson tries to order toast from an obstinate waitress who would only serve it to him in a chicken salad sandwich was based on a true story. Nicholson claims that it really happened to him at a restaurant in Hollywood named Pupi’s. He told the screenwriter, Carole Eastman, who added it to the script.
While he is pro-choice, Nicholson is personally against abortion, because “I’m an illegitimate child myself and it would be hypocritical to take any other position. I’d be dead. I wouldn’t exist.”
24. Viva la Vida
Nicholson, who first worked with Stanley Kubrick on the 1980 film “The Shining,” almost worked with him a decade earlier when he was cast in Kubrick’s cancelled Napoleon biopic.
23. Fifth Choice
Nicholson won his first Oscar for his role as a rebellious mental patient in 1975’s “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” However, he only got the part after Marlon Brando, Gene Hackman, Burt Reynolds, and James Caan all turned it down.
22. Oh, the Horror
Nicholson and Marlon Brando used to be neighbours on Mulholland Drive. Brando would often ransack Nicholson’s fridge.
21. Demolition Man
Following Brando’s death, to protect his friend’s legacy, Nicholson bought the late actor’s dilapidated mansion and tore it down so that it wouldn’t be seen as a symbol of Brando’s decay.
20. A Card Would Have Been Sufficient
On one of Nicholson’s birthdays, his good friend and author Hunter S. Thompson showed up outside his house, turned on a spotlight, blasted a recording of a pig being eaten alive by bears, and fired several rounds from a 9 mm pistol. When a terrified Nicholson elected, justifiably, not to open the door, Thompson left an elk’s heart on his doorstep.
Hunter S. Thompson
19. If I Had a Hammer
Nicholson was also friends with Roman Polanski. After the murder of Polanski’s wife, Sharon Tate, Nicholson began sleeping with a hammer under his pillow.
18. Once Was Enough
He has only ever been married once, from 1962 to 1968 to actress Sandra Knight and together, they have a daughter Jennifer, born in 1963.
Jack and Jennifer
17. Father Figure
Nicholson has at least three other children: Two with actress Rebecca Broussard and another with model Winnie Hollman. He might have a fourth child with “Five Easy Pieces” co-star Susan Anspach but he’s never admitted paternity, although he did pay for her college.
16. Scent of a Woman
He had a 17-year long relationship with Anjelica Huston, who was his co-star in “Prizzi’s Honor,” in a role that earned her an Oscar. After years of putting up with his philandering, she left him in 1990 when he got Broussard pregnant and could no longer hide that affair.
15. The Devil You Know
His role as the devil in “The Witches of Eastwick” was originally meant for Bill Murray, but after he dropped, Huston, who was auditioning for the role of one of the witches, mentioned to the director that Nicholson was interested. He was signed within hours. Sadly, Huston lost her role to Cher.
14. Whose Line is it Anyway?
His famous line in “The Shining” where he channels his inner Ed McMahon and says, “Here’s Johnny” was ad-libbed.
Nicholson has directed three films in his career. The basketball movie, “Drive, He Said,” the western “Goin’ South,” and a sequel to 1974’s “Chinatown” called “The Two Jakes” in which he reprised his role as private detective J.J. Gittes.
Jack as detective J.J. Gittes
12. I’ll Get the Bill
Even though Michael Keaton was the titular “Batman”, Nicholson got top billing because he’s Jack Nicholson.
11. Laughing All the Way to the Bank
For his role in Tim Burton’s “Batman,” Nicholson negotiated a percentage of the merchandising which netted him somewhere between $60 and $90 million dollars for all those wonderful toys.
10. Double Down
Nicholson worked with Tim Burton again on 1996’s “Mars Attacks” where he played President James Dale and Las Vegas property developer Art Land. He was originally only supposed to play one role which would eventually be killed off, but the studio execs disliked the idea. So Tim Burton created two roles for Nicholson and then killed them both.
9. Having a Stroke
Nicholson notoriously smashed up another car with a golf club in a famous road rage incident. His golf instructor took pride, saying that in order to do that kind of damage “you have to have a near-perfect grip and a killer shoulder turn… I taught those to Jack Nicholson.”
8. Second to One
Having won three Oscars, Nicholson is tied with fellow actors Walter Brennan, Ingrid Bergman, Daniel-Day Lewis, and Meryl Streep. They are all tied for second behind Katharine Hepburn who has four Oscars on her shelf. Nicholson has been nominated twelve times, which ties him with Hepburn, but has them both at a distant second to Meryl Streep, who has twenty and counting.
7. Alfred vs. The Joker
Nicholson is only one of two actors to have been nominated for an Academy Award for acting in every decade from the 1960s to the 2000s. The only other actor to do so is Michael Caine.
Nicholson was nominated for both a Razzie and a Golden Globe for his performance in “Hoffa.”
5. High Fidelity
In 1998, Nicholson flew to Cuba and met Fidel Castro who he described as “a genius” and left with a very good impression of the country. Of course, being Jack Nicholson, he probably experienced a far more luxurious version of Cuba than most Cubans.
4. Once a Fan…
Having held courtside seats for more than three decades, Nicholson is one of the Los Angeles Lakers’ most famous fans. However, during their disastrous 2015 season which saw an almost-retired Kobe Bryant on the sidelines with injuries and one of the worst records in the league, Nicholson jokingly said he was willing to sell his seats, putting a pair of them up on StubHub at face value ($6,264.75 a pop).
3. Always a Fan
Despite joking about giving up his courtside seats, Nicholson was back the very next season for the home opener. They lost.
2. Celtic Pride
Maria Menounos and Dane Cook showed up to the Staples Center in Los Angeles for a 2010 NBA Finals match between LA and Boston. Both Celtics fanatics, Menounos and Cook were decked out in Boston gear. They were pulled from their seats by security and, at halftime, they ran into a cackling Nicholson who, Menounos later discovered, had called Lakers owner Jerry Buss to have them removed. To be fair, the pair might have been removed simply because one of them was Dane Cook.
Nicholson’s birth was kept a secret because the man who claimed to be his father, Don Furcillo, had evidently committed bigamy by marrying his mother June. To maintain the secrecy, June’s mother, Ethel, raised Jack as her own and Nicholson grew up believing his grandmother to be his mother and his mother to be his sister.
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