Jack the tripper

JACK NICHOLSON is the greatest American movie actor since Cagney, Bogart and Stewart, and he's as much a part of his time as they were of theirs. He comes from a blue-collar background in New Jersey and didn't know until early middle age that...



jackthe woman he grew up believing to be his sister was actually his mother. His has been a busy, turbulent career, beginning when he went to California at 17, became a messenger boy at MGM, then joined a local stage company.

Roger Corman cast him at the age of 19 in the B-movie Cry Baby Killer and he spent a dozen years as part of Corman's low-budget academy, training ground for such talents as Peter Bogdanovich, Francis Ford Coppola and Jonathan Demme. Later, as a highly paid star, he still evinced the sense of freedom that came with working on cheap pictures outside the big studio system.

In collaboration with two other Corman hands, Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper, he achieved overnight fame in 1969 in Easy Rider.

Jumpin' Jack

JACK NICHOLSON is the greatest American movie actor since Cagney, Bogart and Stewart, and he's as much a part of his time as they were of theirs. He comes from a blue-collar background in New Jersey and didn't know until early middle age that the woman he grew up believing to be his sister was actually his mother. His has been a busy, turbulent career, beginning when he went to California at 17, became a messenger boy at MGM, then joined a local stage company.

Roger Corman cast him at the age of 19 in the B-movie Cry Baby Killer and he spent a dozen years as part of Corman's low-budget academy, training ground for such talents as Peter Bogdanovich, Francis Ford Coppola and Jonathan Demme. Later, as a highly paid star, he still evinced the sense of freedom that came with working on cheap pictures outside the big studio system.

In collaboration with two other Corman hands, Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper, he achieved overnight fame in 1969 in Easy Rider, playing the drinking, pot-smoking young lawyer George Hanson, a doomed, romantic cynic, scion of an old Southern family. Early on, he had two important partnerships with directors his own age, Monte Hellman and Bob Rafelson, with whom he both acted and wrote. In the Hellman westerns The Shooting and Ride in the Whirlwind, made back- to-back for $150,000 in the Utah desert, he played contrasted roles, first a psychopathic gunslinger and then an itinerant cowboy wrongly charged with outlawry.

In Rafelson's Five Easy Pieces and The King of Marvin Gardens, he was a cruel, charismatic drop-out from an over-cultured family in the former, and a kindly, depressed radio storyteller in the latter.

We think we know Nicholson the man: a lively, lovable, hard-working, hard-living rebel, a charming scapegrace with a disarming smile and a slightly frightening thin-lipped grimace. Perhaps we do. But this belies the immense, un-self-regarding range he has shown in a 50-year career that looks as if there's major work still to come.

He's been the sane outsider faking insanity in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and the madman pretending to be sane in The Shining; the down-to-earth, foul-mouthed naval policeman in The Last Detail and the deranged Marine colonel in A Few Good Men, both of them dedicated to the military life.

He was the comic-strip Joker looking for colourful trouble in Batman and the colourless retired executive trying to avoid it in About Schmidt. In 1971 in Carnal Knowledge, he's a young man rendered impotent from his womanising; 32 years later in Something's Gotta Give, he's a music promoter having a heart attack while engaged in Viagra-assisted sex with a young woman.

Nicholson has chosen to work with some of the finest directors from Hollywood's golden age - Kazan, Minnelli, Kubrick, Huston, Arthur Penn; with three of Europe's finest - Polanski, Forman and Antonioni; and with several of his best contemporaries - Hellman, Rafelson, Ashby, Nichols, Beatty, Payne, Burton, Sean Penn and Scorsese, another Corman protege.

'This used to be a helluva country,' Nicholson says in Easy Rider. His has been - still is - a helluva career.


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