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Last Updated:  Monday, 20 January, 2003, 12:59 GMT
Jack's back to his winning ways
Jack Nicholson
Nicholson's career has spanned five decades
Jack Nicholson has once again won critical acclaim for his portrayal of a father coming to terms with growing old in About Schmidt. BBC News Online charts his enduring career.

Jack Nicholson is seen as a true Tinseltown icon - an award-winning, charismatic bad boy actor.

His own life reads like a Hollywood script. He was raised by his grandmother who he believed was his mother, while his real mother was passed off as his big sister.

There is a long line of beautiful girlfriends littering his past, including actresses Angelica Huston and Lara Flynn Boyle, ensuring he has stayed in both the review and gossip pages.

The 65-year-old's ability to appeal to new generations, while often playing similar quirky characters, has kept him at the top for decades.

If Nicholson builds on his 2002 Golden Globe success and wins the best actor Oscar for About Schmidt he will have collected the coveted statue in each of four decades to add to his seven Golden Globes.

Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt
Nicholson starred with Helen Hunt in As Good as it Gets
Cult producer and director Roger Corman gave Nicholson his big break, firstly in Cry Baby Killer and then The Little Shop of Horrors - which took just days to shoot.

The early years were not a great indicator of the success that was to come - featuring a largely forgettable mix of low budget films, westerns and horror flicks.

Undeterred Nicholson began writing and producing his own movies - taking a lead part in Ride in the Whirlwind, The Shooting and Flight to Fury.


It was the road movie Easy Rider with Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper which brought Nicholson to prominence, landing him his first Oscar nomination for best supporting actor in 1970.

Nicholson's role as a blissed-out loner went beyond acting when it was later revealed he was actually stoned during filming.

Just a year later Nicholson picked up his second Oscar nomination, this time a best actor nod for Five Easy Pieces.

And the 70s continued to be dominated by Nicholson - with Oscar nominations for The Last Detail and Chinatown.

The Academy finally handed him a best actor award in 1979 for his portrayal of a man faking madness to escape spending time in jail in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.


Despite his status as one of the hottest properties in Hollywood, Nicholson was still prepared to take risks.

He teamed up with his contemporaries, including Warren Beatty and Marlon Brando, on projects which were not always a success, such as The Fortune and The Missouri Breaks.

Jack Nicholson
Nicholson has tried his hand at directing
The 80s saw more Oscar nominations come his way with Reds, Prizzi's Honor and Ironweed receiving the plaudits.

One of the most enduring images of Nicholson is from Stanley Kubrick's 1980 horror classic The Shining in which he plays the crazed writer Jack/John Torrence - spawning the maniacal catchphrase "Here's Johnny".

But it was the comedy Terms of Endearment, co-starring Shirley MacLaine and Debra Winger, that saw his only win of the 80s.

The mysticism surrounding Nicholson as an icon is helped by his reluctance to give television interviews.

He is immensely proud of his regular attendance at Los Angeles Lakers basketball matches and directors often have to schedule filming around home games.

Another of Nicholson's more memorable roles saw him play Satan in the adaptation of John Updike's The Witches of Eastwick, with his harem of women played by Cher, Michelle Pfeiffer and Susan Sarandon.

Familiar ground

Despite his reputation as one of the world's biggest stars, his roles in blockbusters Batman and A Few Good Men brought him a new generation of fans.

Nicholson's portrayal of a hard-nosed marine colonel, alongside stars-of-the-moment Tom Cruise and Demi Moore, in the second of those films, saw yet another Oscar nomination fall his way.

The 90s saw another mixed decade - with movies including Hoffa, Wolf, Mars Attacks! and a largely disappointing sequel to Terms of Endearment.

But returning to familiar ground by playing an eccentric writer in As Good as it Gets saw Nicholson receive both critical and box office acclaim.

It was no surprise then that he went on to win the Oscar in 1997.





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