Jack Nicholson facts: Actor's age, movies, wife, children and career explained

22 February 2024, 17:17

Jack Nicholson in 2005
Jack Nicholson in 2005. Picture: Getty

By Tom Owen

Jack Nicholson is one of the most iconic and versatile actors of his generation, who has starred in over 60 films and won three Academy Awards.

Listen to this article

Loading audio...

His career spans six decades, from his humble beginnings as a B-movie actor and screenwriter to his rise to fame as a rebel and antihero in classics such as Easy Rider, Chinatown, and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.

Nicholson is also known for his memorable roles in comedies, dramas, thrillers, and superhero films, such as Terms of Endearment, The Shining, Batman, and The Departed.

Behind the scenes, Nicholson is a passionate filmmaker who has directed three films and produced several others. He is also a loyal friend, a sports fan, and a cultural icon.

  1. How old is Jack Nicholson and where was he born?

    Jack Nicholson in 1970
    Jack Nicholson in 1970. Picture: Getty

    Jack Nicholson is 86 years old as of 2024. He was born on April 22, 1937 in Neptune City, New Jersey.

    He grew up in Manasquan, New Jersey, about 50 miles south of the city on the Jersey Shore.

  2. Who were his parents?

    Jack Nicholson’s family background is quite complicated and surprising. He grew up believing that his parents were John and Ethel May Nicholson, and that he had two sisters, Lorraine and June Frances Nicholson.

    However, in 1974, he discovered that his mother was actually June, who had given birth to him when she was 17 and unmarried. His father’s identity was uncertain, but it was possibly Don Furcillo, an Italian-American showman who was already married to someone else.

    John and Ethel May were actually his maternal grandparents, who raised him as their own son.

    Nicholson never met his biological mother, who died of cancer in 1963, nor his biological father, who died in 1997. He did have a brief contact with Furcillo, but he did not pursue a relationship with him.

  3. How did he get his start in acting?

    Jack Nicholson in 1969
    Jack Nicholson in 1969. Picture: Getty

    Jack Nicholson got his start in acting by working as an errand boy for the animation studio Hanna-Barbera, where he met some actors and writers who helped him get into the film industry.

    He made his film debut as the lead in The Cry Baby Killer (1958), a low-budget teen drama. He then appeared in several B-movies and independent films, mostly in the horror and western genres, such as The Little Shop of Horrors (1960), The Raven (1963), and The Shooting (1966).

    His first big acting break came when a role opened up in Fonda and Hopper’s Easy Rider (1969), a countercultural road movie that became a blockbuster and a cultural phenomenon. He played George Hanson, an alcoholic lawyer who joins the bikers on their journey across America. He received his first Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor for this performance.

  4. What are his most famous movies?

    Jack Nicholson In 'The Shining'
    Jack Nicholson In 'The Shining'. Picture: Getty

    Jack Nicholson has starred in many famous movies, but some of the most acclaimed and popular ones are:

    The Shining (1980): A horror masterpiece by Stanley Kubrick, where Nicholson plays a writer who goes insane in a haunted hotel.

    One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975): A drama based on the novel by Ken Kesey, where Nicholson plays a rebellious inmate in a mental institution. He won his first Oscar for Best Actor for this role.

    Chinatown (1974): A neo-noir classic by Roman Polanski, where Nicholson plays a private detective who uncovers a web of corruption and murder in 1930s Los Angeles. He was nominated for an Oscar for Best Actor for this role.

    As Good as It Gets (1997): A romantic comedy by James L. Brooks, where Nicholson plays a misanthropic author who falls in love with a waitress. He won his third Oscar for Best Actor for this role.

    Easy Rider (1969): A countercultural road movie by Dennis Hopper, where Nicholson plays a lawyer who joins two bikers on their journey across America. He received his first Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor for this role.

    Batman (1989): A superhero film by Tim Burton, where Nicholson plays the Joker, the archenemy of Batman. He received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy for this role.

    Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men
    Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men. Picture: Getty

    The Bucket List (2007): A comedy-drama by Rob Reiner, where Nicholson plays a billionaire who befriends a mechanic, played by Morgan Freeman, and they embark on a road trip to fulfil their bucket list before they die.

    Anger Management (2003): A comedy by Peter Segal, where Nicholson plays a therapist who tries to help a mild-mannered businessman, played by Adam Sandler, cope with his anger issues.

    Terms of Endearment (1983) - In this acclaimed drama, Nicholson played Garrett Breedlove, a retired astronaut who enters into a tumultuous relationship with a widow, played by Shirley MacLaine.

    Five Easy Pieces (1970) - Nicholson earned widespread praise for his performance as Bobby Dupea, a disillusioned oil rig worker grappling with existential angst and familial estrangement.

    The Departed (2006) - Directed by Martin Scorsese, Nicholson portrayed Frank Costello, a ruthless Irish-American mob boss, in this gritty crime thriller set in Boston.

    A Few Good Men (1992) - Nicholson delivered a memorable courtroom performance as Colonel Nathan R. Jessup, a hardened Marine Corps officer, in this legal drama directed by Rob Reiner and alongside Tom Cruise.

  5. Is Jack Nicholson married and does he have children?

    Jack Nicholson and daughter Jennifer Nicholson in 2006
    Jack Nicholson and daughter Jennifer Nicholson in 2006. Picture: Getty

    Jack Nicholson is not married, but he has been married once in the past. He has six children with five different women.

    Sandra Knight was his first and only wife, whom he married in 1962 and divorced in 1968. They had a daughter, Jennifer Nicholson, who is now a fashion designer and has two sons of her own.

    Susan Anspach was his co-star in Five Easy Pieces, and they had a son, Caleb Goddard, who was later adopted by another actor. Nicholson denied paternity, but Caleb claimed that he recognized him as his father in private.

    Winnie Hollman was a model who had a daughter with Nicholson, Honey Hollman, in 1981. Honey was raised by her mother in Denmark and became an actress.

    Rebecca Broussard was an actress who dated Nicholson from 1989 to 1994. They had two children, Lorraine Nicholson and Ray Nicholson, who are both actors as well. Nicholson has a close relationship with them and often attends public events with them.

    Jack Nicholson with daughter Lorraine in 2016
    Jack Nicholson with daughter Lorraine in 2016. Picture: Alamy

    Jennine Gourin was a waitress who had a daughter with Nicholson, Tessa Gourin, in 1994. Nicholson has never publicly acknowledged Tessa as his daughter, and they have been estranged for most of her life. Tessa is also an actress and has spoken out about her lack of connection with Nicholson.

    Jack Nicholson also famously dated actress Angelica Huston from 1973 to 1990.