Describes Nicholson's childhood in seaside New Jersey, his formative years as an actor and screenwriter in Hollywood, his almost accidental breakthrough, his work in such films as "Chinatown" and "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," and his private life
No male American film star of the post-Brando era - not Pacino, not De Niro, not Hoffman - has demonstrated the talent, the charisma, the larger-than-life audacity, and the string of screen triumphs of Jack Nicholson. In Jack's Life, Patrick McGilligan, one of our finest film biographers, captures Nicholson's private, public, and cinematic life in all its complexity and contradictions - a portrait of the film icon as man and artist and hedonist and closet intellectual. It is as deep and intimate a biography of an American actor as we've had in many years, certain to be one of the most talked-about books of 1994.That John J. Nicholson of Neptune, New Jersey, product of a tangled and bizarre parentage, should grow up to be Jack Nicholson, Hollywood legend, is a grand American success story - one that begins like Dickens and goes on like Mark Twain, with long stretches of a Fielding romp along the way. Here for the first time is a family tree with more false leads than Chinatown. Here is the Catholic boyhood of secrets, mischief, moviegoing, and timeless male ritual. Here are the early years in Hollywood, the formative time of struggle and growth in the fifties and early sixties when Nicholson scrambled professionally and formed the circle of friends who remain with him to this day. Here is Jack's "overnight" break-through in Easy Rider as an electrifying and entirely new kind of screen presence. Most crucially, here are the stories behind the great film roles to follow - in Five Easy Pieces, Carnal Knowledge, The Last Detail, Chinatown, One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest, The Shining, Terms of Endearment, Prizzi's Honor, Batman, A Few Good Men, and Hoffa - that have made Nicholson one of the most acclaimed screen actors of our time.Jack's Life is informative and searching about Nicholson's fascinating and Rabelaisian private life. Bursting from a cocoon of shyness and sexual repression (and fueled by drugs and expanding fame), Nicholson romanced some of Hollywood's most stunning women, including Michelle Phillips and, in his longest and certainly deepest relationship, the formidable Anjelica Huston. (And not them alone, as dozens of models and actresses can attest.) From the beginning he has been shrewd about career and money, and he is now probably the richest and most highly paid actor in film history - and the toughest negotiator. His approach to fatherhood, his avoidance of marriage, even his selection of film roles, intriguingly echoes Jack's own history of illegitimacy, fatherlessness, and relationships with women.On screen or off, Jack Nicholson is never less than compelling to watch - or to read about. Jack's Life is film biography the way it is meant to be done - detailed, probing, massively researched, and passionately written. In Jack's Life Patrick McGilligan has produced the definitive life of a man who defines the peak of American acting, and American fame.