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Jack Nicholson is one of the most prominent American motion-picture actors of his generation, noted for his versatile portrayals of unconventional outsiders
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Throughout the 1960s, he continued to appear in mostly low-budget horror films. After a small role in the 1960 dark comedy Little Shop of Horrors, Nicholson appeared in The Terror (1963), Back Door to Hell (1964),
Ride in the Whirlwind (1965) and The Shooting (1966).
Nicholson's breakthrough performance came as alcoholic Southern lawyer George Hanson in the classic road movie Easy Rider (1969). He was nominated for an Academy Award for best supporting actor for his performance and developed something of a cult following. Then, in 1970, Nicholson starred in the film Five Easy Pieces, a surprise hit in which he played a disaffected former musical prodigy. Nicholson again received an Academy Award nomination for his performance, this time for best leading actor. His next stellar performance was as a profane naval officer in the dark comedy The Last Detail (1973), once again landing him an Oscar nomination for best actor.
Nicholson turned in one of the most acclaimed performances of his career in director Roman Polanski's brilliant 1974 neo-noir Chinatown. He portrayed a private eye named Jake Gittes who is tasked with tracking down a murder in perhaps his most nuanced and complex role. The part earned Nicholson his fourth Oscar nomination, but again he did not win the award. He finally broke through with his first Academy Award for Best Actor in the 1975 film One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. Based on Ken Kesey's famous novel of the same name, the film follows R.P. McMurphy (played by Nicholson), a convict who is placed in a mental institution where the nurses and doctors attempt to quash his rebellious spirit. In 1980, Nicholson delivered an eerie if perhaps over-the-top performance as a deranged hotel caretaker in the acclaimed film adaptation of Stephen King's novel The Shining.
Throughout the 1980s, Nicholson largely moved away from the subtle, understated roles that had earned him such acclaim in favor of more outlandish comic performances. He nevertheless delivered several brilliant performances during the decade: as Eugene O'Neill in the 1981 film Reds, for which he won another Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, as well as in Terms of Endearment (1983) and as the Joker in Batman (1989). Nicholson returned to top form in the 1990s with stirring performances in such films as A Few Good Men (1992) and As Good As It Gets (1997), for which he won a third Academy Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of a misanthropic writer. His most acclaimed recent films include About Schmidt (2002), Anger Management (2003), Something's Gotta Give (2003) and The Departed (2006).
Nicholson married an actress named Sandra Knight in 1962, and they had a daughter, Jennifer, before divorcing in 1968. He later had a 20-year relationship with actress Anjelica Huston that ended when Nicholson had an affair with a beautiful model named Rebecca Broussard. Nicholson and Broussard never married but have since had two children together.
Jack Nicholson is unquestionably one of the greatest actors of his generation. In addition to his sheer volume of iconic roles, Nicholson stands out for the incredible range of characters he has convincingly portrayed. Nicholson's wide variety of characters have also made him one of his generation's most mysterious actors, as audiences have attempted unavailingly to figure out which of the many divergent personalities they've seen him adopt comes closest to the true Nicholson. "I'm none of them and all of them," he has said. "There's a little bit of me, I suppose, in every part I play. As an actor you can't help inserting yourself, especially if you love acting."
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