cover image Jack's Life: A Biography of Jack Nicholson

Jack's Life: A Biography of Jack Nicholson

Patrick McGilligan. W. W. Norton & Company, $25 (478pp) ISBN 978-0-393-03482-0

Born in New York City in 1937, Nicholson grew up in New Jersey under the ``elaborate charade'' that his grandmother was his mother and his mother was his sister--a fact that was not revealed to him until 1974. After moving to California he studied acting and found work in forgettable Roger Corman films and television. His big break came in 1969 when Bruce Dern turned down the role of George Hanson, a Southern lawyer in Easy Rider. Nicholson was cast in the part and the film became the counterculture hit of the year. There soon followed such films as Five Easy Pieces , Carnal Knowledge , Chinatown and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest , for which he won an Academy Award. The author goes into seemingly every facet of Nicholson's life: the drugs (you name it, he's used it); his preoccupation with sex, which has kept him bedding the likes of Michelle Phillips, Anjelica Huston and Margaret Trudeau. There is plenty of behind-the-scenes material on the making of each Nicholson movie and insights into his characterizations. McGilligan ( George Cukor ) has captured Nicholson's intensity in this fact-filled biography , which will be especially appreciated by Nicholson's fans. Photos. Author tour. (Mar.)