Five Easy Decades: How Jack Nicholson Became the Biggest Movie Star in Modern Times

Dennis McDougal, Author . Wiley $25.95 (484p) ISBN 978-0471722465

Taking on not just a legendary subject, but a legendarily private subject—refusing biographers and TV personalities, Nicholson prefers “the occasional magazine Q&A or quickie newspaper interview”—author and New York Times film writer McDougal (Privileged Son ) has turned out a model biography: exhaustive, full of action and startlingly illuminating. Nicholson—flamboyant yet guarded, outrageous yet articulate, charming yet polarizing—has marched to his own drummer for 50 years, heading up a parade of celebrated films and famous women, and eliciting strong opinions in just about everyone; as such, McDougal presents an engrossing showcase of big films and bigger personalities. Following a modest, fatherless New Jersey childhood, Nicholson set out on a California odyssey that would require stamina, guts and luck, as “eking out a living” in the early '60s gave way to the career-making premiere of Easy Rider : “ 'I had been around long enough to know while sitting in that audience, I had become a movie star.' ” Los Angeles plays a starring role, giving Nicholson his wild lifestyle; a loyal, eclectic roster of friends; and a longtime neighbor in Marlon Brando. Digging up as many roles offstage as on—hardheaded businessman, softhearted friend, master of rude rejoinders, fanatical sports fan and poetic philosopher—McDougal makes Nicholson's everyday life just as fascinating as his films, which also get considerable, thoughtful attention; in fact, McDougal's research is so deep and detailed, his extensive chapter notes could make a fine book of their own. (Oct.)

Reviewed on: 12/31/2007
Release date: 10/01/2007
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 484 pages - 978-0-470-42282-3
Hardcover - 514 pages - 978-1-62045-658-3
Open Ebook - 484 pages - 978-1-62045-899-0
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