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Creator / Jack Nicholson

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"I don't want people to know what I'm actually like. It's not good for an actor."

You want us to describe Jack Nicholson here? You want the TRUTH?!


But if you insist...If you want a candidate for the title of "best actor of all time", John Joseph "Jack" Nicholson (born April 22, 1937) is the man — though he's not so much an actor as a force of nature.

Nicholson has been nominated for Academy Awards twelve times. The Best Actor twice, for One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and As Good as It Gets. He also won Best Supporting Actor for Terms of Endearment. He is tied with Walter Brennan and Daniel Day-Lewis for most acting wins by a male actor (three), and second to Katharine Hepburn for most acting wins overall (four). He is also one of only two actors nominated for an Academy Award for acting (either lead or supporting) in every decade from the 1960s to the 2000s (the other being Michael Caine).


He has also won seven Golden Globe Awards, and received a Kennedy Center Honor in 2001. In 2010, he was the very enthusiastic honorary starter for the Indianapolis 500. In 1994, he became one of the youngest actors to be awarded the American Film Institute's Life Achievement Award.

He is internationally renowned for his often dark-themed portrayals of neurotic characters, such as The Joker in Tim Burton's Batman (1989) and Randle McMurphy in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. He's also known for keeping up his career, as he has to approve of the script personally to make the movie and thus often avoiding only doing his roles for the money. However, his talents don't come cheap, and he set a record for then-highest paid actor for a single role when he played The Joker.

Also, because Nicholson is a massive Los Angeles Lakers fan, attending every home game, his shooting schedule has to revolve around the Lakers' schedule.


He was raised believing his mother was his sister and his grandmother was his mother because his birth mother was underage, unmarried, and Roman Catholic. Both were long dead when he found out—in a conversation with a reporter from Time magazine about Chinatown. The irony has been noted on several occasions. According to him, "My mother never saw the irony of calling me a son of a bitch."

Nicholson retired from acting in 2010. He is the Trope Namer of The Genie Knows Jack Nicholsonnote .

Jack Nicholson has appeared in many films, including:

He also co-wrote and directed, but did not act in, Drive, He Said (1971)

His works provide examples of the following tropes:

  • Adam Westing: While he can, of course, pull off serious acting, some of his roles slip into this — a hammy, charismatic, half-crazed egomaniac.
  • Big Ol' Eyebrows: His eyebrows are very expressive.
  • The Charmer: His characters are extremely charismatic.
  • Cheshire Cat Grin: His signature grin.
  • Chewing the Scenery: Quite often. Take a look at his almost literal scenery-chewing rat impression in The Departed.
  • Cool Old Guy: His characters in his later films are almost invariably this as is the man himself.
  • Cool Shades: Wears these very often in real life to the point that they've become a trademark.
  • Deadpan Snarker: He really knows how to sell one-liners and insults. His famously drawling voice really helps.
  • Doing It for the Art: He not only accepted a minor role in Broadcast News for no money, but specifically requested that he not appear in the trailer, the opening credits, or any advertisements or promotions for the film because he did not want to take attention away from lead actors William Hurt, Albert Brooks and Holly Hunter.
  • Evil Eyebrows: They were even a reason why Stephen King didn't want him in The Shining, feeling it gave away the surprise of Jack Torrance's descent into murderous insanity.
  • Evil Sounds Deep: Nicholson has a notably deep voice and it's lent itself many times to making the villains he played come across as more menacing.
  • Faux Affably Evil: He'll keep his signature manic energy and even increase it for villains, most notably Joker and Jack Torrance.
  • It Will Never Catch On: He closed his first Oscar acceptance speech with a mention to "my agent, who about ten years ago advised me that I had no business being an actor."
  • Joisey: Where he was raised in Neptune, New Jersey and attended Manasquan High School.
  • Kavorka Man: In terms of physical appearance, Jack has never been much to look at, but his charm and charisma make it easy to see why his characters have no issue attracting beautiful women.
  • Large Ham: Very often. His performance as The Joker is considered one of the greatest scene-stealers in film history.
  • Magnum Opus Dissonance: Considers his best performance and the favourite of all his films to be Michelangelo Antonioni's The Passenger which is far less famous than his more notable films.
  • Misplaced Accent: Born in New Jersey, but his default voice (which he hardly ever alters for films) sounds a lot more Midwestern.
  • Money, Dear Boy: Why he played The Joker in Batman (1989). He got paid a percentage of the profits and a share of the merchandising. That said, he did name this as one of his favourite roles.
  • Slasher Smile: When playing a villain, his famous grin can be very sinister.
  • Star-Making Role: Easy Rider earned Jack his first Oscar nomination, and Five Easy Pieces solidified him as a leading man, but his Oscar-winning role in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest assured his place in movie history.
  • What Could Have Been: Shortly before his acting career took off, he tried to get hired at MGM's animation unit as a cleanup artist on Tom and Jerry. The unit closed less than a week after his job interview. MGM animators Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera then offered him an opportunity as an animator at their upcoming studio. He declined the offer in order to pursue his acting dreams but remained good friends with the animation duo.


Video Example(s):


You Can't Handle the Truth!

Lt. Kaffee and Colonel Jessup go all in this epic courtroom battle scene!

How well does it match the trope?

4.91 (33 votes)

Example of:

Main / HamToHamCombat

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