Jack Nicholson was born John Joseph Nicholson on April 22, 1937 in New York City. His father was a showman and his mother was a showgirl, but they both separated quickly after his birth. His grandmother offered to care for him such that his mother could continue her career and he spent most of his youth living with them in Asbury Park, New Jersey. However, they did not reveal to him that they were actually his grandparents and he grew up believing that his mother was his sister.
He graduated from Manasquan High School in 1954 and was voted "Class Clown". Afterwards, he moved to Los Angeles, where he started working for Roger Corman, a producer of low budget films. Jack made his screen debut in 1958's "The Cry Baby Killer", portraying a teen who kills two others and panics. In 1960, he was given a small role in the film "The Little Shop of Horrors" as a masochistic dental patient.
In the 1960s, he was allowed to work on the screenplay for a movie called "The Trip", which would star Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper. After meeting them, they decided to cast him in 1969's "Easy Rider" as an ACLU lawyer named George Hanson. In the film, he meets the two men and joins them in their cross-country bike trip, only to meet an untimely end. For his performance, he was nominated for Best Supporting Actor at the Academy Awards. The film became the launching point for what would become an amazing career in motion pictures.
He was given his first starring role in the 1970 film "Five Easy Pieces". In the film, he plays a concert pianist who abandons his past to lead a simple life, only to return to meet his estranged family with his dumb blonde girlfriend. He becomes visibly ashamed of her presence after falling in love with an intelligent female staying at the family home and conflict ensues. For his work, he was nominated for Best Actor at that year's Academy Awards.
In 1974, he was chosen to play the lead character, a private detective, in the film "Chinatown". The low budget film by Roman Polanski ended up getting a mediocre reception from critics and the box office, but has since become one of the most important films of all time. The film has become one of the most important examples of the noir genre, a type of film that is part mystery and psychological drama.
In 1975, Jack starred in the film adaptation of "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" as a mental patient named Randle Patrick McMurphy. In the film, he decides to act insane in order to serve a short sentence in a mental hospital instead of prison, but ends up getting more than he bargained for. Nurse Ratched, the tyrannical head of his ward in the institution, tries to make him become a sheep like the other patients, but he resists by breaking out and even inviting women into the hospital for a party. His performance in the film helped make it a success and earned him the Academy Award for Best Actor.
In 1980, he was cast for the leading role in Stanley Kubrick's production of "The Shining". In the film, he plays Jack Torrance, a recovered alcoholic who finds himself spiraling into madness after taking a job as caretaker of a hotel for the winter. His performance in the film has since become legendary and remains one of the most chilling in movie history.
In 1989, Jack was given the role of The Joker in Tim Burton's production of "Batman". His performance set the standard for the character and helped to make the film an international box office hit, spawning numerous sequels. He also managed to negotiate an extremely lucrative contract that ended up netting him over $50 million.
In 1992, he was given the role of Colonel Nathan Jessep in "A Few Good Men". In the film, he ends up giving a riveting performance during a military court martial that has become one of the most memorable scenes in film history. For his role, he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.
In 1998, Jack made a highly-publicized visit to the country of Cuba, despite the embargo placed on it by the United States. While there, he stayed in a luxurious hotel and met with dictator Fidel Castro for three hours. After returning, he stated that Fidel was a genius.
Currently, Jack Nicholson is one of the most respected actors in history. He has thus far been nominated for twelve Academy Awards, winning three, which is the record for male actors. In his free time, he avidly attends LA Lakers games and spends time with his numerous children.