Jack Nicholson's Life and Career in Photos

The Academy Award-winning actor turns 86 on April 22, 2023! We're celebrating with a look back at his most iconic roles and milestone moments

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Jack Nicholson's Early Days

Jack Nicholson

Born on April 22, 1937, in Neptune, New Jersey, the future Academy Award winner Jack Nicholson was raised by Ethel May and John Nicholson, alongside his older sister, June.

Nearly 40 years later, in 1985, Nicholson's world would be turned upside down when he learned from a TIME magazine reporter that his mother, Ethel, was actually his grandmother, and that his sister June had actually given birth to him as a teenager.

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Jack Nicholson Moves to L.A.

Jack Nicholson

After finishing high school, Nicholson passed on college and picked up a few local jobs, working as a lifeguard and an assistant manager at a movie theatre. Before long, he moved to California, where June was living in a suburb outside of Los Angeles, according to Robert Sellers' biography, Hollywood Hellraisers.

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Jack Nicholson's First Audition

Jack Nicholson

While living in L.A., Nicholson landed a job in the mail room at MGM studios' animation department, where he was ultimately offered an audition in passing. While the audition didn't go well, it led him to acting classes and a job at a local theatre.

Nicholson's first role was in 1958's Cry Baby Killer — a full decade away from what would become his breakout role, 1969's Easy Rider.

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Jack Nicholson's First (and Only) Marriage

Jack Nicholson

The actor's slow and steady rise saw him take on a string of roles in low-budget horror films and guest appearances on TV series. While shooting 1963's The Terror, Nicholson met costar Sandra Knight, whom he wed in 1962. It was the actor's only marriage, and lasted until the pair split in 1968. They welcomed one child together, daughter Jennifer, in 1963.

Speaking about their relationship, Knight told Closer Weekly, "The real Jack is a loving, caring, giving person," adding, "We had a very beautiful, sweet marriage."

05 of 29

Jack Nicholson as a Dad

Jack Nicholson
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Here, the proud dad poses with his eldest daughter, Jennifer, on set in 1974.

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Jack Nicholson's Big Break

Jack Nicholson
Silver Screen Collection/Getty

The actor shot to stardom after his starring turn in 1969's Easy Rider, sharing the screen with Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper. His performance earned him his first Academy Award nomination.

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Jack Nicholson's Second Child

Jack Nicholson

On the heels of his Easy Rider success, Nicholson landed another starring role in 1970's Five Easy Pieces, alongside Susan Anspach. The role earned him his second Academy Award nomination.

Twenty-five years later, a paternity scandal erupted when Nicholson publicly denied being the father of Anspach's son, Caleb, whom she said was conceived while the stars were filming Five Easy Pieces. Speaking to PEOPLE, Caleb said that Jack did recognize him as his son in private.

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Jack Nicholson and Michelle Phillips

Jack Nicholson
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After his divorce, Nicholson's next public romance was with actress Michelle Phillips, whom he attended a number of events with in 1970.

09 of 29

Jack Nicholson Stars in Carnal Knowledge

Jack Nicholson
Silver Screen Collection/Getty

In 1971, Nicholson continued his Hollywood rise with a starring role as a charming womanizer (which not-so-slightly aligned with his public persona at the time) in Carnal Knowledge, alongside famous faces like Candice Bergen and Art Garfunkel.

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Jack Nicholson in The Last Detail

Jack Nicholson

The year 1973 saw Nicholson up for his third Oscar nomination, for his role as a U.S. Navy officer in The Last Detail opposite a young Carol Kane.

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Jack Nicholson's Longest Love, Anjelica Huston

Jack Nicholson
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Nicholson's reputation as a playboy was put on pause in 1973, when he went public with actress Anjelica Huston, whom he would date on-and-off for 17 years.

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Jack Nicholson's Handprint Ceremony

Jack Nicholson
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The actor cemented his star status outside Grauman's Chinese Theater in Hollywood in 1974.

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Jack Nicholson in Chinatown

Jack Nicholson
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The actor got up close and personal with Faye Dunaway in 1974's Chinatown, in which he acted alongside girlfriend Anjelica's father, actor John Huston.

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Jack Nicholson in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

Jack Nicholson
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The following year, Nicholson landed one of his most iconic roles: a rebellious psychiatric patient in 1975's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.

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Jack Nicholson Wins An Oscar

Jack Nicholson
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The actor earned his first Academy Award for Best Actor for his turn in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.

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Jack Nicholson in The Shining

Jack Nicholson
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The year 1980 saw the actor return to his horror roots, with perhaps his best-known role: terrifying writer and inn-caretaker Jack Torrance in the movie adaptation of Stephen King's The Shining.

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Jack Nicholson Welcomes Another Child

Jack Nicholson
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During his on-and-off relationship with Huston, the actor welcomed a second child, daughter Honey, with model Winnie Hollman in 1981. Hollman ultimately raised Honey in Copenhagen, Denmark.

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Jack Nicholson Wins a Second Oscar

Jack Nicholson
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The actor won his second Academy Award for his beloved turn in 1983's Terms of Endearment, a major box office hit in which he starred alongside Shirley MacLaine, Jeff Daniels and Debra Winger. Here, he's pictured with MacLaine and director James L. Brooks.

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Jack Nicholson in Batman

Jack Nicholson
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The actor gave one of the most iconic and haunting portrayals of the Joker in 1989's Batman.

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Jack Nicholson and Anjelica Huston Call It Quits

Jack Nicholson
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Nicholson and Huston had a turbulent relationship — during which Nicholson welcomed a child with Winnie Hollman — and they ended things in 1990 after he later impregnated another woman (actress Rebecca Broussard), prompting a physical fight which Huston recounted in her 2014 memoir, Watch Me. "I don't think I kicked him," she wrote, "but I beat him savagely about the head and shoulders."

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Jack Nicholson Welcomes Two More Children

Jack Nicholson

"The first time Jack Nicholson touched my hand, I almost blacked out," actress Rebecca Broussard told Vanity Fair of their whirlwind relationship. "I saw flashes of light. The minute I was introduced to him, I knew something was there." After a year together, the pair welcomed a daughter, Lorraine, in 1990, and a son, Raymond ("Ray"), in 1992. Broussard eventually left him in 1994, but called him "a terrific father."

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Jack Nicholson Gets His Hollywood Star

Jack Nicholson

Nicholson received his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1996. Ex Rebecca Broussard (right) showed support alongside their children, as well as Jack's daughter Jennifer and her son Sean.

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Jack Nicholson and Lara Flynn Boyle

Jack Nicholson
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In 1999, Nicholson found a new love: The Practice star Lara Flynn Boyle. Here, the pair attended a New Year's Eve celebration at the Lincoln Memorial to ring in the new millennium in Washington, D.C. The pair eventually split in 2004 after years of dating on-and-off.

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Jack Nicholson Charms in Something's Gotta Give

Something's Gotta Give, Diane Keaton, Jack Nicholson

The actor began taking on more lighthearted roles in rom-coms like 2003's cult classic Something's Gotta Give, in which he played — once again — a suave, womanizing older man, opposite Diane Keaton.

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Jack Nicholson on Dad Duty

Jack Nicholson

Here, the actor with his youngest children, Lorraine and Raymond, at the Something's Gotta Give L.A. premiere.

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Jack Nicholson in The Departed

Jack Nicholson
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The 2006 mob film, The Departed, saw Nicholson starring alongside some of the most popular actors of the day, including Mark Wahlberg, Leonardo DiCaprio and Matt Damon.

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Jack Nicholson Guest Stars on Saturday Night Live

Jack Nicholson
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Two years after retirement rumors began to spread, the actor made a rare public appearance on Saturday Night Live's 40th anniversary special in 2015, introducing a video retrospective.

His last movie role was in 2010's rom-com How Do You Know, alongside Reese Witherspoon and Owen Wilson.

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Jack Nicholson and the L.A. Lakers

Jack Nicholson
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Nicholson is a longtime Los Angeles Lakers fan, and is often pictured sitting courtside at games over the years — here, he's with his youngest son, Ray, at a 2016 game in L.A.

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Jack Nicholson Retreats from the Public Eye

Jack Nicholson
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In one of his most recent public appearances, Nicholson was seen out at another game with son Ray in 2019, one of the last times he was out before the COVID-19 pandemic.

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