Legendary Actor Jack Nicholson Turns 80 Today

(Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times)

Jack Nicholson, the three-time Oscar winner and 12-time nominee has been quiet of late. But rumor has it he is planning a return to the screen.

Even in Hollywood, time marches on.

Jack Nicholson, the bad boy actor famous for playing the rebel on screen and off turns 80 on Friday.

Nicholson hasn’t appeared in a movie since beginning an unofficial retirement in 2010, but he is rumoured to be planning a return for a forthcoming remake of the German hit comedy “Toni Erdmann.”

As recently as 2013 he seemed in fine form, when the legendary lothario interrupted a post-Oscars interview with Jennifer Lawrence – to flirt on live TV.

For decades, Nicholson was one of Hollywood’s top stars and remains one of its most recognizable faces: eyebrows arching over trademark sunglasses, ever stealing the scene.

Nicholson was born in 1937 as the illegitimate child of an 18-year-old dancer in New Jersey. He grew up with her parents and only learned at the age of 37 that his older “sister” June was really his mother.

His Hollywood career started small, with messenger jobs in the Metro Goldwyn Mayer animation department. He owed one of his first film parts to B-movie king Roger Corman, who cast him in the 1960 film “Little Shop of Horrors.”

His breakthrough came playing an alcoholic lawyer in the road movie “Easy Rider” (1969). The film starring Henry Fonda and Dennis Hopper as bikers on a counterculture road trip became a cult classic, and scored Nicholson the first of 12 Academy Award nominations.

Nicholson won his first Oscar as best lead actor playing a rebellious mental hospital patient in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” (1975). A string of successful roles followed, in hits such as Roman Polanski’s “Chinatown” (1974), Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining” (1980), and John Huston’s “Prizzi’s Honor” (1985).

He won two more Oscars for roles as an alcoholic former astronaut in “Terms of Endearment” (1983) and as a grim neurotic in the sarcastic comedy “As Good As It Gets” (1997).

In between, he made a brand of his diabolical grin, playing villain The Joker in 1989’s “Batman.”

Nicholson’s life off-screen has been at least as dramatic. He has lived for decades in the Hollywood Hills, once next door to the late Marlon Brando and close to Warren Beatty on Mulholland Drive – reportedly nicknamed “Bad Boy Drive” by local police in honour of the trio.

Although Nicholson has five children with four women, he was married only once, to actress Sandra Knight from 1962 to 1968.

He had a stormy long-term relationship with actress Anjelica Huston, daughter of US director John Huston, which ended after 13 years when Nicholson impregnated model Rebecca Broussard, his daughter Jennifer’s best friend.

As he closes his eighth decade, he has told interviewers romance is behind him, although he has yet to give up another lifelong passion, the Los Angeles Lakers basketball team.

On screen, the old master turned a new page in 2002, with a series of roles exploring ageing, sickness and death in “About Schmidt” (2002), “Something’s Gotta Give” (2003) and “The Bucket List” (2007).

In a conversation at the German premiere of “About Schmidt” in 2008, Nicholson confessed to always having wanted to be a character actor. Director Rob Reiner called him the least vain actor he had ever seen.

In “The Bucket List,” his most recent starring role, he played Edward, a terminally ill millionaire, who while hospitalized in a room with Carter (Morgan Freeman) writes a list of all the things he wants to experience before dying.

At the premiere, Nicholson said his own list was not so different from his character’s, and that the only way to escape the fear of death is to live in the here and now.

The actor said he is satisfied with his life, and if he had the chance, he would do it all over again.

SOURCE: DPA German Press Agency – Barbara Munker