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Jack Nicholson

The Early Years

Robert Crane and Christopher Fryer

Publication Year: 2012

Originally published as Jack Nicholson: Face to Face in 1975, Jack Nicholson: The Early Years is the first book written about the enigmatic star and the only one to have Nicholson's participation. In 1975 Nicholson was just becoming a household name in spite of having already starred in, written or produced 25 films including classics such as Easy Rider (1969), Five Easy Pieces (1970), The Last Detail (1973) and Chinatown (1974). To date, Nicholson has been nominated for twelve Academy Awards and won three, has garnered seven Golden Globe awards, and took home the American Film Institute's Life Achievement Award at the age of 57.

Authors Robert Crane and Christopher Fryer interviewed Nicholson for what began as a thesis for a University of Southern California film class but which quickly morphed into a larger portrait of Nicholson's unique craft. Crane and Fryer conducted their interviews with Nicholson with the intent of showcasing the young star as he saw himself, while also interviewing many of Nicholson's close friends and fellow filmmakers, including Dennis Hopper, Roger Corman, Hal Ashby, Ann-Margret, Robert Evans and Bruce Dern, providing a comprehensive profile of the actor's early years in the industry. The result is a true insider's look at Nicholson not only as a writer, director and actor, but also offers insights into a private man's private life. Jack Nicholson: The Early Years stands as a testament to his incredible success in Hollywood.

Published by: The University Press of Kentucky

Series: Screen Classics


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pp. vii

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Introduction to the Paperback Edition

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pp. 1-6

Sometimes it’s good to be naive. Perhaps more than anything our original book, Jack Nicholson: Face to Face, was a result of youthful naïveté, an unfettered notion that a couple of twenty-year-old film students could call Jack Nicholson on the phone and then spend several...

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Jack Nicholson: First Interview

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pp. 7-26

The varied and highly successful film career of Jack Nicholson began in 1958 with The Cry Baby Killer. Before that, the native of Neptune, New Jersey, bounced around studios, doing odd jobs and occasional television shows, such as...

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Roger Corman

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pp. 27-33

One of the necessary stops for a young actor or director in Hollywood was to work on a Roger Corman project. Jack Nicholson, of course, is the most famous alumnus of Corman films, having appeared in The Little Shop of Horrors, The Raven, and...

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Karen Black

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pp. 35-44

Karen Black worked with Jack Nicholson on several occasions. She was seen briefly in Easy Rider as one of the prostitutes in the New Orleans cat-house who tripped out with Hopper and Fonda on LSD. She didn’t really have any scenes with Jack, so they saw each other very little...

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Richard Rush

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pp. 45-54

Richard Rush was an integral part of Jack Nicholson’s development as an actor. Very early in Jack’s career, Rush directed him in a controversial film about abortion, Too Soon to Love. Though this film went virtually unnoticed (as many of Jack’s early...

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Jeremy Larner

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pp. 55-58

It is hard to describe Jeremy Larner’s appearance because we never saw him. Larner was always behind some project but never out in front. He was a speech writer for Eugene McCarthy during his campaign in 1968. Many of Larner’s experiences on the political...

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Bruce Dern

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pp. 59-77

Bruce Dern gained widespread popularity for killing John Wayne. He did it in the Mark Rydell film The Cowboys, where he played a lunatic cattle rustler. Dern, like his good friend Jack Nicholson, became an overnight success after about ten years in the business. He rose to stardom through a lot...

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Jack H. Harris

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pp. 79-82

A great deal of the time spent on this book was done so in a search for pictures and materials from Jack Nicholson’s films. Jack Harris was the producer who distributed the two Jack Nicholson–Monte Hellman Westerns...

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Sally Struthers

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pp. 83-90

Though she was on the screen for less than five minutes in Five Easy Pieces, we felt that Sally Struthers would be able to give us an interesting point of view about Jack Nicholson. She did not know him prior to the film, and only worked with him for what amounted to about a week...

Photo Insert

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Dennis Hopper

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pp. 91-98

From 1965 to 1974 there was perhaps no American film that had as significant an effect on filmmaking and filmgoers as Easy Rider. Certainly the instrumental force behind this monstrous success was writer-director-star Dennis Hopper. Besides receiving two Academy Award nominations...

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pp. 99-106

It took a long time, but Ann-Margret finally put down her sex-kitten image and began to emerge as a serious actress. The public and the industry’s recognition of this metamorphosis came after her fine performance as Bobbie opposite Jack Nicholson’s Jonathan...

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Monte Hellman

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pp. 107-111

Unknown in his own country to all but a small handful of film buffs, though wildly praised in France, Monte Hellman was one of a number of American directors to have his reputation made in Europe. His association with Jack Nicholson produced four of his films from 1964...

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Henry Jaglom

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pp. 113-129

Henry Jaglom and Jack Nicholson have been friends for a long time, and when we approached him about doing an interview, he was happy to oblige us with his insights into Jack’s character. Jaglom, a member of the Actors Studio...

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Mitzi McCall

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pp. 131-133

Our interview with comedienne Mitzi McCall came about purely through coincidence when we arrived at the Sahara Tahoe to interview Ann- Margret. We were met in the hotel’s posh lounge by Allan Carr and were taken immediately backstage to meet...

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William Tepper

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pp. 135-142

Drive, He Said offered filmgoers two “firsts”: Jack Nicholson’s directorial debut, and the rookie performance of a promising young actor, William Tepper. Tepper is truly representative of the seventies film personality. A graduate of a university...

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Hal Ashby

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pp. 143-149

To see a gray-bearded Hal Ashby sitting cross-legged on top of his bed on the second floor of his home high atop Laurel Canyon suggested a misplaced guru. Ashby was, in fact, a film editor turned director. He had a long and...

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Robert Evans

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pp. 151-157

Many people in the film industry may be inclined to say that Robert Evans almost single-handedly saved Paramount Pictures from dissolution when he became the company’s executive vice president in charge of worldwide production...

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Jack Nicholson: Second Interview

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pp. 159-170

On the spur of the moment we arranged to do a second interview with Nicholson. He was leaving the next day for a month’s vacation in Colorado. Sunning herself on the front porch as we drove up was Helena...


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pp. 171-172


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pp. 173-202


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pp. 203-214

Series page

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pp. 215-216

E-ISBN-13: 9780813136394
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813136158

Page Count: 248
Publication Year: 2012

Series Title: Screen Classics