With his devil-may-care attitude and potent charisma, Jack Nicholson emerged as the most popular and celebrated actor of his generation. A classic anti-hero, he typified the new breed of Hollywood star -- rebellious, contentious and defiantly non-conformist. A supremely versatile talent, he uniquely defined the zeitgeist of the 1970s, a decade which his screen presence dominated virtually from start to finish, and remained an enduring counterculture icon for the duration of his long and renowned career. Born April 22, 1937 in Neptune, New Jersey, and raised by his mother and grandmother, Nicholson travelled to California at the age of 17, with the intent of returning east to attend college. It never happened -- he became so enamored of the west coast that he stayed, landing a job as an office boy in MGM's animation department.
Nicholson studied acting with the area group the Players Ring Theater, eventually appearing on television as well as on stage. While performing theatrically, Nicholson was spotted by "B"-movie mogul Roger Corman, who cast him in the lead role in the 1958 quickie The Cry Baby Killer. He continued playing troubled teens in Corman's 1960 efforts Too Soon to Love and The Wild Ride before appearing in the Irving Lerner adaptation of the novel Studs Lonigan. He did not reappear on-screen prior to the 1962 Fox "B"-western The Broken Land. It was then back to the Corman camp for 1963's The Raven. For the follow-up, The Terror, he worked with a then-unknown Francis Ford Coppola and Monte Hellman. A year later, he enjoyed his second flirtation with mainstream Hollywood in the war comedy Ensign Pulver.