Jack Nicholson’s Story About How He Spent 37 Years of His Life Thinking His Grandmother Was His Mother
Every family has its problems, and not even celebrities are lucky enough to be free of such conflicts. On the contrary, for many, being a public figure can even complicate things. For Jack Nicholson, fame played a major role in helping him discover a big secret that had been kept for years in his home.
At Now I’ve Seen Everything we thought this story was worth telling. That’s why we delved into the details to share it with you. Without a doubt, the truth always comes out, even if it is sometimes hidden to protect those we love.
The beginning of his life as an actor
Photograph of Jack Nicholson in high school, circa 1955.
For Jack Nicholson, everyday life was pretty normal. In an interview for Time magazine he talked about his high scores on the college entrance exam. “I was in the top 2% in the country,” he said. But he also confessed that school wasn’t his thing; in fact, he hated it. So he decided to spend some time with who he then thought was his sister, June, in Los Angeles.
In 1958 he landed his first feature film role: The Cry Baby Killer. From then on, his career began to grow, but he did it little by little, participating with secondary characters in television programs.
In 1963, Nicholson landed his first co-director role in The Terror, a production in which he also appeared as an actor. By 1967 he gave his first steps to work as a screenwriter. But his real breakthrough to fame came in the 1969 film Easy Rider. In this film he played George Hanson, a character that gave his first Oscar nomination.
Since then, you could say that his life has never been the same. For him, the decade of the 1970s became a path to international fame. It was then when he won his first Oscar for best actor for the film One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.
Although if you had to choose a character that changed it all for him, you’d probably have to go fo Jack Torrance, better known as the unhinged protagonist of The Shining. The film became an instant classic and many consider it to be one of the actor’s most outstanding performances.
The interview that changed everything
During the whirlwind of fame that surrounded Nicholson, interviews kept coming. Then Time magazine decided to do an extensive article on Jack, who also appeared on the cover. It was when a journalist was conducting an investigation on the actor’s life that he noticed a small fact. He called Nicholson to clarify a certain situation: that his “mother”, Ethel May, was actually his grandmother, and his “sister”, June, was his biological mother. On top of this, the actor was confronted with the possibility that his real father might be alive.
From left to right: Rebecca Broussard, Jack Nicholson and his aunt, Lorraine Nicholson, in 1997.
When this news reached the actor’s ears, his response was immediate: he asked the magazine not to publish this information and called “Shorty”, whom he had known in the past as his brother-in-law, but who was actually his uncle. In the end, it was Lorraine, Jack’s sister, who confessed that the information was true.
The year Jack Nicholson discovered the truth about his family he turned 37. By that time, he had already worked in 15 films that would go on to transcend the film industry and had won an Academy Award.
Despite the immediate shock that came after that, the actor confessed that it didn’t affect him too much. By then, both his grandmother, Ethel, and his mother, June, had passed away, and he was mostly suprised that they had been able to keep the secret for so long. In his way of looking at the situation, Jack Nicholson showed great maturity and, in particular, an appreciation for having his grandmother with him as he was growing up.
What would you do if you were in the same situation? If it were the other way around, would you hide something like this?