Five Easy Decades: How Jack Nicholson Became the Biggest Movie Star in Modern Times

My biography of Jack, L.A. and the evolution of the film industry over five-not-so easy decades is now out in paperback, Spanish and Portugese. It is required reading for aspiring actors and a bestseller in beautiful downtown Madrid.

Here's what they said at...

the L.A. Times,

the Long Beach Press-Telegram,

the Orlando Sentinel.

...and the Washington Post.

And here's the pre-publication reviews.


Taking on not just a legendary subject, but a legendarily private subject—refusing biographers and TV personalities, Nicholson prefers “the occasional magazine Q&A or quickie newspaper interview”—author and New York Times film writer McDougal (Privileged Son) has turned out a model biography: exhaustive, full of action, and startlingly illuminating. Nicholson—flamboyant yet guarded, outrageous yet articulate, charming yet polarizing—has marched to his own drummer for 50 years, heading up a parade of celebrated films and famous women, eliciting strong opinions in just about everyone; as such, McDougal presents an engrossing showcase of big films and bigger personalities. Following a modest, fatherless New Jersey childhood, Nicholson set out on a California odyssey that would require stamina, guts and luck, as “eking out a living” in the early sixties gave way to the career-making premier of Easy Rider: “ ‘I had been around long enough to know while sitting in that audience, I had become a movie star.’ ” Los Angeles plays a starring role, giving Nicholson his wild lifestyle, a loyal, eclectic roster of friends and a long-time neighbor in Marlon Brando. Digging up as many roles offstage as on—hardheaded businessman, softhearted friend, master of rude rejoinders, fanatical sports fan and poetic philosopher—McDougal makes Nicholson’s everyday life just as fascinating as his films, which also get considerable, thoughtful attention; in fact, McDougal’s research is so deep and detailed, his extensive chapter notes could make a fine book of their own. (Oct.)


"Jack Nicholson has the most Oscar nominations in film history, and only Katharine Hepburn has more wins. He has shunned television interviews and never cooperated with a biographer, though a dozen or so books have been written about him. Journalist McDougal (The Last Mogul: Lew Wasserman, MCA, and the Hidden History of Hollywood) researched Nicholson through friends, associates, court documents, books, and unpublished documents. Raised to believe his mother was his sister, Nicholson spent ten years struggling to make it in Hollywood, toiling in potboilers like The Cry Baby Killer and Hells Angels on Wheels, writing scripts (e.g., The Trip and the Monkees movie, Head), and hanging out with other Hollywood hopefuls like Bob Rafelson and Henry Jaglom (who both became well-known directors and figured prominently in Nicholson’s career). His small but career-changing role came in 1969 with Easy Rider. With lots of interesting tidbits that will surprise fans and almost 60 pages of notes and bibliography, McDougal’s biography is the most definitive to date. Highly recommended."—Rosellen Brewer, Sno-Isle Libs., Marysville, WA

Selected Works
"Part biography, part dysfunctional family chronicle, and part institutional and urban history, with generous dollops of scandal and gossip." --
The New Yorker
"McDougal makes Nicholson’s everyday life just as fascinating as his films in Five Easy Decades"
--Publishers Weekly
--New York Times
“A bombshell!”
--New York Daily News
“Tough and adversarial”
--Los Angeles Times
The true Hollywood nightmare and tragic love story of Robert Blake and Bonny Lee Bakley.