With that permanent grin, quizzical eyebrow and wicked gleam in his eye, Jack Nicholson has famously seduced scores of glamorous women, amply living up to the ‘horny little devil’ he played in The Witches Of Eastwick.
But the serene Meryl Streep, Hollywood’s sweetheart, was never assumed to be one of them.
They had endured a notably stormy relationship on their first film together, Heartburn. So — as a new biography claims — there was some surprise among fellow cast and crew of their second movie, the 1987 drama Ironweed, when Streep, then aged 37, disappeared into Nicholson’s Winnebago trailer for long tete-a-tetes with her 50-year-old co-star.
According to biographer Marc Eliot, the pair weren’t discussing the script. He claims the trailer would rock around with such energy that it seemed to be balanced on thin springs — ‘four overworked Slinkys’, as one alleged witness put it, referring to the popular children’s spring toy.
‘Whatever is going on inside that Winnebago, it’s starting to get out of hand, to the point where it’s embarrassing a lot of people on the set,’ grumbled a film insider, we are told. But how true are these claims?
Streep had been married to sculptor Don Gummer since 1978, and she denied allegations of an affair at the time.
Nicholson was in an on-off relationship with actress Anjelica Huston and was also secretly seeing the British-born actress Veronica Cartwright, says biographer Marc Eliot.
Ironweed, in which the couple played a homeless couple in the Twenties, was filmed over 17 weeks in Albany in New York state.
‘As soon as it began, rumours exploded like wild mushrooms that something was going on between Jack and his co-star, Meryl “I’ll-never-work-with-him-again” Streep,’ says Eliot. ‘There had been talk that the two had grown unusually close, but both denied it.’
But Nicholson’s alleged tryst with Streep is not the only shocking claim in the new biography of the famously hard-living superstar which details a drug use that was almost as compulsive as his womanising.
Hollywood insider Marc Eliot’s book, Nicholson: A Biography, which came out in the U.S. yesterday, would be enough to sink a dozen other Hollywood careers in a tsunami of embarrassment, but one can only imagine it will simply widen the cheeky grin on the famously shameless star’s face.
Nicholson, 76, is now into his fifth decade at the top of the Hollywood tree, and has a record 12 Oscar nominations (he’s won three) under his nowadays rather strained belt.
But as Eliot details, the child of a poor New Jersey family worked hard for his success. And he played hard, too.
Even before he was famous, the parties that Jack Nicholson would throw — the ѕех, drinks and ԁrսɡѕ — were well-known in Sixties Tinseltown. At what was dubbed the ‘wildest house in Hollywood’, Nicholson presided over ‘round-the-clock partying, drinks, ԁrսɡѕ, ѕех . . . and beautiful, hot, willing girls who loved to get just as high as the boys and have a good time,’ writes Eliot.
The refrigerator never had any food in it, just milk — for Nicholson’s sensitive stomach — and beer, with cannabis in the freezer to keep it fresh. Harry Dean Stanton, an old crony of Nicholson and another hard partier, says he always remembers his friend in those days with ‘cheap red wine on his lips’ — permanently tipsy and ‘ready to offer any comfort he could to whatever woman needed it’.
Actress Sandra Knight was Nicholson’s first and only wife from 1962 to 1968. But it was his introduction to LSD, the hallucinogen that powered so many Sixties songs and which was, in Nicholson’s Hollywood, prescribed by some psychiatrists, that had possibly the greater impact on his life.
He told friends that after taking it for the first time, he had seen the face of God and the drug also gave him castration and homoerotic fear fantasies, as well as revelations about having been an unloved child.
Yet Nicholson continued to take LSD for years, along with marijuana and, later, cocaine. The last of these ԁrսɡѕ apparently helped with Nicholson’s secret failing — a severe drawback for a lothario — premature ejaculation.
Nicholson’s acting career is now so feted that it is hard to believe that it took him some time to establish himself in Hollywood and, in despair at the lack of work, even switched at one point to screenwriting.
But even if the acting roles took time coming, his charisma made him a permanent presence at parties.
Whether it was Larry Hagman and his wife hosting, or Jane Fonda and her film director boyfriend Roger Vadim, Nicholson would be there, holding court and keeping everyone entertained with his amazing stories. Only one person outdid Nicholson in the hedonism stakes. Harry Dean Stanton would throw weekend ѕех parties, gathering the ‘hottest starlets and all the available young men, some single and some not, who wanted to get whacked out and share beds with these naked, luscious, beautiful women’.
But Nicholson would usually shut himself away in his bedroom, tapping out screenplays furiously on his typewriter.
It was in 1969 that Nicholson broke into the big time after he appeared in the cult ԁrսɡѕ culture film Easy Rider. Recruited largely because the director believed the affable Nicholson would keep co-stars Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper from fighting, Nicholson was stoned almost the whole time (he reportedly smoked 155 joints during the time it took to film just one key scene).
Stardom quickly engulfed Nicholson in the Seventies with a succession of acclaimed films including Five Easy Pieces, Chinatown, One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest and, of course, 1980’s The Shining.
Having divested himself of his wife and daughter, after the former grew tired of his womanising and divorced him, the eternal bachelor moved into a mansion next door to Marlon Brando and down Mulholland Drive from Warren Beatty. (The road was dubbed Bad Boy Drive in their honour).
Though Beatty was a legendary skirt-chaser, Hollywood insiders say Nicholson left him standing when it came to success with women. Indeed, the pair would play childish tit-for-tat games in trying to steal girlfriends off each other.
Veteran film producer Bob Evans said Nicholson was the ‘better swordsman’ when it came to cutting through the starlet population of Hollywood. The actor, he said, was a ‘very big player . . . not even Warren Beatty has been so successful with women’.
Better swordsman: Though Beatty was a legendary skirt-chaser, Hollywood insiders say Nicholson left him standing when it came to success with women
He added: ‘I’ve been at parties where Jack’s been there. Warren’s been there, Clint Eastwood’s been there, Bob Redford. All the girls go to Jack.’
Naturally, Nicholson exploited the ѕехսаւ opportunities stardom gave him. Making his debut as a director in the 1971 film drama Drive, He Said, Nicholson decided that in-depth research was needed to find the perfect girl for the brief non-ѕехսаւ nudity in the film.
Stoned on cannabis, he auditioned more than 100 attractive young actresses in his Hollywood office, making each disrobe in front of him and then subjecting them to a ‘near-medical examination’.
Determined: Nicholson, 76, is now into his fifth decade at the top of the Hollywood tree, and has a record 12 Oscar nominations under his belt
Nicholson reputedly slept with 2,000 women (he modestly insists he never counted), but the one that lasted the longest — 17 years amazingly — was Anjelica Huston.
She was 14 years his junior and admitted he fulfilled a paternal need in her. ‘Jack is very definitely a real man, one who gets your blood going,’ she told Eliot.
It was just as well he did, as she had to put up with a lot of cheating. At a party thrown by Mick Jagger after The Shining premiere, Nicholson couldn’t make up his mind whom to pursue, but eventually ended up sharing a room for the night with British actress Rachel Ward.
Not content, he then sent roses every hour on the hour to the other woman who had caught his eye at the party, notorious rock groupie Bebe Buell.
Age difference never bothered Nicholson. He was the other side of 50 when he began an affair with 19-year-old British actress Karen Mayo-Chandler. Stripping off for Playboy later, she told the magazine Nicholson was a ‘naughty little boy’ and ‘guaranteed non-stop ѕех machine into fun and games, like spankings, handcuffs, whips and Polaroid pictures’.
Huston left Nicholson for good in 1989, tired of all the other women. For the next few years, his ‘number one’ girlfriend was Rebecca Broussard, mother of two of his four children, although she too got fed up with his womanising and left him in 1999.
Other relationships have followed with glamorous young actresses including Julie Delpy and Twin Peaks star Lara Flynn Boyle.
At this year’s Oscars, he tried one of his old chat-up lines — ‘You look like an old girlfriend’ — on the visibly embarrassed award winner Jennifer Lawrence. Just 22 — young enough to be his granddaughter — she cringed at his attentions as she tried to give an interview.
Nicholson, who never missed a cue on set, couldn’t have failed to pick up on that one. He’d always been so good at playing creepy characters. Was he now in danger of becoming one?