Five Easy Decades, By Dennis McDougal

It was not so easy at the start for Jack Nicholson. "To fathom Nicholson, we must first understand that no-one ever gave him a damned thing," declares McDougal in this machine-tooled biography of the actor. Like Eric Clapton, he grew up believing that his mother was his sister.

After paying his dues in films like Hell's Angels on Wheels and Psych-Out, this dedicated dope-smoker showed his mettle in Easy Rider and Chinatown, which mirrored his childhood with its themes of "illegitimacy and a corrupt father".

As his performances became ever more OTT from The Shining to The Departed, the ardent dopehead became a devoted breadhead.

The star might have preferred a more diplomatic portrait ("Jack couldn't keep it in his trousers"), but for the rest of us, McDougal does a great job.

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