Long-awaited, first-class, admiring but unauthorized life of the most popular film actor since Brando -- from the author of George Cukor (1991) and Robert Altman (1989). McGilligan could not get to Nicholson, or to many of his close friends, and so depended on those he could, on print interviews (Nicholson has been ""interviewed to death,"" says the author, who himself met or otherwise interviewed Nicholson several times for magazines), and on superior sleuthing in old court records, 1930's newspapers, phone books, and so on. He has undoubtedly turned up stuff about Nicholson's family even the actor didn't know, and Nicholson's veiled but tangled family life is one of Hollywood's knottiest. In 1974, a Time reporter researching a cover story on Nicholson (with Chinatown opening and The Fortune being filmed) unearthed the fact that the woman he thought was his mother was actually his grandmother and that his sister was his mother -- a situation amazingly parallel to Chinatown's ""sister-mother"" theme. Nicholson had carefully built up an image of truthful acting and prided himself publicly that ""my family was always big into honesty...."" This revelation caused him many tears, especially since everyone who might have told him something about his mystery father was dead. A native of Asbury Park, Nicholson spent his first 11 years in TV and films as a ""younger leading man"" in duds such as The Cry Baby Killer and Roger Corman schlock epics before his breakthrough in Easy Rider. The still unmarried father of two recent children, Nicholson's constant adultery while professing otherwise to Anjelica Huston for 14 years adds much paprika to McGilligan's book. The thoughtful Nicholson rasp adds vividness to every page.