Jack Nance

Active - 1970 - 2020  |   Born - Dec 21, 1943 in Boston, Massachusetts, United States  |   Died - Dec 30, 1996   |   Genres - Mystery, Drama, Comedy, Horror

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Biography by Sandra Brennan

A favorite actor of director David Lynch, Jack Nance has appeared in all of Lynch's films but Elephant Man (1980). Nance's affiliation with the iconoclastic filmmaker began in 1977 when Lynch cast him as the unpleasant, stressed-out father/husband with the crazy stand-up hair, Henry Spencer, in Eraserhead. The film was wildly popular among certain audiences and earned Lynch and Nance, a cult following. Interestingly Nance, who had much stage experience and had been in feature films since Fools (1970), was not impressed with Lynch after their first meeting and found the young director's script too strange. To help him decide to take the part, Lynch showed Nance his short film, "The Grandmother." Nance was deeply impressed and accepted the role. Afterwards, he specialized in playing weird, often disturbing characters, not only for Lynch but for others too, including Dennis Hopper's Colors (1988) and The Blob (1988). Nance appeared for the final time in a Lynch film, The Lost Highway (1997) On December 30, 1996, Nance was found dead in his home, the result of head injuries. An investigation revealed that the trauma had been incurred a day or so before at a Los Angeles donut shop where the famously temperamental Nance had gotten into a fight with two young men.

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  • Grew up in Dallas, Texas.
  • Traveled the country performing children's theater.
  • Performed with the American Conservatory Theater for eight years.
  • Was a finalist for the role of Ben Braddock, which went to Dustin Hoffman, in The Graduate (1967).
  • Met David Lynch in Philadelphia in the early 1970s and since then appeared in many of his projects.
  • The production and filming of Eraserhead (1977), in which he plays the lead, took almost 5 years to complete.
  • In the early 1980s, moved to Los Angeles.
  • Met wife Kelly Van Dyke in rehab.
  • "Part 17" of the 2017 series of Twin Peaks was dedicated to him.