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Jack Nicholson Wins His First Oscar for Best Actor

On March 29, 1976, Jack Nicholson was awarded the Oscar for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for his stunning portrayal of Randle McMurphy in the 1975 movie, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Nicholson, born in Neptune and a graduate of Manasquan High School, accepted the first of the three Oscars he would win for best actor in his career.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest was a 1975 American drama directed by Miloš Forman, based on the 1962 novel of the same name by Ken Kesey. The film starred Nicholson as a new patient at a psychiatric hospital, and marked the first of several occasions in which he would appear in a movie with fellow Neptune native and Hollywood icon, Danny DeVito.

Considered by many to be one of the greatest films ever made, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is ranked 33rd on the American Film Institute’s “100 Years…100 Movies” list. The film was the second to win all five major Academy Awards—Best Picture, Best Actor in a Leading Role, Best Actress in a Leading Role, Best Director, and Best Adapted Screenplay.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest was the fifth film to earn Nicholson an Academy Award nomination and his first win. He had been nominated for Best Supporting Actor in 1970 for Easy Rider, for Best Actor in 1971 for Five Easy Pieces, in 1974 for The Last Detail, and again in 1975 for Chinatown

Nicholson accepted his first Oscar at the 48th Academy Awards at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles, Calif. In a speech that lasted barely a minute, Nicholson said, “I guess this proves there are as many nuts in the Academy as anywhere else.” He thanked the film’s producers, director, and his castmates, and closed by thanking his agent who “…about ten years ago, advised me that I had no business trying to be an actor.”


Associated Press. (1976). Neptune Native Nicholson Wins Oscar. Asbury Park Press, March 30, 1976, P. 5.

Jack Nicholson Wins Best Actor: 1976 Oscars. (Video). March 28, 1976. Available:

100 Years…100 Movies: The 100 Greatest American Movies of All Time. (1997). American Film Institute. Available:

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