“This is the most f**ked thing I’ve ever heard”: Jack Nicholson Went into a Tailspin, Realized He’s an Incest Baby after His Dad Had S*x With His Sister

Jack Nicholson had to ask for help from his director after he went into a tailspin following a shocking family revelation.

"This is the most f**ked thing I've ever heard": Jack Nicholson Went into a Tailspin, Realized He's an Incest Baby after His Dad Had S*x With His Sister


  • The text discusses how "Chinatown" became Jack Nicholson's most influential work and how it reflected his own personal life.
  • The film earned critical acclaim and financial success, but a subplot involving incest coincided with a shocking revelation about Nicholson's own family.
  • He later learned the truth that his sister was his mother.
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By the time Chinatown hit the theaters, Jack Nicholson was already a respected actor in Hollywood, having earned three Oscar nominations in the early 70s. However, the Roman Polanski film remains the acclaimed actor’s most influential work.

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Jack Nicholson in Chinatown.
Jack Nicholson in Chinatown.

With 11 Oscar nominations and a staggering box office collection of $29.2 million, the neo-noir mystery drama set the standard for Hollywood screenplays and paved the way for Nicholson to lead countless movies for years to come. However, what makes the connection between Chinatown and the dynamic actor more mythical – for lack of a better word – is how it in some ways reflects his own dramatic personal life, which became a subject of media fascination after it came to the fore that his supposed sister was his mother.


Read more: Jack Nicholson Was Over the Moon To Finally Getting Cast In a “Tuxedo Comedy” After Spending a Lifetime on Horror Sets

How a Dramatic Life Secret Pushed Jack Nicholson Into a Tailspin

Chinatown revolves around Jack Nicholson‘s J.J. Gittes, a private investigator who’s hired to expose an adulterer in 1930s Los Angeles. He ends up getting embroiled in a web of deceit, corruption, and murder. This Roman Polanski orchestrated web also includes a sub-plot, wherein Gittes beats Evelyn Mulwray – the woman who hired him in the first place – into admitting that her sister is, in fact, her daughter.

Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway in Chinatown
Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway in Chinatown.

As the movie started to attract critical acclaim and financial success, the incest angle became a big talking point and coincided with a very shocking revelation concerning the actor’s personal life.

Nicholson grew up believing that his mother, June, was his sister and that his grandmother, Ethel May, was his mother. June got pregnant in 1936 by her boyfriend Don, who was married to another woman at the time. Upon learning of this and to avoid the shame a child out of wedlock would bring the family, Ethel May ordered Don to stay away from June and raised Jack as her own. The youngster was told that June was his much older sister.


June, who wanted to become a star, moved to Miami. Incidentally, Nicholson harbored similar dreams and headed west to join his sister, who had relocated to Los Angeles by that time. The talented star with a charming personality started cementing his place in Hollywood in the 70s.

When Chinatown was about to be released, Time magazine profiled the industry’s next big star. During their research, Nicholson was contacted and told that his father was alive and that Ethel May wasn’t his “mother” but his grandmother. He was further stunningly revealed that his “sister” June was his real mother.


Nicholson asked Time to not publish these details and got in touch with his family members, who relented and revealed the truth. He called up his brother-in-law. “Shorty, this is the most f-cked thing I’ve ever heard,” he said, according to Patrick McGilligan’s biography Jack’s Life (via In Style).

This led to the actor going into “a tailspin” and he told director Mike Nichols to keep an eye on him during the making of The Fortune. 


Read more: Jack Nicholson Got “All Rattled” After Thinking Co-star Diane Keaton Fell in Love With Him While Filming 2003 Rom-Com

Jack Nicholson Couldn’t Confront His Mother and Grandmother After Incest Revelation

As years passed, Nicholson became more relaxed and open about it and even jokingly referred to June as his “sister-mother” in the press.

Jack Nicholson as Colonel Nathan R. Jessup in A Few Good Men
Jack Nicholson.

However, how he dealt with the shocking news in his personal life remains unknown, especially since he wasn’t able to confront his mother and grandmother about the truth as both had passed away by the time.

“Both grandmother and mother were deceased before this particular group of facts came to my attention,” the actor said (via Rare). “I was very impressed by their ability to keep the secret if nothing else. It’s done great things for me.”

As per a report in FarOut Magazine, Nicholson was also unsure about his biological father, with some reports claiming that it might have been his mother’s manager.


Regardless of these trembles in his personal life, Nicholson kept making an impact on the big screen and won his first Oscar for his engrossing performance in  One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest the very next year.

Read more: “Dude is rich and cemented as a legend”: Jack Nicholson Gets Massive Support After Refusing To Come Out Of Acting Retirement For Another Payday


Written by Vishal Singh

Vishal Singh is a Content Writer at FandomWire. Having spent more than half a decade in the digital media space, Vishal specializes in crafting engaging entertainment- and sports-focused stories. He graduated from university with an honors degree in English Literature.