The Truth Behind Jack Nicholson's Famous Road Rage Incident

While Jack Nicholson already had a substantial film career, in 1980, one of his most famous roles was first shown on screen — Jack Torrance in "The Shining." In particular, his portrayal of the Stephen King character chopping down a bathroom door to attack his wife has become a staple of the horror genre, as well as the scene being parodied for decades. The scene actually required intervention on the part of director Stanley Kubrick, since Nicholson's experience as a volunteer firefighter allowed him to break down the prop door far quicker than expected (via Independent).

As someone who gained a great deal of fame playing a madman with a professionally good swing, comparisons were likely drawn in 1994 when a similar event played out in real life. While driving to his Los Angeles golf club, a man named Robert Scott Blank cut him off (per Nicholson's view). When the two were stopped at a red light, the actor exited his car, retrieved a 2-iron club, and proceeded to smash-in Blank's windshield (via The Los Angeles Times).

Stress and heartache led Nicholson to violence

Jack Nicholson was initially charged with vandalism and assault after witnesses supported Blank's account of the incident (via NBC). While these were dismissed after the two settled the matter out of court, this outburst only added to Nicholson's controversial public image. Despite the optics, however, Nicholson did not simply attack someone on a whim. Instead, this was how he chose to vent his frustration after a period of intense stress and personal tragedy (via History).

Up until this point, Nicholson had been prepping for his role in Sean Penn's "The Crossing Guard," where he portrayed a grief and revenge-fueled father in what turned out to be a very stressful production (via Roodepoort Record). At around this point, he was also left reeling when a friend suddenly died, and by the time of the incident was already primed to snap. Despite admitting that he was aware of what he was doing as he did it, in later interviews, Nicholson expressed his regret and embarrassment over the affair (via HistoryInOrbit).