Jack Nance

Marvin John Nance (December 21, 1943 – December 30, 1996) was an American actor of stage and screen.[2]

Jack Nance
Jack Nance Eraserhead.jpeg
Nance on the poster for Eraserhead (1977)
Marvin John Nance

(1943-12-21)December 21, 1943
DiedDecember 30, 1996(1996-12-30) (aged 53)
Other namesJohn Nance
Years active1970–1996
(m. 1968; div. 1976)
(m. 1991; died 1991)

He was known for his work with director David Lynch,[2] particularly for his starring roles in Eraserhead (1977)[2] and Twin Peaks (1990–1991).[2]

Early lifeEdit

Nance was born in Boston, Massachusetts and was raised in Dallas, Texas.[2] He graduated from South Oak Cliff High School. His father retired from Neiman Marcus. He worked for some time with the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco. In the 1970s, Nance met David Lynch, who cast him as the lead in Eraserhead.[3]

Later careerEdit

After Eraserhead, he remained on good terms with Lynch, who cast him in nearly all of his projects:

Nance also guest-starred on a 1995 episode of My So-Called Life entitled "Weekend", in which he played an innkeeper. He also appeared with actress Mary Woronov in Suicidal Tendencies' 1983 "Institutionalized" music video.[4]

Personal lifeEdit

Nance married Catherine E. Coulson in 1968, but the couple divorced in 1976.[1] In May 1991, he married Kelly Jean Van Dyke, who worked in the adult film industry under the name Nancee Kelly. Van Dyke was the daughter of Jerry Van Dyke (briefly making Nance his son-in-law) and niece of Dick Van Dyke.

Second wife's suicideEdit

Van Dyke committed suicide on November 17, 1991. According to her younger brother Richard, Nance, who was in Bass Lake, California, filming Meatballs 4 at the time, attempted to console her on the phone as she threatened suicide. After a lightning storm knocked out the phones in Bass Lake, Nance and the director, Bobby Logan, found a deputy sheriff who contacted Los Angeles police and the apartment manager. They broke in and found that she had hanged herself.


On December 29, 1996, Nance lunched with friends Leo Bulgarini and Catherine Case. Nance had a visible "crescent shaped bruise" under his eye; and, when asked about it, he related to them the story about a brawl outside a Winchell's Donuts store on the morning of December 29. He described the incident as, "I guess I got what I deserved."[1] He soon went home, complaining of a headache.

The injuries he received caused a subdural hematoma, resulting in his death the following morning. His body was discovered on the bathroom floor of his South Pasadena, California apartment by Bulgarini, on December 30, 1996. An autopsy revealed that the actor's blood alcohol level was 0.24% at the time of his death.[3]


The song "I Gotta Move" by Frank Black and the Catholics, from their 1997 eponymous debut album, refers to the circumstances of Nance's death, as well as the murder of Peter Ivers, composer of the score to Eraserhead.

A documentary about Nance funded by Lynch, titled I Don't Know Jack, was released in 2002.

Part 17 of Twin Peaks: The Return was dedicated to Nance.




Music videosEdit


  1. ^ a b c Kyle Smith; Lorenzo Benet (February 10, 1997). "The Death of Twins Peak actor Jack Nance was as strange as the characters he played". People. Retrieved 13 March 2014.
  2. ^ a b c d e "Jack Nance, 53, An Actor Known For 'Eraserhead'". The New York Times. January 11, 1997.
  3. ^ a b Potter, Maximillian (1997). "Premiere Magazine Article: Erased – Jack Nance". Premiere. Retrieved 2007-04-30.
  4. ^ "Mary Woronov Interview" by Cynthia Rose

External linksEdit