Jack Nance

Actor, Paper boy, Hotel clerk
A cult celebrity as the star of David Lynch's nightmarish directorial debut "Eraserhead" (1977), Jack Nance lived a life every bit as bizarre as any scenario Lynch ever filmed. Born in Boston on December 21, 1943, Nance ... Read more »
Born: 12/21/1943 in Boston, Massachusetts, USA


Actor (35)

Joyride 1997 (Movie)


Little Witches 1997 (Movie)


Lost Highway 1997 (Movie)

Phil (Actor)

Fallen Angels 1995 - 1996 (Tv Show)


Across the Moon 1995 (Movie)

Old Cowboy (Actor)

My So-Called Life 1994 - 1995 (TV Show)


Voodoo 1995 (Movie)


Another Midnight Run 1993 - 1994 (TV Show)


Love & A. 45 1994 (Movie)

Justice Thurmar (Actor)

Motorama 1993 (Movie)


Meatballs 4 1992 (Movie)

Neil Peterson (Actor)

Whore 1991 (Movie)

Middle-Aged Man (Actor)

The Hot Spot 1990 (Movie)

Julian Ward (Actor)

Wild At Heart 1990 (Movie)

OO Spool (Actor)

Colors 1988 (Movie)

Officer Samuels (Actor)

The Blob 1988 (Movie)

Doctor (Actor)

Barfly 1987 (Movie)

Detective (Actor)

Blue Velvet 1986 (Movie)

Paul (Actor)

Ghoulies 1985 (Movie)

Wolfgang (Actor)

City Heat 1984 (Movie)

Aram Strossell (Actor)

Dune 1984 (Movie)

Nefud (Actor)

Johnny Dangerously 1984 (Movie)

Priest (Actor)

Hammett 1982 (Movie)

Gary Salt (Actor)

Eraserhead 1978 (Movie)

Henry Spencer (Actor)

Jump 1970 (Movie)

Ace (Actor)

Another Midnight Run (Movie)

Reilly (Actor)

Assault on Dome 4 (TV Show)


Tricks of the Trade (TV Show)


Twin Peaks (TV Show)

Music (2)

The Singing Detective 2003 (Movie)

("It's Only Make Believe") (Song)

Catch Me If You Can 1989 (Movie)

("It's Only Make Believe") (Song)


A cult celebrity as the star of David Lynch's nightmarish directorial debut "Eraserhead" (1977), Jack Nance lived a life every bit as bizarre as any scenario Lynch ever filmed. Born in Boston on December 21, 1943, Nance was raised in Dallas, Texas. Moving to California to join the American Conservatory Theater, Nance met an artist and aspiring filmmaker named David Lynch, who cast him as the hapless Henry Spencer in his student film "Eraserhead." Filming, which was scheduled to take six weeks, stretched from May 1972 to early 1977. (The filming outlasted Nance's marriage to his first wife, Lynch's assistant director Catherine Coulson, whom Nance had married in 1976.) After a supporting role in the Chuck Norris action drama "Breaker! Breaker!" (1977), Nance retreated from acting for five years, resurfacing in Wim Wenders' "Hammett" (1982), horror comedy "Ghoulies" (1984), and action comedy "City Heat" (1984). Along with small roles in all of Lynch's films between "Dune" (1984) and "Lost Highway" (1997), Nance worked steadily as a character actor through the '80s and into the early '90s. His highest-profile role outside of his work with Lynch came in the gritty indie drama "Barfly" (1987) and the Dennis Hopper-directed gang drama "Colors" (1988), but he gained his widest audience as sawmill worker Pete Martell in Lynch's TV series "Twin Peaks" (ABC 1990-91). During this period, Nance was struggling with alcoholism and had a tumultuous relationship with his second wife, adult film actress Kelly Jean Van Dyke, who committed suicide on November 17, 1991. After a period of sobriety, during which he appeared in an episode of teen cult favorite "My So-Called Life" (ABC 1994-95) and indie drama "Love and a .45" (1994), Nance began abusing alcohol again. He died, under mysterious circumstances, of a subdural hematoma in Los Angeles on December 30, 1996.


had one other younger

Catherine Coulson Actor

Married in 1968 Divorced during filming and post-production of "Eraserhead"

Kelly-Jean Dyke

second wife married June 21, 1991 in Lake Tahoe, Nevada committed suicide on November 17, 1991 daughter of actor Jerry Van Dyke and niece of actor Dick Van Dyke according to Nance, was four-months pregnant at the time of her death

Hoyt Nance

worked at Neiman Marcus survived him

Agnes Nance

survived him

Richard Nance

younger survived him


North Texas State University

Denton, Texas
studied with Paul Baker, founder of Dallas Theater Center; dropped out and moved to California to study acting



Was subject of the film documentary "I Don't Know Jack"


Filmed final role, Phil the mechanic, in Lynch's "Lost Highway", released after his death


Completed "Joyride", unreleased at time of death


Starred in comedy sequel "Meatballs 4"


Appeared in Lynch's "Wild at Heart"


Appeared in a supporting role on David Lynch's TV series "Twin Peaks"


Made TV-movie debut in "Tricks of the Trade" (CBS)


Appeared in Lynch's "Blue Velvet"


Appeared in a small role in Lynch's "Dune"


Returned to film with a supporting role in Wim Wenders' "Hammett"


Began work on David Lynch's student film "Eraserhead" (released 1977); filming took nearly five years to complete


Made feature acting debut as an unnamed hippie in the romantic drama "Fools," starring Jason Robards and Katharine Ross

Began acting career at the Dallas Theater Center; toured doing childrens' theater

Moved to Los Angeles; relocated to San Francisco and performed with the American Conservatory Theater; met first wife Catherine Coulson while performing in a stage adaptation of Kafka's Amerika at SFSU; she was a student, he a guest artist

Starred in radical West Coast stage hit, "Tom Paine" in the late 1960s; director David Lindemann would actually introduce Nance to David Lynch when he was casting "Eraserhead"

Bonus Trivia


Nance married adult film actress Kelly Jean Van Dyke in 1991; after he threatened to leave her due to her substance abuse problems, she hanged herself in the couple's apartment on November 17, 1991.


When lunching with friends on December 30, 1996, Nance explained a large bruise on his face as the result of a random fight he had gotten into in a doughnut shop parking lot the night before; he was found dead of a subdural hematoma later that day, with a blood alcohol level of .24 percent.


Because of funding issues, the filming of "Eraserhead" took nearly five years. Nance was forced to maintain his character's bizarre hairstyle for the duration.