Years later, he would play a therapist counseling Adam Sandler in the black comedy Anger Management (2003), but on February 8, 1994, it was the Oscar-winning actor Jack Nicholson who let his anger get out of control.
In a criminal lawsuit filed against the actor, Robert Blank stated that Nicholson, then 56, approached Blank’s Mercedes-Benz while he was stopped at a red light in North Hollywood. After accusing the other man of cutting him off in traffic, Nicholson used a golf club to bash the roof and windshield of Blank’s car. A witness confirmed Blank’s account of the incident, and misdemeanor charges of assault and vandalism were filed against Nicholson. Charges were dropped after Nicholson apologized to Blank and the two reached an undisclosed settlement, which included a reported $500,000 check from Nicholson.
Nicholson later expressed regret about the incident in an interview with Us Magazine, calling it “a shameful incident in my life.” He explained that a close friend had recently died, and that he had also been under a good deal of stress during the shooting of his most recent movie, The Crossing Guard. In that film, directed by Sean Penn, Nicholson played Freddie Gale, a man who vows to wreak vengeance on the drunk driver who killed his daughter. According to Nicholson, he went “out of my mind” after being cut off and snatched one of his golf clubs from the trunk of his car. Though press reports of the incident variously reported that the club in question had been a three- or a five-iron, Nicholson (who started golfing seriously after learning the game for the filming of 1990’s The Two Jakes) cleared up the issue in a 2007 interview with Golf Digest. “I was on my way to the course, and in the midst of this madness I somehow knew what I was doing,” he says, “because I reached into my trunk and specifically selected a club I never used on the course: my two-iron.”
The road rage incident wasn’t the last time Nicholson’s volatile persona—on-and off-screen—made news. A legendary fan of the Los Angeles Lakers professional basketball team, Nicholson has more than once been threatened with ejection from his courtside seats because he argued with or shouted at the game’s referees. As BBC News reported, Nicholson was almost ejected from a Lakers playoff game against the San Antonio Spurs in May 2003 after he yelled at the game’s referee for calling a third foul on Lakers star Shaquille O’Neal. The incident occurred shortly after the release of his latest movie at the time—none other than Anger Management.