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Marvin John Nance (December 21, 1943 – December 30, 1996), known professionally as Jack Nance and occasionally credited as John Nance, was an Americanmarker actor of stage and screen, primarily starring in offbeat or avant-garde productions. He was known for his work with director David Lynch, particularly for his roles in Eraserhead, Blue Velvet and Twin Peaks.

Early life

Nance was born in Boston, Massachusettsmarker and was raised in Dallas, Texasmarker, where he graduated from South Oak Cliff High Schoolmarker. His father retired from Neiman Marcus. He worked for some time with the American Conservatory Theatermarker in San Franciscomarker. In the 1970s, Nance met David Lynch, who cast him as the lead in Eraserhead. At the time, Nance was married to the actress Catherine E. Coulson (the future Log Lady in Twin Peaks), but they divorced in 1976.

Later career

In his later years, Nance grew a small white moustache and was a distinctive presence in many films with his peculiar twisted smile and bug eyes. After Eraserhead, Nance 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." He played an innkeeper. Jack Nance also made a cameo appearance with actress Mary Woronov in the 1983 Suicidal Tendencies Institutionalized music video.

Wife's suicide

Nance was married to Kelly Jean Van Dyke (who worked in the adult film industry under the name Nancee Kelly), in May 1991. Kelly was the daughter of Coach star Jerry Van Dyke. Kelly Van Dyke committed suicide by hanging on November 17, 1991. According to Richard Nance, a younger brother, Jack, who was at Yosemite filming Meatballs 4 at the time, attempted to console her on the phone as she threatened suicide. Supposedly a lightning storm knocked out the phones in Oregon subsequently taking over 45 minutes for Nance and the director to find a deputy sheriff who contacted LA police and the apartment manager. They broke in and found that she had hanged herself.


Nance died in South Pasadena, Californiamarker on December 30, 1996 under mysterious circumstances. Nance claimed to have been involved in a brawl outside a Winchell's Donuts on the morning of December 29. It is unclear if he was still drunk from the previous night, or if he had already begun drinking that morning, but it is certain that he was intoxicated at the time. He would later tell friends that he had "'popped-off' to a couple of Latino guys in the parking lot at 5am that day. He told them to get a haircut and a job. One of them socked him in the eye, his glasses flew off and he went down."

Later that day, he lunched with friends Leo Bulgarini and Catherine Case. Nance had a visible "crescent shaped bruise" under his eye and when asked about it, related to them the story about the fight. He soon went home, complaining of a headache. The injuries he received caused a subdural hematoma, resulting in his death the following morning. Nance died alone in his apartment. His body was discovered on the bathroom floor by Bulgarini. An autopsy revealed that the actor's blood alcohol level was .24 at the time of his death, three times the legal limit for driving in the US.

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




  1. Potter, Maximillian. "Erased." Premiere Aug. 1993: 93+
  2. "Mary Woronov Interview" by Cynthia Rose
  3. Jack Nance on Find a Death

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