Chris Hemsworth. Ryan Gosling. Taylor Kitsch. Channing Tatum. Michael Fassbender. All leading men and rising stars, all in their late 20s or early 30s, all with the potential for great careers that could potentially span decades.
And all of them would likely give their eye teeth to enjoy even half the moxie, talent, acclaim, and success as Jack Nicholson, who turns 75 years old today. Our sister site LIFE.com is looking back at some never-before-seen outtakes from a 1969 LIFE magazine shoot at Nicholson’s Los Angeles home, when the future three-time Oscar winner was 32 years old and had had far less high-profile success than any of those aforementioned strapping gentlemen already enjoy today. He’d just come off a standout role in Dennis Hopper’s Easy Rider – a role that won him his first Oscar nomination, for best supporting actor – but otherwise, Nicholson had only done some TV guest spots (The Andy Griffith Show, Dr. Kildare) and several films by Z-movie auteur Roger Corman. And yet, as you can see from the two outtakes below, he was still unmistakably Jack:
Nicholson (above) poses with a shot of his friend, director Bob Rafelson, who was about to start making Five Easy Pieces with the actor. The film went on to earn Nicholson his first Oscar nod as a leading man.
Nicholson (above) sitting in his Volkswagon convertible. Notes that writer Judy Fayard took during this shoot indicate that Nicholson was something of a VW die-hard: “Anyone out here [in L.A.] who doesn’t drive a Volks,” the actor is quoted as saying, “is either ostentatious or stupid.”
For more outtakes from the shoot – including photos of Nicholson taking his first piano lesson for Five Easy Pieces, and shots with his then five-year-old daughter Jennifer — head over to LIFE.com.