Austin Nichols (born April 24, 1980) is an American film, television actor and director who is perhaps best known for his role as Julian Baker in The CW drama series One Tree Hill. He is also known for his roles in films such as The Day After Tomorrow and Wimbledon. He starred in the HBO series John from Cincinnati.
Austin Nichols was born on April 24, 1980 in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and moved to Austin, Texas before he was a year old. He was named after the Austin, Nichols distilling company, producers of Wild Turkey Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey. His father, David Nichols, is a radiologist, and his mother, Kay Nichols, is a professional trick water skier. Kay has been a national champion ten times and an international champion once. He has one older sister, Ashley.
Nichols was raised on Lake Austin and attended Casis Elementary School. Nichols began competitive water skiing from the age of two. He represented the US Junior Water Ski Team in the Pan-American Championships in 1997, and was also on the Junior US Olympic Water Skiing team. At age thirteen, he was ranked third in the world. Nichols had intended to become a professional water skier until he injured his shoulder in Florida, and was forced to give up the sport. While at McCallum High School in central Austin, he played basketball but was “absolutely awful”. Nichols’ interest in acting was sparked when he was fifteen years old and he began to take acting lessons. He moved to Los Angeles after high school, where he currently[when?] lives.
Nichols wanted to be an actor for much of his early life. His acting career began when he gate-crashed a party at the Sundance Film Festival and was signed by a manager.[clarification needed who was this manager, and why did s/he sign him just because he “crashed” a party?] Nichols initially wished to attend the University of Texas, but moved to LA after his signing and enrolled instead at the University of Southern California, graduating in 2002 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English. Although Nichols had guest appearances in Sliders, Odd Man Out, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, Family Law, Watching Ellie, and Wolf Lake before his graduation, his big break came in 2002 when he appeared as Brenda Chenowith’s lover in two episodes of Six Feet Under. He had previously appeared in two films, Durango Kids in 1999 and Holiday in the Sun in 2001.
In his first critically successful film role, Nichols starred as a stereotypical, basketball-playing “frat boy” in The Utopian Society, a 2003 independent film directed by John P. Aguirre, which won several awards and some critical acclaim. One critic wrote that Nichols “transforms himself from a cardboard jock and frat boy caricature to a likeable vulnerable human being with surprising sensibilities.” Aguirre commended Nichols as a “stellar talent” able to play his character “with total abandon to self ego”. Following another guest spot in She Spies, Nichols then simultaneously co-starred in two box office successes, The Day After Tomorrow and Wimbledon.
In 2004, Nichols was cast as J.D., an intelligent rich kid and romantic rival to Jake Gyllenhaal’s main character in the environmental blockbuster, The Day After Tomorrow. The science and script were generally panned by critics, and cast performances criticized. Also in 2004, he appeared in Wimbledon, opposite Kirsten Dunst and Paul Bettany. The film was well received by critics, though it only did reasonably well at the US box office. Nichols’ acting as Jake Hammond, an arrogant tennis pro, was described as “effectively unlikeable”. For the role, Nichols had to learn tennis from scratch; he was trained to look professional by Pat Cash, who was taken aback by Nichols’ skill. Speaking of the actor’s forehand shot, the coach observed: “It’s absolutely as good as anybody’s on the circuit. I swear to God. He hits it like a bullet. He’s our star pupil.” By the end of their training, Nichols and Bettany were able to have rallies and play points, although some of their more intricate exchanges were computer generated.
After this success, Nichols co-starred in a pilot for 1/4 life, a TV series about 20 somethings living in New York which was not developed by a television network. He then had a minor role in an obscure and panned 2005 film, Thanks to Gravity. Nichols followed this with short guest spots on episodes of Pasadena and Surface, before being cast in a successful 2006 film, Glory Road.
Nichols’ next film was a 2006 thriller, The House of Usher, directed by Hayley Cloake and based on the story by Edgar Allan Poe. He plays the disturbed Roderick Usher, who has been described by Nichols as a “twisted, terminally ill, fucked-up guy”. The House of Usher was released in September 2007. Nichols also portrayed Neal Cassady, with Will Estes as Jack Kerouac, in the short film Luz Del Mundo.
In April 2006, Nichols guest starred in Deadwood, an HBO Western series. Shortly afterward, Nichols signed a rare holding deal with the HBO Network. In August of that year, Nichols was cast as the lead in a new series, John From Cincinnati, a surfing drama created by David Milch, who also produced Deadwood. The series began airing in June 2007, but was cancelled after one season due to poor ratings and mixed critical reviews. Nichols played John Monad, a stranger who suddenly appears in a quiet surfing town; for the role, he took up surfing and practiced every day for three months.
In 2007, Nichols appeared as teacher for a few episodes of Friday Night Lights, before being cast in a recurring role on The CW’s One Tree Hill. He was upgraded to series regular for the seventh season. He directed two episodes of the series including the seventh episode of the ninth and last season.
On March 2012, it was announced that Austin landed a role in a new drama for Showtime called Ray Donovan planned to air on the season 2012-2013.
Alongside his acting career, Nichols maintains a strong interest in cinema. He keeps a log of every film he sees: “I take it to the movies and write down who does the music, edits, directs, and how long the film is.” Claire Oswalt, an ex-girlfriend, said in a 2003 interview that Nichols watches an average of 20 movies a week. Nichols himself has stated: “If I’m not working, I spend almost half my day at theaters or watching DVDs at my house.” He especially admires Hal Ashby, Sam Fuller, and John Ford. In addition to his interest in film, Nichols enjoys waterskiing (in which he competed at the national level as a child), golf, tennis, and horseback riding. Since beginning filming John from Cincinnati, he has also taken up surfing, which he finds “very therapeutic and healing”.
Nichols dated artist Claire Oswalt for seven years before breaking off their engagement in 2004. He mentioned in an interview he was living out of his car and sleeping on friends’ couches for some time afterwards. Nichols has been friends with fellow actor Jake Gyllenhaal since the two met on the set of The Day After Tomorrow in 2004. Nichols said in one interview, “I’ve learned a ton from Jake. He’s a really sharp guy. He told me everything about acting, the business, girls, life.” His sister, Ashley, is married to director Rowdy Stovall, making him Nichols’ brother-in-law.
Shortly after John from Cincinnati was cancelled, Nichols was pulled over at 3 A.M. on August 24, 2007 in Jackson, Michigan after driving the wrong way down a one-way street in his silver Mercury Mountaineer. His blood alcohol level was a reported .10 and he was arrested for DUI.
On May 25, 2010, it was revealed that Nichols had been dating fellow One Tree Hill co-star Sophia Bush off and on for the past four years. It was also revealed that Austin took a job on One Tree Hill to be with Sophia.