Nick Nolte sheds light on wild life
In memoir, actor looks back on roles, drugs and booking mug shots
You might remember Nick Nolte’s infamous mug shot from 2002, the one where the three-time Oscar nominee wears his hair wild and his shirt Hawaiian. But there’s another one from many years before.
In 1961, Nolte was busted for selling fake draft cards, fined $75,000 and sentenced to 75 years in prison, later suspended. In that booking photo, a pre-famous Nolte wears his hair short and a buttondown shirt.
Both embarrassing incidents are heartily discussed in his new memoir, Rebel: My Life Outside the Lines. Nolte, 77, is now ready to tell his story — warts and all. The arrests act almost like bookends to a sometimes crazy life.
“I’ve had two mug shots in my lifetime. It’s hard to get those. And if you get them, you’d better make sure you examine the circumstances that you got them,” Nolte said. “The best way to deal with the biggest mistakes in your life is to discuss them. With everybody, including God.”
The autobiography traces the rise of Nolte, a Midwestern boy, a natural jock, who found fame later in life when he traded in performing on the stage for movies.
“Acting always appealed to me a lot because it’s risk taking. And it’s something I don’t do naturally. I mean when I’m standing backstage and that curtain is about to open I say, ‘Why would you do this to yourself ? Are you really that much of an idiot to just expose yourself to a thousand people?’ ” he said.
“And then the curtain opens and, if it goes all right, you don’t remember opening night — there’s too much adrenalin. Actors are risk takers. And they’re taking the risks for their own sanity.”
Nolte, whose hits include The Prince of Tides, Cape Fear, Lorenzo’s Oil, The Good Thief, The Thin Red Line and 48 Hrs., selfmedicated to quell his demons.
The book recounts his amazing appetite for drugs — including coke, LSD, HGH and GHB — and the time he single-handedly saved the movie Under Fire by smuggling the film canisters out of Mexico.
We learn he ate real dog food in Down and Out in Beverly Hills and took real heroin during the eightweek shoot of The Good Thief to better portray a heroin addict. He slept with Jacqueline Bisset during filming of The Deep but his inability to skate lost him a part in Slap Shot. He was offered Superman but saw nothing super about the role.
Nolte describes his own #MeToo moment when, at 21, a Hollywood agent invited him to his Bel Air home for dinner. After the man excused himself, he returned wearing only a silk dressing gown and announced: “Hello, cuddle bunny.” Nolte was out the door quickly.
Nolte also has a dim view of Harvey Weinstein, the one-time Miramax company head who had a reputation as a ruthless film editor. (Multiple allegations of sexual misconduct last year upended his career.) He recounts how his 2000 film The Golden Bowl was “reduced to shreds” by Weinstein’s cut.
And of course there’s the story of his infamous September 2002 arrest. That day he’d gone to the gym for a GHB-enhanced workout but felt too messed up. He headed to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting but didn’t go in, instead weaving down the Pacific Coast Highway.
Now sober, Nolte can chuckle. “I take full responsibility for that one,” he said.