Nick Nolte opens up about turning his back on Hollywood, not caring about his legacy, and his decades-old feud with Julia Roberts

Nick Nolte attending the 2022 Philadelphia Movie Competition.Gilbert Carrasquillo/GC Photographs/Getty

  • Insider chatted with Nolte about what nonetheless makes him wish to act at 81 years previous.

  • The legend talked about enjoying a homeless Vietnam Struggle veteran in his newest film, “Rittenhouse Sq..”

  • Nolte additionally addressed the feud he had with Julia Roberts once they made the 1994 film “I Love Bother.”

At 81, Nick Nolte remains to be trying to find a narrative to inform.

He could not look the identical as he did when he was dubbed Folks’s Sexiest Man Alive in 1992, and his acquainted gravelly voice may sound gruffer today, however what stays is the wish to be a performer.

Or, possibly even the want to be one.

“Rittenhouse Sq.,” an indie presently enjoying on the competition circuit, is the most recent instance of this innate need. Marking the second characteristic from director Brandon Eric Kamin, Nolte performs Barry, a homeless veteran residing within the famed Philadelphia park, Rittenhouse Sq.. He befriends KJ (Sharon Jones), an aspiring musician who resides on the streets after his pastor mom kicks him out of the home.

As he has all through his profession, Nolte captures an depth within the function that is blended with allure and chaos. It is a model that made the three-time Oscar nominee a Hollywood star for many years, with motion pictures like “North Dallas Forty,” “48 Hrs,” “Down and Out in Beverly Hills,” “Cape Concern,” “The Prince of Tides,” “Blue Chips,” “Affliction,” and “Warrior.”

Nick Nolte and Dharon Jones sitting on a bench

Nick Nolte and Dharon Jones in “Rittenhouse Sq..”Bear Bear Productions

His bad-boy antics typically overshadowed his skills, like when his matted 2002 mug shot went viral earlier than that phrase even existed or when he obtained right into a publicized feud with Julia Roberts whereas making 1994’s “I Love Bother.” However it was additionally these flaws that made his work so charming.

The New York Instances put it greatest in 1991 when it wrote of the star: “A Nolte hero is never a reasonably sight… he stands humbly earlier than us a whole and utter mess.”

Nevertheless, Hollywood has modified in its tastes to the purpose that Nolte not acknowledges it. He hasn’t labored on a studio film since 2019’s “Angel Has Fallen.” His final high-profile half was the identical yr when he voiced the Kuiil character within the first season of “The Mandalorian.” He spends most of his time now working within the independent-film area and is totally content material with that.

“My connection is to the story itself,” Nolte mentioned on a telephone name with Insider earlier this week. “The tales in Hollywood are simply so few that I do not know of them anymore.”

Insider chatted with Nolte about what he is nonetheless trying to find within the roles he performs, why a hearth that destroyed his residence in 2008 has made him not take into consideration his legacy, and whether or not he is ever reconciled with Roberts.

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Nick Nolte with a white beard

Nick Nolte in “Rittenhouse Sq..”Bear Bear Productions

You have got performed a Vietnam veteran, a homeless individual, and an alcoholic a number of instances over your profession. For “Rittenhouse Sq.,” you do all three in the identical function. What’s it about these sure issues that make you wish to play them many times?

Homelessness is one thing that intrigues me, the scope of the character you may apply to it. Like with “Down and Out in Beverly Hills,” director Paul Mazursky requested me earlier than we began capturing if I’d go downtown and spend a number of days outdoors and attempt to get into the homeless shelters. I went with a buddy of Paul’s who can also be an actor and we wore ratty garments and we went downtown and it did not take lengthy to get that really feel.

In sooner or later, you’re feeling you are actually on the market. However we did not know the methods of the road. For example, after we went to get right into a shelter they would not settle for us as a result of we hadn’t been on the streets lengthy sufficient. They may see that. It was very spectacular to be on the market on the streets for these three or 4 days. There’s so much to enjoying a homeless individual.

Your father fought in World Struggle II while you had been a child so that you did not actually know him till he got here again from the conflict. Is a few of your father in these roles while you play a veteran or somebody within the service like “The Skinny Pink Line?”

Yeah. With “The Skinny Pink Line,” having lived by means of World Struggle II, I used to be born in ’41 so I wasn’t acutely aware sufficient to realize it, however in a approach, it knowledgeable the frantic of that character in “The Skinny Pink Line.” It gave me a information.

Nick Nolte holding a communicator to his ear

Nick Nolte in 1998’s “The Skinny Pink Line.”twentieth Century Fox

Enjoying the Barry character in “Rittenhouse Sq.,” did reminiscences of how your father was after the conflict come again to you?

Sure, in a approach. Although I solely had sketches of tales that he advised me. He was a significant in artillery. I feel he was stationed off Australia. They’d arrange artillery and fireplace over miles into the jungle.

I keep in mind I requested him if he ever noticed anybody get shot and he advised me there was one man. His identify was Pink as a result of he had pink hair. He by no means wore a helmet. And my dad advised me he obtained picked off, shot within the head, due to that. That was the one story he ever advised me.

Barry may be very a lot a guardian angel to KJ on this film. The weather of your character — shaky arms, consuming — was that stuff you delivered to the character, or was it on the web page?

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That is myself and Brandon including to the homeless life-style.

Nick Nolte smiling with hands on a bar table next to beer cans

Nick Nolte in 1978’s “Who’ll Cease the Rain.”MGM

Have you ever ever been in a position to pinpoint why so lots of your characters drink? I imagine it was Debra Winger who as soon as mentioned that you’d even go to the director typically and say in regards to the character you had been enjoying, “I feel this man is a drinker.”

[Laughs.] Nicely, if you happen to have a look at the common American household rising up within the Nineteen Fifties within the Midwest like I did, that they had this cocktail hour they did. They usually smoked. There was no considered most cancers at the moment.

Smoking and consuming in movies is simply an artwork. That is the way you fill these moments of insecurity while you’re in dialogue with somebody and the dialog stops. What do you do? You seize a cigarette or a drink. That was one thing taken from residing throughout these instances.

At 81, what makes you wish to nonetheless do the work? Are there belongings you’re nonetheless trying to find?

I’ve at all times had one thing creative outdoors of myself that I can flip to, so I am nonetheless within the tales. I do not actually know what they’re, as there are fewer and fewer of them today. And I do not discover the 80s significantly enjoyable since you’re falling aside in a approach. However I’ve at all times mentioned that I will carry on going till I simply can’t go anymore.

Is there a selected director you’d nonetheless wish to work with?

It has been a protracted whereas since a director championed my approach of working.

Talking of that, all through your profession you might have been identified for going to excessive lengths for the characters you performed. Is there one you performed that you would be able to recall was essentially the most memorable to dive into?

I keep in mind the completely different phases I went by means of for “Wealthy Man, Poor Man.” That was the largest expanse in age. It went from 16 to 45. Bodily, I considered the load I used to be as a sophomore in highschool, which was 150 kilos. So I dropped right down to that weight and obtained that boy physique again. I ran round that Hollywood reservoir day and evening.

Nick Nolte in a boxing ring

Nick Nolte in “Wealthy Man, Poor Man.”ABC Archives/Getty

Then, there was a time frame after my character Tommy is kicked out of the house. Ten years go by, he turns into a boxer, and he comes again to fulfill his mom. I knew there needed to be a change.

To have that punch-drunk feeling, I plugged up my ears so I could not hear very properly. I actually needed to focus and take heed to what the opposite character was saying after which after I talked it was like an echo chamber. It was actual loud. So I’d soften the voice to speak.

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And I additionally keep in mind for “Stunning Nation,” 20 years or so later, I performed a blind Vietnam vet. Earlier than filming I’d go right down to the attention hospital right here in LA and the extra I noticed, I noticed the individuals who couldn’t see in any respect, there was one thing mistaken with how their eyes regarded. They had been glossed over or bodily did not look proper.

So I went to the director and I mentioned, “I might like to do that function blind.” I obtained this physician who would put a lens in my eyes that blocked all of the background and one other lens that we placed on high of it that blocked the iris.

Nick Nolte sitting on a chair with his eyes closed

Nick Nolte in 2005’s “Stunning Nation.”Sony Footage Classics

I labored out what number of steps it took to get to the mattress, and what number of steps to the range. I had all that down. However after we shot one scene, I obtained up and headed in direction of the again bed room and one way or the other tousled the steps and ended up within the closet. I could not determine the place the hell I used to be. So, typically my technique would backfire on me.

There are numerous “Hollywood unhealthy boy” tales about you. One is the behind-the-scenes drama between you and Julia Roberts whereas making 1994’s “I Love Bother.” She described working with you as “fully disgusting.” Over time have you ever ever reached out to her and buried the hatchet?

No, I have never. Although it is buried. I imply it was absurd what we went by means of. It was partly my fault and just a little little bit of hers. Julia obtained married at the start of that movie and it was a type of issues the place I simply approached all of it mistaken.

[A representative for Roberts didn’t immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.]

Nick Nolte standing next to Julia Roberts

Nick Nolte and Julia Roberts in “I Love Bother.”Touchstone Footage/Getty

Now let’s go even farther again. You had been thought of to play the lead in 1978’s “Superman,” which might have been wild to see. How severe had been you thought of for it?

Oh, they had been excited by me however I turned them off by saying that I’d solely do it if I might play him as a schizophrenic.

Was that your approach of principally sabotaging your possibilities for the function?

That is sabotage. It will have been very unusual to play that.

Do you consider legacy in any respect? Do you consider the way you wish to be remembered?

No, I do not. Not since I had the fireplace that burned every bit of remembrance that I had. That is form of pressured me to not give it some thought.

Nick Nolte in a suit sitting in a chair

Nick Nolte in 1997.Stephen Sullivan/Penske Media/Getty

Earlier than the fireplace had been you extra reflective?

I had my sources. I had a group of books that I might been gathering for 30 years. I had the wardrobe from each movie I used to be in.

Wow. What made you wish to hold your wardrobe from each film you’d accomplished to that time?

They had been good garments, for one factor. And I simply needed to maintain it as a result of it was one thing that was tangible from the characters that I performed.

However now it is a completely different feeling?

Yeah. Now it is form of like beginning over once more.

This interview has been condensed and edited for readability.

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