Nick Nolte biography

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Nick Nolte biography

Actor, born February 8, 1941, in Omaha, Nebraska. He was raised in Iowa and Nebraska, the son of Frank Nolte, an irrigation pump salesman and Helen Nolte (nee King), a department store buyer. He showed little interest in theater and movies growing up, finding the football field the best outlet for his hefty build and aggression. He attended Arizona State University to play football, but flunked out and proceeded to fail academically at four other colleges in an attempt to continue playing (Nolte did not learn to read until adulthood). At age 21, he was arrested and received a suspended sentence of 5 years in prison for selling fake draft cards. After seeing a production of Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman in 1962, Nolte finally realized his true calling. The process of acting seemed to mirror his self-questioning at the time and eased his discomfort with his environment, which he deemed “violent, aggressive, hostile, competitive.”
Nolte spent over ten years acting in regional theatres and taking small TV roles. He and actress Sheila Page married in 1966, but their relationship ended in divorce in 1971; the first in a long and painful string of failed relationships, which Nolte claimed were “very difficult to sustain, when they’re about what a society thinks a relationship should be.” His big career break came in 1975, playing the hunky wastrel Tom Jordache in the TV mini-series Rich Man, Poor Man, for which he won an Emmy award. Nolte was 35 when he played Jordache, and although he appeared ten years younger, his maturity lent a unique depth and complexity to the role. After this stellar achievement, Nolte began to appear in a string of mildly successful films including Jaws copy-cat The Deep, Who’ll Stop the Rain, North Dallas Forty, in which he got back to his football roots, and the artistically notable Heartbeat. His first commercial hit came in 1982, when he starred alongside Eddie Murphy in the Hollywood action-comedy 48 Hours. Nolte became known for his intense character research and his practice of thoroughly immersing himself during filming. While making Down and Out in Beverly Hills, he completely embraced his role as a fortunate bum, leading costar Bette Midler to exclaim, “Method is one thing, but he stinks!” He often adopted physical props in order to go deeper into a role.

Playing a detective in Sidney Lumet’s Q&A, he wore shoes with six-inch lifts so as to always lean forward in people’s faces—lending a dramatic physical aspect to the detective’s prying character. Nolte’s next quality role came in Martin Scorsese’s “Life Lessons” in the 1989 group of vignettes, New York Stories. He played an aging painter, overwhelmed by work, romance, and growing old. The early ‘90s brought some major career feats and follies. He played an affecting role as the tortured, rough, cruel, and ultimately sensitive hero of Barbara Streisand’s The Prince of Tides in 1991, and followed with the portrayal of a cold and emotionally vapid lawyer in Scorsese’s thriller remake, Cape Fear. In 1992, he appeared alongside fellow Hollywood fringe-player Susan Sarandon in the ruthless tear-jerker Lorenzo’s Oil, playing a father desperately seeking a cure for his son’s degenerative brain disease. His rough on the outside, soft on the inside portrayals resulted in a true Hollywood initiation in 1992—becoming People magazine’s “Sexiest Man Alive.”

Nolte’s next few roles did little to swerve his increasingly Hollywood-heavy career path. He made the aptly-titled Another 48 Hours which presented little challenge for the actor. He then went on to play alongside Julia Roberts in the disastrous I Love Trouble, leading Nolte to proclaim, “I’m a whore sometimes,” in reference to the fat paycheck he received for the film. Other questionable career choices include James Brooks’ musical, I’ll Do Anything and a Merchant-Ivory period piece, Jefferson in Paris. In the midst of this melange of unfortunate miscasts, Nolte’s physical intuition came to the rescue in the form of a heart murmur, which he claimed was a “physical ailment that would tell me I’m in the wrong situation.”

In 1996, Nick Nolte finally began making films that could reveal the depth and range of his talent. Having broken off a long-term addiction to drugs and alcohol through the help of Alcoholics Anonymous, Nolte was able to redirect his career, choosing challenging roles in high-quality, often low-budget, films. He played a confused and disenchanted husband opposite a sparkling Julie Christie in Afterglow, which won significant critical praise. However, it was his next two roles that crashed through all the barriers of his previously established reputation. He played the devastatingly belligerent Lt. Col. Gordon Tall in The Thin Red Line with stunning intensity and persuasion. His howling, red-faced lieutenant could evoke terror and inspire a reluctant empathy in a matter of a single change of expression.

In 1998, working from a Russell Banks novel, Nolte teamed with Writer/director Paul Schrader and fellow seasoned player, James Coburn, to compose Affliction, the wrenchingly painful portrait of a father-son relationship crippled by violence. The film approached the subject of male violence in an entirely unsentimental, but shockingly emotional manner, and Nolte’s performance was called by one reporter, “the most candid and raw on the American screen of 1998.” He won a 1999 Oscar nomination for the role. Nolte has one son, Brawley King (he appeared as the young kidnapping victim in Ransom), by his third wife, Rebecca Linger. He currently lives in Malibu with actress Vicki Lewis of TV’s News Radio.

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