He is almost unrecognizable with a grizzled white beard that makes him a prime candidate to play Santa.
The actor who was once named “The Sexiest Man Alive” has written a memoir (Rebel: My Life Outside the Lines) going through five ghostwriters. “The sixth stuck! I have not read the book. I just told the stories,” Nolte told a surprisingly half-filled room at The Skirball Center on January 31st.
At 77, Nolte is full of life, piss and vinegar, despite a hip replacement and new knee. Next month, he’ll be jetting off to Bulgaria to work on a film with his 10- year-old daughter Sophie. “Her mother is not too happy about it!” he said.
Streisand was relentless. Upon wrapping, she asked him to move in together.
Why a book? “I’m good at storytelling. Real life is scary, but acting is scary too. I felt I had a story to tell. It’s an instinct,” he explained.
Nolte’s credits include Cape Fear, 48 Hours, Affliction, The Deep and Rich Man, Poor Man. His most recent work is the lead role in Graves on Epix.
The Arizona-born former construction worker is known for throwing himself into his roles by living in Mexican brothels, ingesting heroine and even living as a homeless man just to understand his character. When he was doing Down and Out in Beverly Hills, he showed up on the set unkempt after living on the street for a couple of days. “(Co-star) Bette Midler said, ‘What the hell!’ She called up the studio head and said, ‘I have to work with this!’ It worked. If I could convince Bette, I knew I did my job,” he said.
But it was Barbra Streisand who had more than a working relationship in mind. And he rejected her. When she directed him (and co-starred as shrink Susan Lowenstein) for his Oscar-nominated role in Prince of Tides, they were heavily drawn to each other. Nolte felt he had to have a conversation that a romantic relationship would never work, a fact he learned from Katherine Hepburn, who Nolte says crossed all boundaries. Streisand was relentless. Upon wrapping, she asked him to move in together. “People do fall in love with the people they work with even though it’s temporary. You try not to cross those boundaries. But she fell in love with (the character) Tom Wingo, not me.” (He was not so successful in ignoring Jacqueline Bisset’s charms while shooting The Deep.)
Since his work in Lorenzo’s Oil (1992), the actor has had an appetite for natural health and acknowledged that he has taken hormone replacement therapy, embraced ozone and nuclear energy, as well as other types of alternative medicine. “Why not? If you got a cut, why use iodine? Use ozone. I grow my own food. It keeps me from getting overweight if you pick up the vegetables you grow. I want to know what’s going in my body,” he explained.
While filming, he is a master of pranks. When in Australia shooting The Thin Red Line, Woody Harrelson called him to prank Sean Penn. It involved the local police, who had roles in it. There were even some gunshots (blanks). “Sean fell for it. He loves guns. When the guns were fired, he immediately ran to the shooter to see what was going on.”
The actor wants to do another memoir “if there are stories to tell” and a book about the art of acting. “There hasn’t been a good acting book in years. I really have so much to say. I once put lead in my shoes for a Tennessee Williams play. I can’t tell you what I put up my ass,” he confided.
Just as Nolte has lived life, he will finish it with a party. With his husky voice, he declared, “That’s the story of life. You have your journey, and then you go out, which is going to be really spectacular. I’m all for getting old. I’ve enjoyed living and I plan to enjoy dying.”
Sue Facter writes about the luxury brand. Her work appears in USA Today, Los Angeles Times, The Luxe Daily, Greer’s OC, Woman’s Day Australia, as well as on broadcasts and the web.