Q and A with ... Nick Nolte

Q and A with ...


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July 14, 2005|By Lewis Beale | Lewis Beale,Newsday

Nick Nolte's life has been so tumultuous it seems amazing that the actor isn't seriously debilitated -- or even dead. But despite the multiple marriages and affairs, bouts with alcoholism and time spent in rehab, Nolte, 64, continues to prove that he is one of our finest film actors, a compelling presence no matter what the role or movie.

At an interview, he also looked craggily handsome and quite elegant, dressed head-to-toe in a fashionable black outfit, his silver hair and goatee neatly trimmed. During a rambling conversation filled with asides and non sequiturs, Nolte also seemed like the friendly local with whom you'd strike up a casual conversation at the neighborhood bar. His style is open, honest and a bit off the wall.

In your latest film, The Beautiful Country, you play a blind Vietnam vet whose half-Vietnamese son comes to the United States to find him. The film is about closure. But do you think there is really any closure surrounding that divisive war?

Yes, there is. There is a reconciliation with the Vietnamese national. We weren't fighting because we hated each other; we were fighting because our governments ordered us to, especially on the American side.

What about closure involving the vets and the anti-war people?

I think there will be closure. I personally hold no judgment whether a guy did or did not go, and many of my friends are vets. The only person I have any question about is the fellows who went to Canada, because they didn't engage in either battle. They were avoiding it entirely. Vietnam sits like a knot in my generation. It's the morality we rotate around. Nobody was right or wrong. I think every generation is faced with one moral question that is presented to them, and it depends on how they respond.

How has your often-crazy life affected your work?

It's life. I'm well aware that this is a precious miracle I've been given, and it's a one-way street. If I was a gambling man, I wouldn't gamble that there's a heaven, and I'd be happy. So I'm aware that this moment right now is alive, and this is what being alive is, and you have a choice: to be happy or to be conflicted and worried.

During your long career, can you think of any films you wish you hadn't made?

There are a few pieces I did for pure money, and those experiences are particularly bad experiences. The ones where the script wasn't good and there was a big offer on the table, and I convinced myself we would correct the script as we went along, and you never do. There's a great frustration because it doesn't quite work.

What's the best advice anyone has ever given you?

Get in your heart. Females tell me that. You can be pretty assured if you're not immensely tangled up in a relationship that their intuition, their feeling sense, is coming from a place that the male side needs more contact with.

How about the worst advice?

Do five pictures for the studio and you get to do one for yourself.

What would you be doing if you couldn't act?

It's impossible for an actor to fathom that. I've never heard an actor say something concrete. There's just nothing that compares to it.

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