Also Credited As:Nicholas King Nolte
|Nicholas King Nolte on February 8, 1941 in Omaha, Nebraska, USA|
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Throughout his career, Nolte openly admitted to lying to the press about details of his personal life, so no biography could be entirely accurate. However, it was generally agreed upon that Nick Nolte was born in Omaha, NE on Feb. 8, 1941. His 6'6" father came from a long line of hearty Germans and agricultural equipment dealers. Nolte's mother was a bit of a non-conformist who worked as a buyer for a department store and instilled apron-string independence from her two sons. Nolte attended first Benson and then Westside High School, when he was expelled from Benson for drinking during football practice. Nolte - the shortest of the clan at only 6'1" - was a solid player and football was his ticket to college. His football record was not enough to keep him from flunking out of Arizona State and Eastern Arizona College, however. Ultimately, he ended up in California at Pasadena City College.
While in Pasadena, a friend brought Nolte to a performance of "Death of a Salesman" at the famed Pasadena Playhouse. It made a huge impact on Nolte, who had never harbored dreams of acting previously, causing him immediately signed up for the Playhouse training program. He quit school, and with no other life paths calling out to him, Nolte landed a job as an iron worker while continuing to train in Pasadena, as well as with the Stella Adler workshop in L.A. He moved to Laurel Canyon, then well known as a hotbed of counterculture types, artists, and drugs. Over the next 14 years, Nolte lived in Phoenix, Minneapolis, and New York, appearing in regional dramatic productions in all three cities. While in Phoenix, Nolte had received critical notice for his performance in the William Inge play "The Last Pad." In 1973, Inge called upon Nolte to revise the role for a production in Los Angeles. Nolte gladly accepted the job, but on the evening of the first performance, the playwright committed suicide. The real-life tragedy resulted in a huge amount of, perhaps, macabre interest in the play, significantly raising the unknown actor's profile and earning him a Best Actor nomination from the L.A. Drama Critics.
Nolte spent the next three years in small TV roles, finally catching his big break at the age of 35 by playing the 17-year-old lead in the ABC miniseries "Rich Man, Poor Man" (1976). The series was a cultural phenomenon, with Nolte earning a Golden Globe nomination for his role as rebellious younger brother, Tom Jordache - not to mention a legion of female fans who wondered who this hunky blond newcomer was. Now under pressure to make his next move, Nolte turned down an offer for "Superman" (1978), was turned down for "Apocalypse Now"(1979) and unfortunately landed in a tedious adaptation of Peter Benchley's "The Deep" (1977). He showcased his talents much better playing a morally conflicted Vietnam vet in "Who'll Stop the Rain" (1978) and began making his mark playing louts and hell-raisers in the classic football film "North Dallas Forty" (1979) and the arty film "Heartbeat" (1980), where he inhabited Beat-era literary legend Neal Cassady. One could begin to see the actor's attraction to playing outsiders; men whose personal goals were at odds with the system.
Nolte made his first big commercial impact opposite newcomer Eddie Murphy in "48 Hours" (1982). A classic in the cop-buddy action-comedy genre, Nolte played a grizzled cop thrown in the mix with Murphy, a convict who has been temporarily released to help solve a murder. By now, Nolte's real life grizzled drunken tendencies were no secret, and his decline was reprimanded by no less than Katherine Hepburn, his co-star in "The Ultimate Solution of Grace Quigley" (1985). Hepburn commented "I hear you've been dead drunk in every gutter in town, and it has to stop." Nolte's response: "I can't stop. I've got a few more gutters to go." Nolte drew on his experience in the gutter for a memorable role in Paul Mazursky's "Down and Out in Beverly Hills" (1986), reportedly living on the streets for weeks to prepare for his role as homeless and suicidal. Following the release of the film, Nolte finally entered rehab and began putting the pieces of his life together. His next run of films did not showcase the actor's best A game, but in 1990, he was outstanding as a villainous cop in Sidney Lumet's "Q & A" (1990).
The sequel "Another 48 Hours" (1990) - a job taken strictly for the paycheck - was a pale imitation of its precursor, but Nolte rebounded as the lawyer whose past comes back to haunt him in "Cape Fear" (1991). Sober and on a roll, Nolte was nominated for an Oscar and took home a Golden Globe for Barbra Streisand's "The Prince of Tides" (1991). He was the perfect choice to convey the private pain of Tom Wingo. His breakdown in Streisand's arms was one of the high points of a film that teetered on the edge of absurd melodrama at times. That same year, Nolte was the subject of a New York Magazine article that called him the "dysfunctional version of the Hollywood leading man. Nolte is himself a recovering alcoholic and former drug abuser, who has been through divorce three times and a palimony suit once, and the misery shows in his work." Critics were divided over Nolte's next outing, the heavy-handed "Lorenzo's Oil" (1992), and unanimously opposed to the Hollywood satire "I'll Do Anything" (1994). Likewise, the Julia Roberts vehicle "I Love Trouble" (1994) and Merchant-Ivory's historical drama "Jefferson in Paris" (1995) were critical and box office disappointments. Sober Nolte made the decision to focus on roles that interested him rather than following the money trail of his previous string of duds.
The result was a run of more artistic, left of center films. He starred as a Los Angeles detective in the brutal neo noir "Mulholland Falls" (1996), and in quick succession, turned out two of the most compelling performances of his career; first, as the charismatic, womanizing husband in Alan Rudolph's "Afterglow" (1997) and his Oscar- and Golden Globe-nominated turn in Paul Schrader's "Affliction" (1997), in which Nolte delivered a gripping performance as an emotionally wracked New England policeman determined not to slip into his father's bitter, alcoholic shoes. The emotional demands of the role were rumored to have sent Nolte over the edge and back to drinking. However he turned out an intense performance in the all-star ensemble cast of Terence Malick's "The Thin Red Line" (1998), the World War II opus earning an Oscar nomination for Best Picture.
Nolte's next few pictures were low-profile, but in 2002 he received strong notices for his leading role in Neil Jordan's "The Good Thief," playing an aging gambler plotting one last heist on the French Riviera. The night of the film's premiere at the San Sebastian Film Festival, the actor made headline news - not because of his latest project, however. Nolte was arrested that night in Malibu for driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol. His infamous mug shot circulated like wildfire throughout the media. Unfortunately the photo of Nolte with his rumpled Hawaiian shirt, rats' nest hair, and vacant eyes overshadowed "The Good Thief" and reduced the undeniably talented actor to the butt of jokes. Not surprisingly, Nolte checked into a rehab facility in Connecticut before making an ambitious return to the big screen in the expected blockbuster "Hulk" (2003), which fizzled. He began to regain his reputation with a small role as a UN peacekeeper in 2004's powerful, critically-acclaimed "Hotel Rwanda" (2004), and as part of the film's cast, was nominated for his first SAG award.
Nolte's own personal journey was probably at the heart of his decision to star in "Peaceful Warrior" (2006), a story of spiritual mentoring based on the classic tome The Way of the Peaceful Warrior, but the film was panned for its heavy handedness and Nolte's personal image detracting from the film's message. While awaiting the delayed release of Nolte's next film, "Mysteries of Pittsburgh" (2007) in the fall of 2007, Nolte's personal life hit the headlines once again. This time he was congratulated for becoming a second time father at the age of 66. Nolte's other offspring, Brawley, a son from his third marriage, was a promising actor who had appeared alongside Mel Gibson in the film "Ransom" (1996). Meanwhile, Nolte co-starred in the action comedy, "Tropic Thunder" (2008), which depicted a group of prima donna actors (Ben Stiller, Jack Black and Robert Downey, Jr.) left in the jungles of Vietnam for an all-too-real taste of war. After turns in "Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore" (2010) and the much-maligned remake of "Arthur" (2011), Nolte earned critical praise for his role as a formerly abusive father whose two estranged brothers enter a mixed martial arts tournament in "Warrior" (2011). Nolte's powerful performance earned widespread praise and put the actor back into the public's good graces thanks to a nomination for Best Supporting Actor at the 2012 Academy Awards.
Fresh off his acclaimed turn in "Warrior," Nolte returned to television for the first time since "Rich Man, Poor Man" to join the cast of creator David Milch's ensemble drama "Luck" (HBO, 2011-12). An insider's look at the lives of various denizens in and around a Los Angeles area racetrack, "Luck" starred fellow Hollywood icon Dustin Hoffman and featured Nolte as an aging trainer-owner looking to hit the big time with his promising young horse. Created by David Milch and co-produced by Michael Mann (who directed the pilot episode), "Luck" met with exceptional reviews and strong ratings, ensuring it a second season. However, amidst the accolades, concerns and criticism over the deaths of two horses during production threatened to change the fortunes of the show for the worse. When a third thoroughbred died in March 2012, HBO - under siege from outraged animal activism groups - scrapped the planned second season and cancelled the show altogether, shocking many in Hollywood.