It’s Nick Nolte’s birthday.
He has always been one of my all-time favorites, and despite the odds – or maybe because of the odds – and his personal struggles – it’s a thrill that he is still with us, still pushing himself, still going deep as the Mariana Trench in his work. As always, with someone who goes as deep as he does (and he started OUT that way), there’s a little bit of mystery involved – because it’s not JUST talent. Or … with him, it shows that talent looks different on different people. Maybe his talent is the ability to go as deep as he goes, into the most brutal unforgiving shameful places of our human lives. But … that’s not about talent. I would say this is a LIFE skill, more than “acting talent” – the willingness to LOOK at what SUCKS about himself. The willingness to SHOW that to others. This is what Nolte does.
“To allow the fear to come on you and then pass through. If you keep cutting the fear off by intervening – let’s say, taking a Xanax to try to cure it – you’ll never understand what fear is really for. Fear is part of a survival mechanism. The way you conquer fear is to feel it all the way, and then you’ll find out that there’s nothing there – it’s just emotion.” — Nick Nolte
I’ve mentioned him in passing many times on my site, but there are two pieces in particular where I zoomed in on this aspect of him.
The first is a piece I wrote about one moment in North Dallas Forty where he, as they say – or as I say – “drops in”. He drops in to the moment, or – into himSELF – and it’s like he plunges to the center of the earth in one breath.
When I had my column at Film Comment, I devoted an entire column to the career of Nick Nolte, focusing especially on this aspect of him – that willingness to look into and SHOW his own darkness, flaws, failings, his shame. Shame is such a terrible experience people LIE to avoid feeling it. He never lies.
His acting gift is awe-inspiring.
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