Sunday, 22 May 2011

Bloody Good Chap Hall of Fame induction: Nick Nolte

My foodie followers will be wondering what I have done to them. Post after post is published and yet their hunger for more culinary based posts is frustrated. I am afraid for this week you will have to remain patient as I propose to take this opportunity to write about a paradox amongst men, a man who is both loved and loathed by the general viewing public. This is just one of the many reason he makes it into the Bloody Good Chap Hall of Fame. In the style of the great chat show host Michael Aspel: He’s an actor, he’s a poet, he’s a raconteur…he’s Nick Nolte!

I was once asked by a friend who I’d want to play me in a biopic, and the immediate answer was the ‘Olivier of Omaha’. Now, I must make the point that there is not on shred of physical resemblance between the craggy and curmudgeonly Mid West actor and the writer of this blog. I am sure if I met that rugged and imposing figure of the acting community, he would quite easily dwarf me. An ex college football player (gone to seed by the time he entered acting), Nolte typified the rough and ready alpha male of the 1980s. Adding the toughness of Clint Eastwood, he became a staple of action movies over the next 20 years. However, unlike Eastwood, he was actually a pretty good actor, able to play roles other than those that were scripted to his style (anyone who has seen his underrated performance in Cape Fear and Q&A will know what I’m talking about).

Why did I choose him to play me, why choose a handsome rugged fellow to portray a chap who someone once said ‘Had a face for radio…’ and stands at a mere 5.4 foot! Surely Woody Allen would have been a better choice - certainly true if they were going by my fashion sense! I like to think that he would give the best interpretation of me, despite physical differences, I  have always been entertained by his acting (even in some of his shockers like I Love Trouble with ‘hammy hammerson’ herself Julia Roberts. They famously disliked each other on set, but I know who I’d prefer to go an sink a few pints with…although I don’t think I would be able to keep up the pace (such is the myth of the great Nolte). Another friend once referred to him as ‘The Thinking Man’s Gary Busey’ and I for one am inclined to agree.

As versatile an actor as he is, he will always be remembered for a handful of roles by a younger generation, such as his fantastic turns in Hotel Rwanda and Thin Red Line, which is a great shame as he has done some wonderful stuff. If you haven’t seen 48Hrs then I urge you to do so as soon as possible. A genre defining picture, it made the careers of Eddie Murphy and Nick Nolte whilst also pioneering the ‘Buddy Cop’ film genre (although some have argued that James Caan & Alan Arkin’s 1974 outing Freebie & the Bean pre-dates this). Entertaining, ultra violent, amusing and incredibly seedy, it has everything a hard-boiled actioner needs and is deserved of a place in my top ten films of all time!

However, it is not just the on screen persona that has contributed to the legend that is Nick Nolte. A little bit like Burt Reynolds and Jack Nicholson, the public life of Nolte has been just as exciting as the one we see in front of the camera. If Nick had a soundtrack to his life it would definitely be the steel drums, saxophone and bass that typified many gritty cop films of the 1980s. Enigmatic to the point of frustration, just watching a Nolte interview is like watching a character from one of Nietzsche’s books. Both pretentious yet at the same time startlingly close to the truth. Let’s be quite clear that this is a man who has made a film about himself, the ultimate vanity for an actor! I can guarantee that you will never see another film where an actor interviews himself… is there anything more self-indulgent?  That’s star quality, the only other actor I could see doing it would be Nicholson.

An unapologetic smoker and drinker, Nolte has always courted controversy. Most famously in the early 2000’s where he was charged DUI and the famous mugshot was released of Nolte, hair akimbo and looking distinctly sozzled! Not the man’s finest hour and for one I could never condone DUI, but it certainly gave the viewing public a certain image of Nolte as an out-of-control individual, who was not quite in control. Perhaps…but Nolte bounced back with some fantastic acting, giving his usual gruff, understated performances, which remind us all of what a good actor he is. I was watching Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner this afternoon and saw a lot of the subject of this piece in Spencer Tracy!

When push comes to shove, I don’t want Nolte to enter the hall of fame for these private dalliances and excapades, although I rejoice in how unapologetic he is in the face of a society that prefers conformity and anonymity to individuality and the unique. I really want to pay tribute to one of the finest and most underrated actors of his generation (especially one who is brave enough to embark on numerous independent ventures). So here’s to you Nick Nolte as you are inducted into The Bloody Good Chap Hall of Fame!

PS. Foodies fear not as I will be publishing a few tasty morsels over the next week so keep your eyes open!

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