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Interview With Nick Nolte

Aired May 10, 2003 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, Nick Nolte here to tell us how he went from Hollywood heartthrob to this. What really happened when he was caught in the photo that shocked the nation? And, why his driving under the influence bust was the best thing that ever happened to him in his long battle with addiction.

NICK NOLTE, ACTOR: I know the first thing I said in my own mind when the lights went out. I said the jig is up. I was much relieved.

KING: Relieved to be caught?



KING: In depth and personal, Nick Nolte for the hour next on LARRY KING WEEKEND.

What a great pleasure to welcome to this edition of LARRY KING LIVE Nick Nolte, one of Hollywood's most versatile and more talented leading actors. He starred in over 40 films, playing a wide variety of roles, a two-time Oscar nominee, a Golden Globe recipient.

His new movie is "The Good Thief" and I've seen it. It's terrific and its director is with us, Neil Jordan. He wrote and directed 1992's "The Crying Game" for which he won an Oscar, also directed and wrote "The End of the Affair" and "Interview with a Vampire."

Let's cover some things, Nick, that we have to cover.

NOLTE: All right.

KING: And that was what happened in September?

NOLTE: September, oh September the 11th, yes, when...

KING: Because the last time you were on the show you told me you had been sober for, did I get it right, 15 years?

NOLTE: No. I was sober from '89, '89 to about...

KING: '93 is 14 years.

NOLTE: No, it was about '96 -- no, more than that, '97 I started to slip off the...

KING: What happened?

NOLTE: Well...

KING: Just go ahead and explain it.

NOLTE: Well, several things. First, I'll tell you what happened as far as substances. I ran into this in that scientific research I was doing, I ran into a substance that was...

KING: With Dr. Braverman (ph)?

NOLTE: Yes but it didn't come from Dr. Braverman, but I ran into this substance that was part of the gamma system and it had a wonderful intoxication. It was a mood elevator and I thought this was great. I wasn't looking at it as controlling my life and so I say I am an addict and always have been, eventually it got to a point where it was controlling my life.

And, the day on September 11, everybody was waiting for some terrorist act and nothing happened so I was the biggest news of the day, I think, as it happened. I actually was on my way to an AA meeting and wanted to get out from under it but I just didn't have the willpower, you know. Addicts don't have the willpower.

KING: Explain something, Nick.


KING: As a -- I was addicted to tobacco for 40 years so I know what it's like to be addicted and I would have stolen cigarettes.


KING: So I understand addiction but why would you as an intelligent person, I'm trying to figure out, while under the influence drive?

NOLTE: OK, this is real interesting. The back road to the AA meeting was above five or six blocks. You don't have to go on the highway or anything. I felt I could drive that back road. When I got to the meeting I realized I was just too messed up to really go into an AA meeting and, you know, I couldn't figure out how to get out from under this stuff. I'm not going to say this is conscious but for some reason I didn't take the back road home.

KING: You took the main road?

NOLTE: Yes, I went right down PCH and got stopped.

KING: And can not explain why you did that?

NOLTE: I know the first thing I said in my own mind when the lights went off, I said the jig is up. I was much relieved.

KING: Relieved to be caught?

NOLTE: Yes. Yes, I was very much relieved. It meant I was out from under the stuff. The stupidity of it is, of course, being intoxicated on a road, you know. You could have been -- you know you could have killed someone.

KING: How did the police officer handle it?

NOLTE: They were fine. They were quite comfortable. I got real lucky. I got a guy from Sacramento that didn't recognize movie people.

KING: Didn't know who Nick Nolte was?

NOLTE: No, no, not at all. Later on he said I didn't know who you were, dang, you know.

KING: Did they bring you right down to arrest you? I mean when you're in that kind of condition do they take you right in?

NOLTE: Yes. Yes and then some guy from a trailer park across -- that was on that side he had seen this so he had his video camera above me and was shooting it and I kind of said to him, I said why you got to do that? And he said well, I've been there myself, you know. Obviously he was going to get some money for this. No, I was -- it was the best thing that could have happened because I went straight into rehab from then.

KING: And you've been clean since?

NOLTE: Yes. Yes.

KING: Do you still work with Dr. Braverman?

NOLTE: Yes, I still work with all those guys.

KING: Do experimental -- that's where -- that's for your health you're doing that.

NOLTE: Yes, that is for the health. No, this substance I was taking, I became addicted to because it was a mood elevator, you know.

KING: Aren't most drugs mood elevators?

NOLTE: Yes. Yes. If it works it has a dopamine response, you know.

KING: Were you -- you had already finished the film, right?

NOLTE: Yes. I had finished "The Hulk," just finished "The Hulk."

NEIL JORDAN, DIRECTOR, "THE GOOD THIEF": Oh, he finished my film a long time...

NOLTE: Yes, a long time. KING: You had just finished another movie?

NOLTE: Yes, "The Hulk."

KING: You're in "The Hulk?"


KING: Who do you play in "The Hulk?"

NOLTE: I think I'm at liberty to say, I'm the father.

KING: OK, when does that come out?

NOLTE: June.

KING: Oh, so you just finished shooting "The Hulk." When you read -- when you heard of this incident, were you concerned that your picture might be in trouble?

JORDAN: Yes, well we had just shown the movie in Toronto.

NOLTE: Well, that valid, huh?


NOLTE: Yes, that's a valid question.

JORDAN: Well, it's -- no, but you know it's -- no, I was concerned more for...

KING: His well being?

JORDAN: ...Mr. Nolte and your well being (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

NOLTE: But let's discuss this. If I was arrested for driving intoxicated would -- then the idea is that people would stay away from it because...

KING: I don't know. I don't know the answer. Do you think people would stay away from the movie? Robert Downey, Jr. had a movie come out after he was arrested.

JORDAN: Yes, he did. I directed that one too.

KING: Which one was that?

JORDAN: I'm not going to tell you.

KING: Which one was that?

JORDAN: I'm not going to tell you.

NOLTE: (Unintelligible.)

JORDAN: But it's... KING: That's funny.

JORDAN: I know it's funny, yes. No, I was...

KING: Don't work with him. He's the kiss of death.

NOLTE: (Unintelligible.)

JORDAN: We showed the movie in Toronto and, you know, it was shown to a tremendous response. The first time it had been seen publicly it went great and I flew home and I was back in my house in Dublin and I opened the paper and there Nick was as if somebody had given him an electric shock and all his hair had gone out this way. I was worried more about your hair.

NOLTE: Well, yes. You see what's going to become evident if that's what the father looks like.

JORDAN: Yes, but it's an odd thing because it's obviously, you know, the journey that he went on and the good (UNINTELLIGIBLE), the expiration of this character was...

KING: He plays an addict.

JORDAN: Yes, well he played something that I didn't know.

KING: In fact the first scene you're shooting up heroin right?

JORDAN: Yes, but he plays a recovering addict, you know.

KING: Yes.

JORDAN: I mean he plays somebody who's actually using the idea of a robbery and a heist to get off drugs.

KING: Right, he doesn't shoot again the rest of the film.

JORDAN: No, but it had -- a lot of it was about the 12 steps program. A lot of the dialogue was about the recovery prayers.


JORDAN: I didn't know any of that stuff but you did know it.

NOLTE: Sure, yes.

KING: So you were concerned for him?

JORDAN: Absolutely, yes.

KING: And did you call him?

JORDAN: Yes, I called him, yes, yes, after a decent interval.

NOLTE: Did you?

JORDAN: I did, yes.

NOLTE: What did I say?

JORDAN: What did you say?




JORDAN: I said are you all right?

KING: Did you know this would be big headlines everywhere?

NOLTE: Well, yes you get a kind of sense it would. I don't think it would have been as big a headline if the country was in a normal condition but that happened to be...

KING: On 9/11.

NOLTE: Nine-eleven and everybody was worried after the first one.

JORDAN: That wasn't 9/11 was it?

NOLTE: Yes, it was 9/11.

JORDAN: Was it really?

NOLTE: Yes, everybody was watching the TV and waiting for a terrorist act.


JORDAN: I was directing a play in Dublin.


KING: Now, when they sentenced you, you got a $500 fine, three years probation.

NOLTE: Right.

KING: That includes counseling and drug testing. That means you have to do what?

NOLTE: Well, that means that I have to stay clean, you know.

KING: They test you indiscriminately, you never know.

NOLTE: Indiscriminately. Yes, they do that at the first, you know, and after a little while, you know, they know you're pretty well clean. You have to go to, of course, your drunk driving school, you know, which is really about not driving intoxicated and (UNINTELLIGIBLE). KING: Have you ever taken drugs?

JORDAN: Drugs?

KING: Yes.

JORDAN: Marijuana and stuff. I drink. I'm a drinker.

KING: Are you an alcoholic?


KING: I mean have you been addicted to anything?

JORDAN: No, I've not been addicted, tobacco that's about it.

KING: Can you explain, Nick...

NOLTE: You're addicted to everything. You're addicted. Everybody's addicted.

KING: Everybody's addicted to something.

JORDAN: I'm addicted to something I suppose.

KING: All right, Nick, you're an addictive personality.


KING: Can you explain, this is probably the hardest thing that Richard Dreyfus explained once when I asked him why he ever took drugs. He says I don't know. You're very successful and you are extraordinarily talented.


KING: And you're very good at what you do and you can make a great deal of money.


KING: Why do you need something to elevate you?

NOLTE: Because I can't get any satiation. My brain is wired in such a way that I -- in my research I probably have a lack of D1 and D2 receptor sites. These are dopamine receptor sites and satiation is a process that involves a cascade. You work at a job and you reach a certain level and you're a little satisfied and you keep going at it a little more and you finally finish it. You go ah, all your dopamine receptor sites are full. You're satiated.

With the actor -- not the actor, many actors are this way too, but there's a lack of these receptor sites so satiation never takes place. Now, the brain doesn't know that's the condition. The brain doesn't know itself. It just knows it can't reach satiation so it says get more dopamine. Now you can get dopamine in a lot of ways. Sex is a good dopamine releaser. You have sex addicts.

KING: Liquor?

NOLTE: Liquor's good.

JORDAN: Exercise, no?


KING: You could be addicted to exercise, right?

NOLTE: Yes, you can get addicted to exercise. Anything that will stimulate the dopamine release and then you go at it...

KING: Gambling?

NOLTE: Yes, in a way that's obsessive.

KING: We'll be right back. Nick Nolte and Neil Jordan, two great artists are with us. They're both involved in the current motion picture "The Good Thief," a terrific film. We'll be right back.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is serious. Nick Nolte is facing a misdemeanor charge of driving under the influence.

CINDY HOM: Nolte was stopped her along the Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu, California.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Officers say that he was unrecognizable because of his sloppy physical appearance.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Our Jane (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Mitchell says Nolte's friends are rallying around him in this tough time.




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Case No. 2MA01878, how do you plead to the charge in count 1 of violation of Vehicle Code Section 23152(a), Driving Under the Influence of Drugs?

NOLTE: No contest.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you understand that a no contest plea is treated just like a guilty plea in a criminal court?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Counsel, do you join in the plea and waivers and stipulate to a factual basis? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I do.



KING: We're back with Nick Nolte and Neil Jordan. The movie is "The Good Thief." The picture, I was just reminded by my producer, the picture taken of you the day you were arrested which was shown at the Oscars.


KING: That's going to be shown everywhere you ever...

NOLTE: That's all right.

KING: Doesn't bother you?

NOLTE: Well, look when it was shown at the Oscars I didn't see the Oscars so somebody called me and I said well what context was it used in and they said well I don't know, so I called my partner, Greg Shapiro (ph), and I said -- I was just shown in the Oscars and he said yes. I said well what context was it used in?

He said well, Steve Martin said actors come in all shapes and sizes and they showed a young actor. They showed a middle-aged actor and then they showed an old actor and they said -- and then some movie stars look like this, boom, and I said did it get a laugh? He said it got a big laugh. I said well that's great.

KING: Didn't bother you?

NOLTE: No. Had he said some actors look like this when their career has reached the bottom and they will never work again, you know, something really cruel, otherwise, you know, there is humor in it. There is...

JORDAN: Well, I suppose it's a reality isn't it?

NOLTE: Yes, yes.

JORDAN: You have to see the humor in it.


JORDAN: I could see humor in the photograph I have to say.


JORDAN: Because the hair was pretty askew.


JORDAN: It was a bad hair day, Nick, it really was. NOLTE: It wasn't a bad hair day. This is the way I look in the film. I just hadn't changed character yet. I hadn't pulled out of it.

JORDAN: Oh, I see.


KING: In "The Hulk," that's the way you looked in "The Hulk?"

NOLTE: We don't want to talk too much about it but...


JORDAN: Well, I mean it is true. It's very difficult...


NOLTE: That's the way I looked when he was arrested you know.

KING: Do you think this affects people offering you scripts?

NOLTE: NO, I don't think so.

KING: What's the first thing you say when you get a script?

NOLTE: When I get a script, well I want to see the overall story. I want to read it for the whole story.

KING: That's as important to you as what part you play?

NOLTE: Oh by far, much more important than the character.

JORDAN: So you don't go through it with a pen?

NOLTE: No, I don't go through it with a pen.

JORDAN: Some actors, you know, they just read their lines.

KING: Only look for their role.

NOLTE: No. I want to see if it has a through line, a coherent -- the Fitzgerald line. I want to see if it reaches down into the human soul and heart and pulls up some truth that gets presented in a new form and new shape.

KING: And then what? Then you have to like your part?

NOLTE: Then I...

KING: I don't want to put words in your mouth.

NOLTE: Then I look at my role. If it's a good well written script that does just what I said the role will be good. It just always follows (UNINTELLIGIBLE). KING: When I asked Nick the question do you think the people might say well he might be a risk as they might be saying about Downey, Jr. now.


NOLTE: Well, that depends on your record of showing up or being late or being difficult.

KING: And yours is fine?

NOLTE: Mine is fine. I don't like to keep a crew waiting. I don't like to be late. When I'm doing a movie I want to be only involved in the movie. Like Hepburn used to say, you know, she would come on the set and if -- they called her and if the crew was ready she would says well, you know, I'm ready. Why aren't you guys ready and if you're not ready, you know, next time I'm not coming out.

KING: Does that mean then when doing a film or a play you don't take drugs?

NOLTE: No. No, I'm not taking drugs when I'm doing a play or, you know.

KING: In other words you're clean when you're working?


JORDAN: Well, you were clean when you were working for me, weren't you?



NOLTE: You know, for instance, even when I was doing the play and this calf was tore apart. The (UNINTELLIGIBLE) was ripped. I mean and it blew up 26 inches. It was bigger than my thigh and I was in there for a week, well I was working with the Cedar Sinai Pain Clinic, you know. The reason you do that is because they keep really good track of those heavy, heavy narcotics.

KING: But you still worked.

NOLTE: Yes, but I found I couldn't do the play and take the narcotics. So, what I would do is...

KING: Work in pain?

NOLTE: Ice and work in pain because I would get cotton mouth and as soon as the play was over I would take the day's dose.

KING: I got to get a break. We'll be right back with Nick Nolte and Neil Jordan. The film is "The Good Thief." Don't go away.


NOLTE: No, I'm not OK. I'm out of dope and I'm out of luck and (UNINTELLIGIBLE). I want to die in an old folks home not in a jail.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Then forget about it.

NOLTE: We'll need money, a lot of it, how do you plan to get it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'll take care of the loan (UNINTELLIGIBLE). We'll get he money but what we need is a plan.

NOLTE: Don't you have one?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's your specialty.

NOLTE: You know what my plan is?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You've got on already?

NOLTE: No more gambling, no more dope, until we pull this off.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, Bob, you're in?

NOLTE: Course I'm in.




NOLTE: I do what I want. I live the way I want and I'm free. Now did you get that? And it's not your job to listen to my problems anyway and if you don't mind I'd like to go.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're free to leave anytime you want.

NOLTE: Good.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're going to be sorry you ever met me.

NOLTE: I'm already sorry.



NOLTE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) there's pieces of me scattered from here to Pittsburgh on these football fields. Isn't that giving something back to the game? Isn't it?



NOLTE: Listen, lieutenant, now you may know this and you may not but in the law there's a thing called force majeure. It means an unforeseeable act of God, and it cancels all promises and obligations. So, legally speaking, all bets are off.


KING: Our guests are Nick Nolte, one of the great, great actors in my opinion of films like "North Dallas Forty," "Heartbeat," "Cannery Row," who could forget that, "Down and out in Beverly Hills," "48 Hours," "Under Fire," "Extreme Prejudice" and the new one is "The Good Thief."

And Neil Jordan, who has directed the Academy Award winning, which he also wrote, "The Crying Game," "The End of the Affair," "Interview with a Vampire."

Nick are you still taking that human growth hormone?


KING: Through all the trials or anything you still take it?

NOLTE: Yes. Yes. You know I just -- my feeling on human growth hormone is that it's a hormone that should be replaced to a certain level. Now you monitor it. You don't just take humongous shots of it. I mean we've seen what the effects of taking enormous amounts of human growth hormone steroids.

KING: What's your goal in taking it?

NOLTE: Well, it helps all the systems repair, you know.

KING: You're in good health?

NOLTE: I'm in good health, yes. Yes, not as good a health as I was but this leg has slowed me down a bit.

KING: Do you think you have licked the problem?

NOLTE: You don't lick the problem. You never lick the problem. It's a condition that you have to pay attention to and then you can keep it checked but you can not lick this (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

KING: So, if you take no stimulant at all for ten years...


KING: And you're here ten years from today, you still would only say I have it in check?

NOLTE: That's right.

KING: Not that you've cured it?

NOLTE: That's right.

KING: This is incurable?

NOLTE: Right, right. It's a drink away and you go right back to where you started. See, it's -- as I said I truly believe it's a disease in the dopamine receptor sites and it's something...

KING: Have you ever thought of writing something about it?

JORDAN: About what, about alcoholism or addiction?

KING: Any -ism.

JORDAN: Well, this was in part about addiction, the movie.

KING: Yes.

JORDAN: The character was about addiction, you know.

KING: But it turns more into gambling (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

JORDAN: Yes, well it turned in a look doesn't it, but see I think...

NOLTE: The thought was the depression, the cycle that character had to go through.

JORDAN: Yes, you said a very interesting thing to me when you were doing the withdrawal thing. You said well the first thing...

KING: What a scene that is.

JORDAN: Yes, but Nick said the first thing he'll do is sleep because he's been having fake sleep for years or for however long he's been using this thing, you know, so (UNINTELLIGIBLE) this deep, deep, deep sleep.

KING: That scene where you're chained to the bed, you're begging for the key and they won't open the key, have you ever done that real?

NOLTE: No. I would never kick that way. That would be hell, you know. You want to be in a hospital. You want to be in a rehab that can help you through the worst part of it. The place I went, Silver Hills, has a full medical staff and part of the problem and why I wanted to go there was because the substance I was using was a very rare substance and they hadn't had much experience with it as far as withdrawal.

KING: What was the high like?

NOLTE: It's very much like alcohol. It's intoxicating but it stays just like at three glasses of wine or two glasses of wine. But the problem is just a little bit more and it lapses over into an anesthetic and you're boom, sound asleep for three hours, two or three hours, and you can not be woken up out of that sleep. But it's not something that you can die from by respiratory failure but if you add anything to it that represses the lungs you can die.

KING: What was he like to direct?

JORDAN: He's brilliant. Yes he's brilliant, really good. I mean he does an enormous amount of research at the start. He kind of writes a novel about the screenplay. He came with, he...

KING: He writes a novel?

JORDAN: He writes the prior history of his character and every relationship that the character had. He shows it to me then.

KING: He guesses what this character was like when he was a teenager?

JORDAN: Yes, why was he stuck -- yes, why was he stuck in the south of France? Why could he not get back to America? What crime did he commit? What was his relationship with all his mates?

KING: Anthony Quinn used to do that.

JORDAN: It's an extraordinary posture because I've written the script and it bears no relationship to what I've written, you know.

KING: Do you do that with all your parts?

NOLTE: Yes. Yes and it's quite fun, I mean because you're engaging your imagination, some facts, some not. This guy I play is from Chicago but, you know, his dad was a bookie and there was a guy...

JORDAN: This is Bob.

NOLTE: Bob, yes and I had a friend in Omaha, Nebraska and one of the -- really the fun part was we'd go downtown to a movie but we'd stay up at his dad's cigar store and he'd let us peak into the back room, you know and there are all the bookies and the whole thing and that was all very exciting.

KING: You were homeless for "Down and Out" right?

NOLTE: Yes, I...

KING: Jon Voight lived in a flophouse for "Midnight Cowboy."

NOLTE: Sure.

KING: Went down to Oklahoma to learn an accent.

NOLTE: Sure.

KING: Actors, you sort of marinate, right?

NOLTE: Yes. Yes, you have to marinate. You have to. JORDAN: Why do you always choose these parts? If you want to marinate and that why don't you play...


JORDAN: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and something like that and marinade that for a bit?

KING: Why don't you play something (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

NOLTE: You know that's one theory of good location acting, you know, it usually...

KING: Have you done a film where you did it just for money?

NOLTE: Yes, I have.

KING: OK, when you do a film like that, are you less an actor?

NOLTE: What happens to me is I develop a heart murmur. This is true. I develop a skip, you know, go ba-boom, ba-boom, ba-boom.

KING: Meaning you walk through it?

NOLTE: No. I'm not walking through it.

KING: You mean under stress, you mean you get sick?

NOLTE: Yes, I get -- yes. I wear a stethoscope and I'm losing my heart. The last time I went down to the doctor and we did a stress test and it was fine and I said to him -- he said what are you doing? I said I'm making a movie and he said, no, no, no, no, Nick you've been making movies for years. What are you doing? I'm making this film and he said you don't want to do it, and I said, yes, and he said, well, this heart murmur will go away when your film is over.


KING: We'll be back with Neil Jordan and Nick Nolte. The film is "The Good Thief." Don't go away.


NOLTE: There's many a day I wished I had (UNINTELLIGIBLE). People treat their dogs better than humans.

That's one-third Mighty Dog, one-third (UNINTELLIGIBLE) with liver and you use some puppy chow to add texture, crunchiness.




NOLTE: I'm hearing the story of the good thief Roger. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, I'm not really just...

NOLTE: No, neither am I, but what my mother told me and I guess it stuck the good thief beside Jesus on the cross and Jesus said to him, if I remember this right, tonight you will be with me in paradise and the thought that there was a place in heaven for the thief always made me cry.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You want to make me cry now?

NOLTE: Oh, I don't want your cynicism, Roger (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'll work on my attitude.

NOLTE: You should.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bob, you saved my life but if you try something.

NOLTE: Try what?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do I have to spell it out and put your down? It will be for life.

NOLTE: You're a cop. That's what you do.


NOLTE: I was good at thieving once, Roger, and I may not be the good thief yet but I'm trying, believe me I am trying. Now, if you'll excuse me.


KING: We're back with Nick Nolte and Neil Jordan. The movie is "The Good Thief," lots of things to talk about with both gentlemen. How did this -- Neil, did you bring this to Nick?

JORDAN: Yes, I did, yes. I wrote this character basically. It's a kind of a version of an old French movie and I decided to make him American, a refugee from the '60s.

KING: How did it come to you, Nick, and what did you think when you first read it?

NOLTE: Well, I was up in San Francisco doing that Sam Shepherd play with Sean and (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

JORDAN: Oh, yes.

NOLTE: And Cheech Marin and a bunch of guys and the script had come and I -- I was working theater so I glanced at it. I looked it through. I kind of liked it. I saw good character development. I'm not a real fan of heist films particularly because, you know, I would imagine reality heists...

KING: They're different?

NOLTE: Yes, quite different, yes.

KING: But it's a good caper?

NOLTE: Yes, it's a good caper but I liked the characters. I liked the journey they had to travel.

KING: And a lot of humor in this too.

NOLTE: A lot of humor.

KING: I mean there's funny people in this.

NOLTE: Yes, yes.

KING: A lot of weird people.

NOLTE: Yes, and when Neil, when we went to dinner he saw the play and I had a -- my calf was blown out and I had ripped the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and the way I do the play is strap up the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) on ice, do act 1. I wasn't in act 2, ice act 2. So, when I went to see Neil I was on crutches.

JORDAN: Basically, yes.

NOLTE: Yes, did you think I was faking it?

JORDAN: No, but you'd been kicked around the stage a lot by Sean Penn I remember, weren't you?



KING: How did they do in that play by the way?


KING: How was that play?

JORDAN: It was fascinating. It was a Sam Shepherd play, wasn't it?



JORDAN: It was three big stars, three big stars, himself, Woody Harrelson, Sean Penn. It was kind of wayward, you know went to places but he was compelling and I thought Nick had this, this wonderful thing that very great actors have where they're able to open themselves out, you know, and they use, they kind of use the more vulnerable parts of themselves for the role. That's when I thought if he agreed to do my movie I thought it could be very interesting. KING: By the way as a thought Brando on this program said the difference between the great actor and the good actor is the great actor takes risks.


KING: Do you agree with that?

NOLTE: Yes. You know, Marlon had oh I think a year or so ago he had these acting workshops.

KING: In southern Cal?

NOLTE: Yes -- no, it was right down here in a warehouse in Hollywood.

KING: Oh, was it a -- I thought...

NOLTE: Yes. No, he called Sean, me, and Harry Dean, a few others, and he got some homeless people, you know, and asked them if they wanted to be actors and they said yes and then he had a few drama students and he basically went through the whole thing of...

KING: But would you agree with that concept?

NOLTE: Oh, yes, absolutely.

JORDAN: Oh, absolutely.

KING: Great director too probably, right?

JORDAN: Oh, take risks, yes. If you don't take risks, I mean it's not worth doing, is it really, if you repeat yourself it's not really...


JORDAN: I mean I had never actually done a heist movie before but this was more of a gambling really, wasn't it in the end?


JORDAN: I mean it's a guy who's...

KING: Well, the last third.

JORDAN: Yes, I mean...

KING: It's one of the best last thirds of a film ever.

JORDAN: Oh, thank you, Larry.

KING: The whole sequence.

NOLTE: Yes. KING: The casino, the robbery, the double twist that occurs, the definite surprise when they open the safe. I don't want to give too much away.

JORDAN: And his winning is thrilling, isn't it?

KING: He breaks the bank.


NOLTE: Yes, it has been done for what 100 years. The last guy did it on a roulette wheel.

KING: Where did you find the young lady?


KING: She's extraordinary.

JORDAN: Yes, she's extraordinary. I mean I needed somebody who was an ingenue, totally young.

KING: How old is she?

JORDAN: She's 18. She's 20 now, so she was around 18 then when we did the movie and I needed somebody that was just totally fresh because in these there's kind of this awful thing where all of these beautiful girls from the former Soviet Union, from Albania, Georgia, they all come there to look for the kind of good life and a lot of them end up in the street, you know. So, she was that kind of girl who was just perched on that edge and Nick rescued her.

KING: You liked working with her?

NOLTE: Oh, (UNINTELLIGIBLE), yes. I mean, you know, she's from Georgia. You have to say former Soviet Union. If you say Russia she'll eat your head off.

KING: But she can act.

NOLTE: Oh yes, she can act a lot. She's very, very good, very mysterious background. You never quite know where (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

JORDAN: Well, she's actually from the Georgian royal family I was told. I met her mother last night.

NOLTE: Yes. Yes.

JORDAN: She was quite royal.

KING: And the rest of the cast thing, for example, the guy who plays her boyfriend.


(CROSSTALK) JORDAN: Very, very good actor from (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

KING: And the twins, what an assembly.

NOLTE: Yes, Budapest -- no, the...

KING: The Polish twins.

JORDAN: The Polish twins.

NOLTE: Yes, the Polish twins didn't speak. We dubbed their accents. They really worked hard on those accents.

KING: But you're practically in every scene.


KING: Is enjoy the right word? Did you enjoy doing this?

NOLTE: Yes a lot because, you know, Neil had -- it was a wonderful script and it was all European actors. It was a combination of European and North African, Russian, Turkey.

JORDAN: Turkish, Italian.

KING: You go right from doing the play to doing this movie?

NOLTE: No. There was a little bit of time in between.

KING: Let me get a break. We'll be right back with Nick Nolte and Neil Jordan, two of the best. The movie is "The Good Thief." I'm Larry King. Don't go away.


NOLTE: What we have is a full house. We want to bet $600,000 francs. It pays 10 to 1. That's six million francs we just won.





NOLTE: It's fine. Did you know the second thing?


NOLTE: I'm leaving dope. Dope makes...


NOLTE: Always play the game to the limit and the consequences.


KING: We're back with Nick Nolte and Neil Jordan. Working with -- you've worked with Ralph Fiennes, right?


KING: What was he like to work with?

JORDAN: He's wonderful, wonderful, yes.

KING: Do you find actors -- the better the actor, the easier to direct?

JORDAN: Well, yes, yes, but I like to work with actors and non- actors you know. I mean I like...

KING: You like to take people off the street?

JORDAN: Yes, basically, like in "The Butcher Boy" the kid that played that role he'd never acted before. You know like Jaye Davidson in "The Crying Game," he'd never acted because you know he never got the opportunity.

KING: So what does that make when the director can take an ordinary citizen, you've studied, you've done all the things you've done for a lifetime, and make them go in and do a film and they're good?

NOLTE: Oh, we're all actors. I mean, you know, let's say you're holding an interview. OK. If you're doing an interview there's probably only a sentence, one sentence that is the real truth and that might be -- (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

KING: You're acting.

NOLTE: Yes, you're acting because the real truth is probably I am here. After that it's whatever, you know, wherever you go, you know.

KING: Well, but Peter Ustinov said I like good interviews because it makes me think about things I don't think about.

NOLTE: Well.

KING: Makes sense, right?

NOLTE: Yes, it makes sense but I don't believe it.

JORDAN: But if you take somebody off the street what you get is...

KING: Yes, what do you get?

JORDAN: You get they haven't learned any of the rules, you know. They haven't learned what you're talking about. They haven't learned to disguise things. They haven't learned how to do an interview, for example. They haven't learned how to mask the truth, you know, so they have nothing but the raw truth.

NOLTE: What was so great in this last film I did, I was blind so I totally blinded myself and that was the most fun I'd had a in a long time.

KING: What movie?

NOLTE: A small film, Terry Malick and Ed Pressman produced it.

KING: Has it been out?

NOLTE: No, no, no. It's going to come out. It's a little Vietnam story.

KING: And you play a blind person?

NOLTE: Yes, I play the father of a Vietnamese American kid that goes on a search to find his father.

KING: And he's blind.

NOLTE: And he's blind. But the great thing about being blind for 12 hours a day was I worked with the blind institute for a long time but the great thing, I'll get right at it, is this. I never knew where the camera was.

JORDAN: Oh, yes.

NOLTE: I never knew.

JORDAN: Well, that would free you up in an interview wouldn't it?


JORDAN: Yes, because if you take someone like Teddy Tyson (ph) in "The Mona Lisa" example, I was doing a shot in a hotel room. I said cut and I turned around to do the next take and she wasn't there.

I ran down through the hotel and found her out in the street waiting for the car in the next sequence that was going to take her down to the river towns. I said Cathy, what are you doing here? She says well I'm doing my part. I said but the camera is like six stories up. She says oh, oh it has to be there to see you, she says? Yes, I said it has to, and you get that kind of directness which is...

NOLTE: Yes, well, you know, and the actor even if you, you know, you know better and you've got it all down and you're in the moment and you're sunk in it, the actor because he knows where the camera is deep down there's a bit of vanity sneaks in and when vanity sneaks into your role it's not good, you know, because the character...

KING: How about working with other actors? Is the film better if you like each other?

NOLTE: I would say yes. JORDAN: Yes, but...

NOLTE: It's not necessary absolutely.

KING: Is the film better if you like the people?

JORDAN: No, not necessarily.


JORDAN: I mean, well I mean it's Picasso's like paintings any better because he was being horrible to his children and turned into a total monster? You know I mean there are monstrous people out there who are great actors, you know. There's -- I mean I'd work with anybody, I have to say, you know.

KING: Really?


KING: So, you've worked with people you didn't like.

JORDAN: As long as I respect the talent, you know. You know, really, I really would.

KING: But you have to put up with a lot of baloney though, don't you, when you don't like them?

JORDAN: You got to put up with a lot of baloney anyway.

NOLTE: Yes, but no. No.

KING: How about working with other actors?

NOLTE: You want to work in an ensemble. That's what I love.

JORDAN: Yes, but you want to work -- it's more respect than liking I think, isn't it really?

NOLTE: Yes, respect. I mean you don't really need to say this is the greatest person I've ever been around. You know, different personalities and stuff like that. Chuckie has a different personality than mine but Chuckie was great to work with.

KING: In the...


KING: How about when you worked with Woody Harrelson and Sean Penn?

NOLTE: Well, geez, you know, those are...

KING: Three pretty good actors?

NOLTE: Really, pretty good actors and they have a nice insanity. KING: Is stage different where there's no camera?

NOLTE: Yes. Stage is entirely different. Woody was doing a play in London just not long ago and Matt, a friend of mine, went to see it and he had done late (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and Woody had stolen something from (UNINTELLIGIBLE). He jumps up on top of a refrigerator and, you know, he plays off of that and he had gotten good reviews in this refrigerator thing. They said oh how original and everything. Well, Matt walks backstage and Woody sees him and he said, oh I didn't think anybody from (UNINTELLIGIBLE) would ever come see this.

KING: We'll be back with our remaining moments with Neil Jordan and Nick Nolte. The film is "The Good Thief." Don't go away.


NOLTE: We're going straight up that hill.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We can't do that, colonel.

NOLTE: Well then we'll outflank (UNINTELLIGIBLE) to the river. The Japanese hold the jungle. It has to be taken from here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What about water sir? Water is not (UNINTELLIGIBLE). My men are passing out sir.

NOLTE: The only time you worry about soldier is when he stops bitching.



NOLTE: You didn't answer my question, Lowenstein (ph). Tell me who wrote this book?

BARBRA STREISAND, ACTRESS: Why don't you tell me?

NOLTE: Oh, I'll tell you. My sister wrote it. It's all about my (UNINTELLIGIBLE). If my mother ever read it she'd whip out (UNINTELLIGIBLE) with her teeth.

STREISAND: Why? Why would she do that? What are you all hiding?

NOLTE: I don't answer any more questions until you answer mine.

STREISAND: Then why don't you sit down and listen, that is if you're not too exhausted by your temper tantrum.


KING: We're with Nick Nolte and Neil Jordan. "Q&A" was one of my favorites. Did you like working with Sidney Lumet?

NOLTE: Oh, yes. KING: That was some movie. How did you like working with Streisand?

NOLTE: Very much. Very much. You know, she was absolutely the right director for that piece. I know Redford had it first but he probably would have made the story about the two brothers but really the essence of that Pat Conroy (ph) piece is that one man and his relationship with...

KING: With Lowenstein?

NOLTE: Oh, yes, with Lowenstein and all these other women, his wife and (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

KING: But she is supposedly so perfectionist.


KING: Did that bother you?

NOLTE: No because she's not a perfectionist in a way that can be irritating. When she was -- here, here's an example. Barbra said that before we started the film she was going to mike every actor off camera and if their off camera performance wasn't up to their on camera performance, you know, she was going to really, really nail them for it.

And so, and that's a smart thing to do because if you -- if an actor gets off camera and gives a different performance than he gave before or leans way back, you know, it's so much working off of each other. You know maybe there are some of these movie stars that can work from nothing but...

KING: You need the other person?


KING: Do you like working with family? You worked with your son.

NOLTE: Yes, my son is great to work with.

KING: It was a good movie.

NOLTE: Yes. As long as the role isn't too big and it's not more than a couple of weeks long. I mean he -- when he did "Ransom" that's when he quit acting.

KING: Because?

NOLTE: Yes, he quit acting. The film came out and it came out on a Friday and he'd gone to school and then on Monday he went to school and I picked him up afterwards and he said, you know, I don't know about this fame thing. He said, you know, everybody at school today, you know, they have different clicks. They all want me to be in their click and I don't know who to trust now and maybe a little bit of fame is all right.

KING: Do you like fame, Nick?

NOLTE: Sure, why not, you know. It's all right. Yes, sure, absolutely. I mean, you know, the stage is about being seen.

KING: Yes if they don't see you what else is there? What are you going to do next?

NOLTE: I was trying to do something Neil was going to do but he doesn't want me in the cast.

KING: Wait a minute. You're doing a film and you don't want him?

JORDAN: I'm doing a tiny little version of the very end of the Odyssey and he's too old to play (UNINTELLIGIBLE), isn't he, and he can not play Penelope because he wouldn't look right, you know.

KING: Who would you want to play? (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

NOLTE: Well, I thought maybe the Chinese woman in there.

KING: Hold it, hold it, hold it. What's with the fan?

NOLTE: The fan, you know, I don't like those little things, electric things you know that actors use that blows air, so I collect these old fans.

KING: And you use them, but it's nice in here. It's comfortable.

NOLTE: Yes, this is good.

KING: But you like to have a breeze on your face?

NOLTE: Yes, because sometimes interviews can be real hot, you know.

KING: Do you feel now that you've got it -- all right, you never have it totally licked but you've got it covered?

NOLTE: Yes. I'm actively working at staying sober.

KING: No one wishes you better than yours truly.

NOLTE: Oh, thank you Larry. Thank you.

KING: And, Neil, what a great pleasure meeting you.

JORDAN: Thank you.

KING: The film is -- I saw it a couple weeks ago. It's a terrific caper, beautifully acted by Nolte. Maybe, well he's done so many, certainly one of his best performances, dominates the screen with a great supporting cast. And Neil Jordan the director, they both won all the awards you win. The film is "The Good Thief." We thank Neil Jordan and Nick Nolte and we thank you for joining us. Have a very pleasant good evening. See you tomorrow night. Good night.


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