You either have it or you don’t. Not talent. Integrity. To hold your own and be able to say: “I’m doing one for myself now, and next I’m going to do one for myself, then after that I’ll do another one for myself, too.” That’s the kind of actor Nick Nolte has always been. The words above are about his choices of the movies he has taken on making in an industry that “emphasized things that simply weren’t that important”: artistically satisfying, small, meaty, gritty films. I’m not forgetting the talent either. That he is a great actor, that’s the main reason I wanted to read his book after all.
His is a career to be respected and admired. His (Rebel: My Life Outside the Lines) is a book to be read. Because it truly feels like an antidote to today’s celebrity culture. It speaks to the rebel in you, especially if this rebellion “comes from a simple fear of being forced into a box that doesn’t fit” you, especially in a time when people are discouraged to be different and encouraged to seek out the easy way to success, whatever that means.
He was a football player before he was an actor and the way he felt about football (American football) clearly came from the same passion and drive that has motivated him in his acting once life led him in that direction. “I never looked back with regret at not finishing a football career, because I had found something that provided adrenaline as well as the exploration of my creative and sensitive being.” And I liked that part about football, because it attests the fact that from very early on he found it vital to put passion in whatever he would choose to do in life. Sports does that, acting does that, anything artistic does that. It makes you think how important it is to find something to do where you can grow out your fears and triumphs. But how hard is it to do that in the age of uniformity? I’m happy when I read this kind of memoir. It grounds me, because it reinforces my conviction in what I truly believe in, while it also teaches you that in order to pursue an artistic endeavor you have to have “the ability to forget what you think you know”.
I wouldn’t tire of reading the lengths of depth he goes in order to prepare for each role, how he learned to inhabit his characters, how he learned that “an actor had to know more, imagine more, than simply the words the playwright had given him to speak.” But it’s the man behind the actor who tells about the ups and downs of Hollywood, and of life, and about living his life regardless of what is popular or expected, and about finding a way – acting – to cope with life. That’s not about a profession, but about one way to look at life, a life lived outside the lines, but which found its meaning in the lives and lines of every character he’s played. “Imagination is reality.” I get that.
“My parents were likely scared to death, yet they never showed it,
offering me comfort and privacy throughout my ordeal as they held
their counsel and simply hoped for the best. I took it for granted, not
realizing at the time that I had won the parental lottery. I might have
had a very different kind of experience with different parents.”
“Acting it was: a vocation, a survival tool,
and a destiny all rolled into one.”
“That’s how I combated fear. Pull a prank.
Tell a lie. Or retreat to nature.”
“Almost a lifetime later, I recognize that often the best remedy
for my own problems is to offer someone else a helping hand.”
Dressed to fit the monochromatic look and distresssed reality of a 1955 noir:
Mickey Rourke in Angel Heart