These days, Nick Nolte is perhaps best known for portraying tough-talking characters – but he was once a huge sex symbol of his time.
Today, the gifted and talented actor has turned 82 years, and I must say that he’s pretty unrecognizable from his 1970s heartthrob days.
I have a ton of respect for the remarkable talent of Nick Nolte – he’s definitely one of the greatest actors in American cinema history.
I like how his facial features, his sturdy, square jaw structure, his angulus orbital bones and forehead, and the wild hair floating and growing out of control make him look like a powerful, almost barbaric character in a Shakespeare play.
His versatility as an actor, the intensity and the pain behind his eyes – that’s what makes his art so compelling. Nick always gives raw and honest acting performances, and if we look at his credentials, it’s evident that many of us appreciate his acting skills.
In 1991, Nolte won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama. He was also nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor for the 1991 film The Prince of Tides.
Nolte’s powerful performances in films such as Affliction and Warrior also earned him Academy Award nominations. But today, the Hollywood actor has changed a lot from his Golden Globe-winning days.
His famous disheveled mug shot in 2002 destroyed much of his reputation. The legal troubles and personal scandals he faced didn’t help either.
For a younger audience, it can be hard to believe that Nolte was the true face and image of the ultimate all-American hero in the 1970s. He was even labeled People magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive.
But how did Nick Nolte become one of the country’s most famous faces?
First of all, Nolte wasn’t much of an actor in high school, according to his football coach in Omaha. As a young student, he was a talented football player – but also a ”skinny, awkward kid with a crew cut.”
According to Nolte himself, he was extremely shy as a kid and never felt comfortable as part of a group. He struggled at school, and it wasn’t until later in life that he was diagnosed with dyslexia.
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The handsome Nolte, born in Omaha, Nebraska, on February 8, 1941, got his big breakthrough in the TV miniseries Rich Man, Poor Man (1976). Not long after that, he became a household name and an American heartthrob.
However, he started working as a model in the 1960s. One of his most famous shots came while he cut an impressive figure together with Sigourney Weaver for Clairol’s “Summer Blonde” hair coloring campaign back in 1972. According to Eighties Kids, the commercial remains the only time a man has ever appeared on a box of women’s hair dye.
Nevertheless, Nolte was virtually unknown when he was cast for Rich Man, Poor Man, though he stole the series as Rudy’s brother Tom. He played the part of Jordache like only a true all-American hero could.
The series changed Nolte’s life completely – he swept ladies off their feet as the quintessential bad boy, Tom. Nolte also had to put a lot of work into his own body. When he starred as a young man in the early scenes of the project, he weighed about 150 pounds.
”I remember the different stages I went through for Rich Man, Poor Man. That was the biggest expanse in age. It went from 16 to 45. Physically, I thought of the weight I was as a sophomore in high school, which was 150 pounds. So I dropped down to that weight and got that boy body back. I ran around that Hollywood reservoir day and night,” Nolte told Insider in 2022.
After the success of Poor Man, the Nebraskan-born-and-raised Nolte continued to show that he was an outstanding actor, producing consistently good performances. In 1982, he sky-rocketed to fame, becoming one of the biggest stars in Tinseltown after starring in the groundbreaking action-comedy 48 Hrs.
The movie, where Nolte starred alongside Eddie Murphy, was a game-changer in many ways.
“The thing about 48 Hrs. that really isn’t thought about much is that’s the first film where the black and the white criticize each other,” Nolte said in 2011.
“After Civil Rights, it was very awkward for whites and blacks. We didn’t know how to talk to each other.”
In the 1990s, Nolte’s career peaked. As a true A-lister, he made millions of dollars and became one of the most respected actors in the industry.
His career in film and TV speaks volumes for themselves – but in the 2000s, the focus shifted, and Nolte became synonymous with other things.
He certainly lived up to his reputation as one of Hollywood’s enduring bad boys. The unpredictable actor suffered personal problems, went through three divorces, and was arrested on several occasions.
The three-time Academy Award nominee went from being Hollywood’s ‘sexiest man alive’ to being splashed across the world in an unforgettable photo taken by police.
Since 2002, though, Nick has been sober.
”I was at a low point and I got slack,” Nolte has said.
“I drank in order to deal with anything I found difficult – relationships, failed projects – using alcohol even as a tonic against loneliness and the ironic kind of isolation that celebrity often brings.”
In recent years, Nolte has mostly appeared in smaller supporting roles – and he looks so much different from his famous Hollywood days.
Today, the veteran actor lives in a treehouse in California’s beautiful city of Malibu. Nolte built the house himself, and lives there with his wife Clytie Lane.
The Prince of Tides star loves to spend time with his children and enjoys reading and spending time outdoors. Nolte has a son and a daughter, Brawley Nolte (born 1986) and Sophia Lane Nolte (born 2001).
Both of his kids have dipped their toes in acting, and for some time, it looked like Brawley and Sophia would walk in their father’s footsteps.
Sophia even starred alongside her father when she played Nolte’s granddaughter in Honey in the Head.
“She is kinda like this little grown-up. Sometimes she calls me Grandpa instead of Daddy because all of her friends’ fathers are young. I’m pushing 80. My son Brawley is in his 30s. He did some acting, but that’s not what he wanted. He’s studying to be a doctor,” Nolte told Saturday Evening Post.
Even though many years have passed, Nolte still has that cheeky smile, gorgeous eyes, and charming personality. He is now 82, looks great, and continues to do what he loves most – acting.
Not only that, but he seems to have a very healthy view of his own aging.
”As for being old, I don’t regret it at all. I’m not having much difficulty with age. I’m really kind of comfortable with it, knowing that there’s one more big adventure to do. It’s kind of spooky, but I accept it. You fight like hell right up until the last. I think you just have to keep moving and keep doing it,” he says.
In my opinion, Nick Nolte is often overlooked when people talk about top male actors.
Thank you for all the memories over the years, Nick! You are such a great actor and an articulate, cultured gentleman!
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