5 of the best: Nick Nolte – PILE

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The folks at Imprint continue to produce the gemstones; one of their latest Blu-ray releases is the 1994 sports drama Blue fries, with Nick Nolte. Directed by Hollywood maverick William Friedkin (The Exorcist, The French Connection), the film (available from JB September 28) is one of the most underrated sports films of all time.

Each week, we enjoy browsing catalogs of actors’ work and selecting five of their best. It’s a controversial task to be sure, however, we enjoy the conversations that ensue. To link this week’s list to Blue frieswe take a look at the work of one of Hollywood’s most disheveled and deep-voiced actors, Nick Nolte.

the abyss was among several films to capitalize on the success of Steven Spielberg’s seminal cooler Jaws (1975), and was actually based on a novel by Peter Benchley – who also wrote Jaws. It boasted a similar poster treatment which was a bit misleading, as there were no deep sea creatures, or actual horror. Instead, the film tells the story of an American couple in Bermuda who get caught up in the politics of local deep-sea divers and treasure hunters.

With a stellar cast including Robert Shaw, Jaqueline Bisset, Lou Gossett Jr and Eli Wallach, the abyss was only Nick Nolte’s second feature film (barring a few uncredited roles) after Back to Macon County (1975), in which he co-starred alongside Don Johnson.

Although the abyss lacked the thrills and chills of Jawsit turned out to be a slow-burning adventure that blends into a thriller and heralded Nick Nolte as an up-and-coming actor to watch.

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48 hours is notable for being Eddie Murphy’s first feature film after his tenure on Saturday Night Live, and it is also considered the first entry in the buddy cop genre. Nolte plays a tough, no-nonsense officer tasked with investigating a string of murders by the police, and he teams up with a convict (Murphy) to do it, with only 48 hours to end the whole bang.

The film was Nolte’s first real foray into comedy, and his quick-witted rapport with Murphy remains an example that most subsequent entries in the genre emulate to this day.

Otherwise, 48 hours was the directorial debut of Hollywood heavyweight producer Joel Silver, whose career would see him produce films like lethal weapon (1987), Predator (1987), die hard (1988) and truck stop (1989) among countless others; it was directed by the legendary Walter Hill (1979’s The Warriors, 1984 streets of fire).

Nolte and Murphy would team up to 48 more hours in 1990.

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Directed by and starring Barbra Streisand, The prince of the tides is the critically acclaimed film about a man whose life is shrouded in psychological trauma. With a mentally fragile sister and her own inner turmoil, he seeks help from a psychologist (Streisand) and falls in love with her.

This remarkable film received acclaim upon its release and garnered numerous awards and nominations, including Nolte’s first Academy Award nomination for Best Actor. The film would also set him on a journey of similarly themed dramatic roles, including Lorenzo’s Oil (1992) by madmax director George Miller.

Martin Scorsese’s remake of the 1962 film of the same name remains one of the most gripping and psychologically disturbing thrillers of all time. With an understated infusion of surrealism, Scorsese has crafted a chilling story of a defense attorney whose family is subjected to a campaign of terror by a violent criminal, played with absolute menace by Robert De Niro.

Nolte plays the lawyer, also a respectable family man, who once hid crucial evidence to ensure his client was imprisoned. And finally, he reaps what he sewed when the madman comes to call him.

Nolte’s performance is measured with precision, and his transition from terrified victim to anger-fueled man makes it one of the most underrated performances of any actor that year.

Fun fact: Steven Spielberg (who quietly produced the film) was originally attached to direct, but a deal was struck between the two directors and they swapped projects. Scorsese handed over Schindler’s listAnd the rest is history.

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Nolte’s career has had its ups and downs, and since the late ’90s his work has oscillated between quality dramas, mediocre romantic comedies and a handful of critically acclaimed Oscar titles. Some notable films during these years include: 1997 Affliction (which earned him his second Oscar nomination), The thin red line (1998), Rwanda Hotel (2008), Thunder in the tropics (2008) and Warrior (2011).

One particular performance that stands out for its combination of heartbreaking humor and heartfelt sincerity is A walk in the woodsa comedy drama starring Robert Redford, Emma Thompson, Mary Steenburgen and Nick Offerman, based on Bill Bryson’s best-selling autobiographical travel book.

Nolte plays a distant friend of Bill Bryson’s from Redford, who is the only person willing — in fact, incredibly willing — to accompany Bryson on a 2,200-mile hike along the Appalachian Trail. Insisting on his fitness via initial correspondence, he arrives as an unfit, disheveled old man with a disdain for the outdoors.

What happens is a clash of personalities and the rekindling of an old friendship. Sometimes hilarious, frustrating and endearing, the power of A walk in the woods is entirely due to the performance of Nolte.

Take a look at the trailer. It’s a hard movie to turn down.

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