Nick Nolte on his Walk In The Woods

Star talks about stunts and nature after his film's Sundance premiere.

by Amber Wilkinson

Nick Nolte (seated):
Nick Nolte (seated): "I never imagined I would be playing a contemporary guy. I'm not necessarily at ease with a contemporary person, I have a lot of nervousness and anxiety - fear of conscription - so it was very strange to be given that" Photo: Amber Wilkinson
Michael Arndt and Bill Holderman's charming and funny adaptation of Bill Bryson's A Walk In The Woods, directed by Ken Kwapis, had its premiere at Sundance. on Friday. A full house at the MARC theatre, laughed hard and long at the misadventures of Bryson and cohort Katz as the ageing rovers tackle the Appalachian Trail much to the concern of Bryson's wife (Emma Thompson on top comic form). Festival founder Robert Redford stars as Bryson - joking that festival director John Cooper had gone "out of bounds" in programming it - while Nick Nolte plays Katz. The latter part was originally intended for Paul Newman but watching it with Nolte in the role, it's hard to imagine anyone else.

Nick Nolte:
Nick Nolte: "Yeah, I did everything... except the things Bob wouldn't do" Photo: Amber Wilkinson
After the screening, Kwapis and Nolte took part in a lively Q&A which proved that even if Nolte's body may not be as reliable as it once was - he had to take a seat throughout - and his voice has an even raspier quality than ever neither his mind or his sense of humour need any sharpening. Kwapis was on hand to offer an observation or two, but the audience had their sights set on his 73-year-old star.

Asked whether he had taken part in his own stunts, he said: "Yeah, I did everything... except the things Bob wouldn't do. We debated whether we were going to survive it or not. If we didn't think we could survive it then we didn't do it because we felt we had an obligation to finish the film.

"But it was a truly amazing area. It was about an hour and a half to the location by car or van and then there was a camel or horse and there were donkeys and four-wheeled vehicles and Bob would ride up on the horse. I was going to try the camel, but he spit a lot. So, I went down by four wheels. The trouble was, they wouldn't let Bob hold the reins to the horse, because, I guess they felt goddamn insurance responsibilities, so Bob got upset and walked up the hill, which was quite brave of him - I always admired him for that.

"Not a lot of people ever finish Appalachian trail. They are people who have walked it straight through but it's not a one-summer deal. There have been people walking it for 40 years. The trail runs about two miles from my farm in New York. It's up to the states to take care of these trails."

He said that this film, like everyone he does, changed him but that the effect was "broader".

He added: "First of all, I never imagined I would be playing a contemporary guy. I'm not necessarily at ease with a contemporary person, I have a lot of nervousness and anxiety - fear of conscription - so it was very strange to be given that. Originally, this was meant to be done with Paul Newman and Bob but Paul died. But Paul had offered me a role in a cowboy film he had, which I took a week to read three or four times, and finally told Paul, 'It's a deputy who has to transport 10 hookers from his town to another town. And I don't quite understand the humour.' And Paul said, 'That's exactly what Redford said.' So, we [Bob and I] did it."

An ageing travel writer sets out to hike the 2,100-mile Appalachian Trail with a long-estranged high school buddy. Along the way, the duo face off with each other, nature, and an eccentric assortment of characters. Together, they learn that some roads are better left untraveled.
An ageing travel writer sets out to hike the 2,100-mile Appalachian Trail with a long-estranged high school buddy. Along the way, the duo face off with each other, nature, and an eccentric assortment of characters. Together, they learn that some roads are better left untraveled. Photo: Frank Masi
Speaking about the natural landscape of the Trail - a quality that is captured in the film in the way it moves a squabbling Bryson and Katz to silence - he said: "Awe is probably the quality that the artist tries to achieve but nature herself achieves it. Any activity that goes beyond what we think be done creates a state of awe. It's a very important state and it's very hard to create that in film or athletics or whatever. Nature is a great proprietor of that. That's why it can't ever become mundane to us. We an't ever let it become second nature to use and think, 'I've seen that'. You haven't seen that, you haven't seen what nature can do and we do have to become partners with it - marry it, love it."

Speaking briefly about protest movements in the Sixities and their connection with nature, Nolte considered the impact of his own childhood.

"I was a baby that was born when the World War was going on and as much as I was small, I could still fear parents' fear and worry about whether they could possibly win this war. All that subtle stuff went into it. My father, after he got out of World War II, first of all, I had never seen him since I was born. In 1945, there was this giant at the door he was 6ft 6in and 265lb (19 stone) and all we would go to up Lake Okoboji [In Iowa] and I think it was from that that I learnt that nature was an adventure because it is not going to repeat itself. The postcards repeat themselves but the real vision won't. So we looked at it as an adventure and I think if you can keep it at that - as you get older you get cynical and bored - but it really is where the surprises come from, I think."

Share this with others on...
News

Creating Closeness Director Kantemir Balagov on framing and reality in his Russian drama

Making a box office Attraction Fedor Bondarchuk on his science-fiction film

Wild ideas Travis Stevens on 68 Kill, music, pulp fiction and the terrors of Louisiana

Cinema, culture and modernity Olaf Möller on Helmut Käutner, Wolfgang Staudte and Harald Braun

Highlights of Russian Film Week We pick four of the best from London fest.

Independent Spirit Award nominations announced Call Me By Your Name leads charge

More news and features

We're bringing you news, reviews and interviews with the stars from Made In Prague and the French Film Festival UK.



We've recently been covering Abertoir, the London Korean Film Festival, DOC NYC, the Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival, the Cambridge Film Festival, the London East Asia Film Festival, the New York Film Festival and the London Film Festival.



Read our full for recent coverage.


Visit our festivals section.

Interact

Win a copy of the Blu-ray and book of A Man Called Ove, plus a DVD, T-shirt and graphic novel of Eat Locals in our latest competitions.