At a recent “Hulk” press junket, Nick Nolte
sat down to talk to the members of the media in a roundtable format interview.
In the upcoming movie, Nolte plays David Banner, a multi-layered character who
father to Bruce Banner, inadvertent engineer of the big green star of the film
and ultimately one of the villains of the piece. Nolte followed his stint on the
“Hulk” with a bout of substance abuse that landed him in rehab last
At the roundtables, members of the press took turns asking Nolte questions
about his work. Comics2Film/CBR News is please to present this edited transcript
of that interview.
WARNING: THIS TRANSCRIPT CONTAINS SPOILERS
[Nolte enters wearing lime green designer clothes. An assistant hands him
four pages of hand-written notes.]
Q: What are the notes for?
Nick Nolte (NN): I just have notes because there was a lot of preparation that had to be done
for this. Ang Lee came out to the house and he said, ‘I don’t know how to make a
comic book. I know how to make a Greek tragedy.’
And I said to him, ‘Was ‘Eat Drink Man Woman’ partially based on ‘Lear?’
And he said, ‘Yes.’
So I took him upstairs into my lab and I pricked his
finger, got blood, put it on a slide, slid it under the dark film microscope and
a camera projected it onto the high-def television screen.
His red cells were
floating through. A white cell would come in and they looked like diamond
jewels. Massive diamond jewels and they’d change shape as they wrap around
bacteria. And the blood is vibrant. It’s alive. The cells shimmer and shake.
It’s better than watching the universe through a big telescope because its
moving all the time.
And you see bacteria and you see fibrinogen in the
background, which is the clotting factor in the blood. Smokers have it a whole
lot. And Ang looked at it for a little while and he said, ‘can you do that in
So right away I realized he was way past the cellular level. His wife
was an agrobiologist and they were into neural transmission of genetic
information. That’s why you see them flying into the fields. He wanted to get to
the source of the change.
It’s a Greek tragedy really based on Father/Son.
It’s not Oedipal.
Only 250 years ago, monarchs, kings killed their sons. Usually
the first born was a pretender to the crown. They kept the second born, killed the third and forth. Many times the son killed the father.
was…you know in modern times, the relationship between the father and the son,
at some point the father has to let the son win. Now he usually does, because we
get feeble, but as we all well know, we cannot get into each other’s consciousness.
We uniquely feel ourselves.
It makes us a little lonely. Only
through communications can we feel a kind of connectedness, but ultimately we
singularly experience the world in our own way.
Q: But you have a son,
Q: How old is your son now?
NN: He’s sixteen, but I gave up that ghost a long time ago.
He calls me Nick. I call him Brawley. He’s in college. He started going to
college when he was a sophomore.
Q: Did you always get along?
always. We’ve always been closely connected. You know there comes a time, in his
teenage years, where he really fights. He really fights for his
individuality. That’s a crisis time.
That’s a real important time for both girls
and boys. I think the most distorted American myth is on the part of the way
girls are raised. ‘Sugar and spice and everything nice. that limits the
emotional range that females definitely have.
Q: And don’t forget that
they’re supposed to be sexy before they’re ten.
NN: Yeah. That’s right. That’s right. But
we’re getting way off the subject.
Q: So you were talking about fathers
and sons and Greek tragedy.
the Greek tragedy.
So the reason it becomes this is, instead of a monarchy, our
blood by blood connection, it’s genetic alteration that binds [David and Bruce
Banner] forever. In
the genes that I altered, in myself, he inherited in the full genome. These
altered genes…well, obviously the genome read these genes and unique and
different and a whole series of alterations were made so that he wouldn’t
explode. That’s the problem.
As a research scientist, and I know many of
them…there’s no money in it. They don’t do it for the money. they just
do it because they have a passion and they usually have to farm out to a big
corporation to make…the biggest chicken breast in the world, which has been
done. It’s an American company that has captured the chicken breast market. It
used to be the Chinese. They made a chicken breast that was so big that the
chicken couldn’t stand up. It’s terrible.
I’m not necessarily against
genetic alteration. Because I’ll tell you the knowledge is coming. It’s in our
hands and it won’t be that long when we have to make a very big decision. I see
it as unstoppable.
Hawking says in ‘Universe in a Nutshell,’ we need a quarter
of an inch larger a space for the brain. We need a quarter of an inch layer to
the brain to catch up to the information that’s out there. He thinks that’s
going to be within fifty years.
Q: What do you think about Ang saying,
‘We all have a Hulk inside of us?’
NN: See I tied the changes [in the
characters’ genetic makeup] so that they’d fire off to the limbic system. The
limbic system is the oldest part of our brain. It’s also
called the reptilian brain. It has two responses. It’s an on/off switch: fight
It’s about survival. Anger is an emption of survival. Fear is an
emotion of survival. But we’ve evolved past that. We have a huge cortex now.
limbic brain, the reptilian brain is comfortable with maybe fifty faces that
it recognizes. Past that it starts to fire off, ‘Warning! Danger, danger,
danger, danger, danger!’
You drive down the 101 you’re gonna see a hundred
thousand new faces. your limbic system is going crazy. Boom, boom, boom, boom boom.
We rationalize it off. ‘These are all people in the community. These are all….’
what we call that is anxiety. It’s a constant state of anxiety because our brain
hasn’t caught up with the changes.
Q: What do you do when you’re really
pissed off then?
NN: You get angry. If you don’t express your anger, feel your anger, you
cease to exist. You won’t survive. You won’t make it. All this anger thing is,
you shouldn’t displace your anger and be mad at that plastic cup. Your anger
is meant for survival. In nature…
Oh you guys are going to go off on this:
does not discriminate about any way it can get the passing of the genes for
survival of a species, and rape is one of the natural ways in nature, that
exists. And since nature doesn’t legislate rape, we as civilized beings have to
make strict, strict controls over it. Otherwise you can never be sure,
genetically what can be passed. The reason rape works, is when a life
threatened, when a woman’s life is threatened, she has a very protective
mechanism, inside her mucus membrane, it’s so tightly woven that actually only
one sperm can get through at a time.
When her life is
threatened, everything breaks down and goes to adrenaline and survival of her
being. So that’s why many times there are pregnancies in rape. That’s why it’s
so heavily legislated. And it’s something that’s a social condition, because
nature doesn’t make that distinction.
Q: Even though you’re saying this
is Greek tragedy, watching you act in this movie makes me think of a
NN: That’s because we pulled
part of it from Shakespeare. Some ‘King Lear’, some ‘Paradise Lost’ was one of our
sources. Ang let us work on it a bit. We’d give it to Schamus. Schamus is an
excellent writer. Sometimes we’d see a parallel to ancient times and we’d
recognize what to modernize and we would go to that. It was always to achieve
the same end to the story, not to alter it at all.
Q: Do you see
yourself as the villain of this story?
NN: No. Not at all.
not? You destroy this kid…
I didn’t destroy him. No, no no no. I had a curiosity, and a search for creating a
better immune system. I altered myself and my son inherited it. I took it on
biblical proportion. I first tried to figure out what I had done. I looked at his
blood and was amazed by the alteration of his chromosomes. And the military
What is [Sam Elliot’s] character’s name? Thunderbolt. That’s Zeus.
that’s Zeus’ name.
He stops me and in stopping me, the only action I have is an
Abraham-like move: kill the son because he cannot possibly survive in this
society. Would a fellow that transmuted into 25 foot tall, that was green, that
was so powerful…would we allow that to exist in society? No, our fear would be
much we’d destroy it immediately. That’s what I’m trying to tell my son. That’s why I stick around.
To tell him he must express it.
His first birth is
not because of gamma radiation. That proves that he can handle it. He has the
compensating genes. It would have killed a normal person but he’s got all this
compensation for free radical.
I tell him he’s different. He’s different. There
something inside of me, and it’s him too. That makes an abnormal connection to
father and son because now they can never part.
Q: So you don’t think
your character is evil?
no. He’s not evil in the least part. He’s super-human. He’s past human. He’s
altered. His speech at the end…
Can anyone here define the dictionary word
Q: It’s probably something like, ‘the absence of war.’
Yeah. Absence of
In the history of mankind there’s never been an absence of war. We do not
have a ‘peace department’ in the government. We have a ‘war department.’
So I don’t
believe in the word any more. I use the word…somebody asks me if I’m peaceful,
I use the word tranquil. Peace will never exist. We can hope for it and pray for
Ninety-eight percent of the species have gone extinct. There’s a real likelihood man will do
that to himself, unless we make some improvements to the brain, because we’re
stuck with this archaic limbic system of fight or flight to anything we don’t
recognize in our own environment.
It’s an awful situation. In my life’s
experience I’ve just seen too much war.
Q: Do you ever think about
writing a book?
NN: No, no I’ve never thought about that.
But I saw my dad come back from
World War II who was a skeleton. See I was born in ’41 and I didn’t see him
until ’44 and he was a skeleton, six foot six.
I just remember seeing eye
sockets, bones and transparent skin. He laid upstairs in bed and every day
they’d take me in to see this long thing. He had every tropical disease you
could imagine. It took him a year to recover. And I remember distinctly thinking
he was into an experience that I never want to be in.
Q: Can you talk
about your experience from a few months back, getting arrested?
NN: Well, genetically…I’ve had my DNA
striped and there’s twenty known addictive genes and genetically I’m an addict.
Also behaviorally I’m an addict. I have long periods of sobriety.
This last time
I had a slip of … the substance when I started using it was legal. you could
buy it at a health food store. The kids in the raves found it. It’s part of the
gamma system that ‘s naturally in our cells. It worked really well.
What was it?
NN: GHB – gamma hydroxy butyrate acid. The gamma system, they’re just learning about it.
It regulates the neural transmissions. Too much dopamine, it starts shutting
down the dopamine. It’s an excellent pain killer. It doesn’t fill the receptor
sites and the endorphins. What it does is it stops the communication of pain to
Q: After all that stuff…we saw your picture and all
NN: Well that picture, the reason that picture looks that way is it was the
week after I finished shooting [“Hulk”].
I was unwinding from the film.
was abusing the substance. I was grateful that happened. My first words I said
is, ‘The jig is up.’
Q: What did you do then?
NN: I went straight into rehab.
It’s a mood alterer. The
fellow who invented it, a Frenchman that same year put together Throazine, the first
anti-psychotic, and during his acceptance of the Nobel prize…whatever that big
science prize is, for Thorazine, he said, the discovery of gamma hydroxy
butyrate acid in the function of the human body is far more important.
It’s legal now,
but you can only use it for certain conditions. It used to be used in all protein