Of all the issues I had with A Walk in the Woods (our review) - the telling of Bill Bryson's failure to complete the Appalachian Trail - Nick Nolte was not amongst them. In fact, he was the solitary beacon of hope shining through a film that otherwise stank of mediocrity. After the screening, the infamously crazed actor looked older than ever, shambling to a chair with the help of friends and family. You see, following the filming of Woods, Nolte had a full hip replacement. His spirits, medium-high, he sat to ironic applause and answered a few ambling questions with surprising tact and clarity. For such a wild man, Nolte has an astute, somewhat rambling outlook on nature, film and the great American trail. And nothing can beat out that gruffalo growl of his.
Q: Did you do all your own stunts while filming A Walk in The Woods?
Nick Nolte: Yeah, I did everything, except the one fall. Bob did that. We didn't think we could survive it, but we felt that we had an obligation to finish the film. It was truly amazing area. It was like an hour-and-a-half to the location, by car or van, and there were the camels, or donkeys, and a couple of horses, and four-wheeled vehicles. And Bob would ride up on a horse. I was going to try a camel - he spit a lot - but I went up on a four-wheeler instead. The trouble was that they wouldn't let Bob hold the reins of the horse. I guess they felt questionable over insurance responsibilities. So Bob got upset, and walked up the hill, which was quite brave of him. I always admired him for that. We'd get up there, and there he'd be... and of course all the guys would be up there and they'd say, "Oh, this is a great part of the trail. We can shoot this and this and this." He would go up to the edge of the cliff, "Oh, you can come up here." Well, let's look at it first. Look out over everywhere. I thought we would run into a lot of hikers; we didn't. We had to use a lot of actors, you know, to be hikers. Not a lot of people ever finish the Appalachian Trail. There are people who have walked it, straight through. It's not a one summer deal. There are people who walk it for years. The trail runs about two miles from my farm in New York. There's just a stake stamped into the ground, you know, a metal stake. And it's up to the states to take care of the trail. It's an amazing trail, because it had Thomas Jefferson's dad's initials up there, because he always said about the Appalachians that it was the barrier of America. We didn't know what was west of that. It was quite a discovery, when we came upon that.
Q: Would you say that this filming experience changed you in any way?
NN: Oh, yeah. Every film does. They all change you. With this one, there's a broader perspective. First of all, I didn't ever imagine I'd be playing a contemporary guy. I'm not necessarily an easy contemporary person. I have a lot of nervousness and anxiety, fear and such... It was very strange to be getting into that, when you're at this moment, just now, this is it, this is what we play. And Bob, too, I know it's a struggle with Bob. Originally it was supposed to be Paul Newman and Bob, and Paul died. Paul had offered me a role in a cowboy film he had, and it took a week for me to read, three or four times, and finally told Paul, "Look, it's a deputy that has to transport ten hookers from his town to another town. I don't quite understand the humor." And Paul said, "That's exactly what Redford says!" We did agree on that.
Q: You said that the third main character of the film was the trail. One of the threads that runs through is the exfoliation of the whole forest, the appreciation of the environment, the whole thing, the awe and wonder of the natural world. How do you see that, given the crises the natural world is in, and the responsibility of the society to see that?
NN: Awe is probably the quality that the artist tries to achieve. But nature itself achieves it. Any activity that goes beyond what we think can be done, and it goes beyond that, creates a state of awe. It's a very important state, and it's very hard to create that, on film, or athletics, or whatever. Nature is a great provider of that, and that's why we've got to... we can't let it become mundane to us. We can't get egotistical about nature, and consider it secondary, and "Oh, I've seen that." No, you haven't seen that. You haven't seen what nature can do. We do have to become partners with it.