Roundtable Interview With Nick Nolte On The Company You Keep

Robert Redford’s latest directorial effort, The Company You Keep, features a number of well-known character actors such as Sam Elliot, Chris Cooper, Richard Jenkins, Brendan Gleeson and Stanley Tucci. It also has in its cast some of the hottest young actors of today like Shia LeBeouf, Anna Kendrick and Brit Marling.

It even has some of the finest actresses of our generation like Susan Sarandon and the great Julie Christie. But when it came time for The Company You Keep to have its press conference at the Four Seasons Hotel in Los Angeles, only one of the actors from the film came to talk about it, and that was Nick Nolte.

In the movie Nolte plays Donal Fitzgerald, an old friend of Jim Grant (played by Redford) who was once a member of anti-Vietnam War militant group known as The Weather Underground. Donal these days is now the owner of a lumber yard, but he comes to Jim’s aid when his true identity is discovered and he is forced to go on the run from the FBI. Donal does his best to help his friend, and they start to wonder if their activities back in the 60’s were worth all the trouble.

While Nolte did talk a bit about working with Redford, many of his answers to questions had little to do with the movie at hand. Regardless, it was fascinating to sit back and listen to what he had to say as you could never be sure which direction he was going to go in next.

Check it out below.

We Got This Covered: What was it like working with Robert Redford both as an actor and a director?

Nick Nolte: I was very curious about how Bob worked as a director and actor. I like working with writer/directors because then you can solve problems right there. I felt no tension from Bob at rehearsals. When I was called to go to Vancouver, it went real smoothly. Everything was fine. We tease each other a bit too. “How many squats can you do?” Stuff like that.

This hotel is awful by the way. I mean the toilets are so damn low that you damn near can’t get up! It’s just… why? I know what happened. They took the world’s average height, including all the races, and it comes out to probably be about five foot. So it doesn’t work for us. It’s tough, really tough. They should do something about the tubs. You can’t get in those tubs and they don’t cover you up. Do you think the hotel owners really think they will save money on water with these tubs by making their clientele uncomfortable? Are they going to save two dollars on water? It’s crazy thinking.

We Got This Covered: What is your take on the Weather Underground group as they are portrayed in this movie? Are they terrorists or patriots, and how do you define domestic terrorism?

Nick Nolte: When I was a kid, my dad went to World War II, and I didn’t know him. I was born in 1941. We lived in Ames, Iowa in this three-story Victorian house. It looked grand, but a lot of it was rented out. I remember a day where there was a lot of excitement because my dad was coming home. I didn’t quite know what that meant. I can’t say I was very lucid at the time, but I remember the feeling of excitement. Then I remember the image in the doorway, which was a skeleton, just a skeleton. He was 6-foot-6 and he must have weighed 140 pounds or something.

They took him upstairs and then I had to go up and sit in this rocking chair beside this skeleton that would just be breathing. So it occurred to me, whatever he went through, I didn’t ever want to do it. That was it. I didn’t want to kill anybody. I just can’t do that. I know I can’t do that. I don’t like the idea of killing. I don’t like the idea of war. Who does? Nobody. We’ve got a chance to make it as a race if we don’t do another world war. I think we have got a good chance, and we seem to have learned a huge lesson there. I’m not going to live much longer, so I don’t know what will happen 30 or 40 years from now, but it’s going to be interesting. It’s really going to be interesting.

When I was raising my son Brawley, and he moved in with me when he was 12, I said to him “do you want an open house or a closed house?” He said “what’s the difference?” I said “in an open house we allow people to come in, but we have rules. There’s a bedtime rule during the school week, and we allow a certain limited number of people in the open house. But in an open house, you can have some friends living with you. In a closed house, you have none of that. You go to school, you can have friends over for playtime, but they go home by six.” Of course he chose the open house, and right off the get-go I became godparents for two kids.

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