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Nick Nolte Turns 70

The famously gruff actor is still a Hollywood force

The Big 7-Oh: February 8

Rough, gruff and ready to rumble: That’s pretty much Nick Nolte in a nutshell. His long and distinguished career as a leading man in the movies stretches back to 1977’s The Deep, and along the way he has nabbed two Academy Award nominations as Best Actor — for 1991’s The Prince of Tides and 1997’s Affliction. Those roles, along with his buddy-comedy team-up with Eddie Murphy in 48 Hrs., his harried stalkee to Robert De Niro’s frightening stalker in Cape Fear and his turn as a college basketball coach with a conscience in Blue Chips, earned him a spot as one of the most reliable actors of his generation.

Lately, Nolte’s performances have veered toward the gonzo. In 2008, he spoofed his tough-guy image in Ben Stiller’s war flick send-up Tropic Thunder, playing a grizzled Vietnam vet who lost both his hands in battle.

Earlier in the decade, he hammed it up in the cheesy superhero flick Hulk, playing Bruce Banner’s wild-haired mad scientist dad. Oddly, both those roles seemed to pay homage to the actor’s infamous mug shot from 2002, when he was booked in Malibu on suspicion of drunk driving. In the photo, Nolte fires off a you-gotta-be-kidding-me stare while wearing a Hawaiian shirt and a hairdo that appears to have a mind of its own, reaching crazily out toward the walls and ceilings.

The Malibu episode was a decidedly low point, but Nolte has seemingly bounced back nicely. Married and divorced three times, he’s now settled in with his longtime partner, Clytie Lane, with whom he had a daughter, Sophia, in 2007. As he turns 70, he’s set to appear this year alongside Russell Brand in a remake of Arthur. He also has a starring role in an upcoming HBO series about compulsive gamblers. It’s called Luck — a fitting title for an actor who has seen plenty of it, both good and bad.