THR Actor Roundtable: George Clooney's Worst Job, Nick Nolte's Thoughts On Death, and Who Has 'Rage' Issues

George Clooney's career that involved hammertoes, Christopher Plummer's "awful" "Sound of Music" role, Christoph Waltz never likes his own work: No topic was off-limits as six of the season's big talents loosened up to talk role models, fame and fear of failure.


THR: Nick, you did big Hollywood films, then walked away. Why?

Nolte: Well, it was obvious I wasn't going to get any more roles. I could see it coming. The scripts weren't getting any better. In fact, the bigger the budget, the worse the script -- it seemed to follow hand in hand. The better work was in the independents, while the independent studios were still operating. When I was working with Paul Schrader, we were in the bar across the street from where we were shooting. We were having a glass of wine, and Schrader said, "Boy, I want to do one of those $100 million films." I said: "Paul, you're just full of it! You'll never have more control than you have right here. Yet you want to get on one of those nightmarish $100 million collaborative efforts?"

THR: Was there a film you did where you thought: "This is it. I want to change"?

Nolte: I actually didn't want to do 48 Hrs. [Someone] kept saying the black kid [Eddie Murphy] wasn't funny. To this day, [Jeffrey] Katzenberg is afraid I'll blurt out who it was. I won't. I wouldn't get my Christmas bonus.

What has been the low moment in your career or life?

Nolte: That's kind of daily.

THR: Really? Why?

Nolte: I don't know. I live with death lately because I'm 70. After 70, you don't think about sex much anymore. You think about death.

Plummer: Wait until you're 80. (Laughter.)

Nolte: Don't go into it.

Plummer: I won't.

THR: Does getting older change your perspective on the roles you choose or the work you do?

Plummer: No. I'm working more than I've ever worked in my life. It's unbelievable. Either there's only me left in their 80s -- but I think there are other people who must be 80 who act. I'm having an absolute ball. I've never been happier.

Christoph, you've found global success relatively late in your career. Were things hard for you before that?

Christoph Waltz: Relatively? (Laughter.) In all cultures, the actor has ups and downs. That's the nature of the beast. So I've had ups and downs on a smaller level. In the German-speaking arena, you can be a member of a theater company and do that forever. My grandparents did it in one theater for their whole careers. But a certain degree of consistency brings a certain degree of mediocrity.

THR: When you participated in this roundtable two years ago for Inglourious Basterds, you said you were looking forward to the opportunities arising from the success of that film. Have you been satisfied by those opportunities?

Waltz: It made life certainly more exciting, and certain parts more enjoyable and more interesting. But that's where success late in a career comes in very handy.

Clooney: For me, it was relatively late. I'd been on so many failed television series for such a long time. By comparison, my aunt was a really talented singer, Rosemary Clooney. In 1950, she was on the cover of every magazine. She was a big hit. Then rock and roll came in and women singers were all gone. It became a male-dominated thing. She was on the road and people started saying, "What happened to you? Where'd you go?" She's like: "I'm here. I'm singing. I'm doing my thing. What the f-- are you talking about?" She was gone for 20 years. Because she was so young -- she was 19 when [success] first happened -- she sort of believed all that shit that you believe when you are 19. People tell you how brilliant you are, all those things. So that meant now she clearly wasn't. Of course, she didn't become less of a singer along the way. The elements changed.

Nolte: I never thought she went away.

Clooney: She did. But later on, she came back. She had an unbelievably great renaissance.

Nolte: She was one of my favorites.

Clooney: She was one of the greats. But she was gone for 20 years. She couldn't get a job. Bing Crosby gave her a job 20 years later. She had some drug issues, prescription-drug things.


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