When I do Random Roles interviews for the AV Club, it’s become an increasingly rare occurrence for an anecdote to get dropped from a piece, and on the cases when it does happen, it’s generally for a legitimate reason. As you might imagine, that reason is generally that it’s already too long an interview to begin with and the anecdote in question doesn’t really add much to the piece.
In the case of this anecdote from Nick Nolte, there’s no question that it would’ve added something to his Random Roles interview, and given that it revolves around his aborted attempt to meet Eddie Murphy prior to the start of filming for 48 Hours, there’s no question that it’s something that readers would’ve appreciated. Still, I get why there might’ve been some hand-wringing over its inclusion, and although I noticed its absence, I can’t say that I was entirely surprised that it had vanished.
If I had to theorize as to the explanation for its disappearing act from the piece, I’d surmise that there were concerns about how readers would respond to one of Nolte’s choices of phrase, although in the context it strikes me as little more than jazz speak. Or maybe they were worried that Murphy or someone from his team would get upset about the story, even though he technically isn’t even in it.
Aw, hell, I don’t know. In fact, the only thing I do know is that Nolte mentioned at the end of our conversation that he’s in the middle of working on a memoir right now, and I guarantee he’ll use the story. I mean, he was way too gleeful as he was telling it for me to believe that he’d have that bullet in the chamber and not fire it. And since he unquestionably said it on the record, and in direct response to a question I’d asked him, I don’t see why I shouldn’t regale you folks with the story.
Plus, as Nick Nolte stories go, this one’s pretty much the Nick-Noltiest.
Here’s the set-up, which you already know if you’ve read the interview (and if you haven’t yet read the interview, then you should really go read that first):
I asked Nolte, “What were your thoughts when you first met Eddie Murphy? Did you feel like he had a certain something?”
He laughed and said, “Well, you know, it’s funny you ask that…”
Nolte didn’t watch Saturday Night Live and therefore didn’t know who Eddie was, so Walter Hill, who directed 48 Hours, sent Nolte to New York to meet his soon-to-be co-star. Nolte did at least manage to make it to NYC, but…well, that’s where we pick up the story:
So I’m in New York, I got as far as 48th Street, and there was this black saxophone player down there… [Hesitates.] This is when it was pretty dumpy down there, before Giuliani cleaned it up. We, uh, got carried away there for about three days there. I won’t fill you in, but…we just got carried away for three days, and I said, “I’ve gotta get over and meet this black cat over at Saturday Night Live!” And he says, “Oh, you can’t use him.” I said, “What do you mean we can’t use him?” “He’s a base freak!” “You mean freebase?” “Yeah! He’s a base freak!” I said, “Okay, well, I don’t need to go there!” [Laughs.]
So I went back to Walter’s office, and I said, “Well, we can’t use Eddie Murphy.” “What do you mean? Why?” “Well, he’s a base freak.” “What do you mean, ‘base freak’?” “Well, he cooks cocaine!” He said, “Eddie Murphy?” I said, “Yeah!” He says, “Did you meet him?” And I paused. And he goes, “You didn’t meet him, did you?” I paused. [Cackles.] He said, “All right, Nolte, that’s the last time I’m sending you out without me. Get out of here!” So that was supposed to be my introduction to Eddie Murphy…