Nick Nolte’s Legendary 2002 Mug Shot: A (Hard) Look Back

Nick Nolte, 2002 mug shot [California Highway Patrol]

MALIBU, CA — It was the (mug)shot heard ’round the world. Okay, the California Highway Patrol booking photo of Hollywood actor Nick Nolte was technically seen all over the globe once it hit the internet on September 12, 2002, but it’s still talked about and marveled over as perhaps humanity’s perfect definition of the term “mug.”

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Nolte’s September 11 arrest occurred after cops noticed the star’s Mercedes-Benz cutting off other cars and swerving erratically on the Pacific Coast Highway. Officers then promptly picked up the Academy Award–nominated performer for DUI.

Nick Nolte, 2002 mug shot [California Highway Patrol]

Later, Nolte tested positive for the “party drug” GHB, which he said he’d been taking for about four years. He later claimed he felt intoxicated in the car and tried to drive to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, then decided against it, and fell asleep at the wheel.

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People Magazine cover, Nick Nolte, Sexiest Man Alive

People Magazine cover, Nick Nolte, Sexiest Man Alive

The star of The Deep (1977), 48 Hours (1982), Cape Fear (1991), and Tropic Thunder (2008) pleaded no contest to driving under the influence of drugs, did a rehab stint, and successfully rode out three years of probation.

In what could work as a classic example of “Before and After,” Nolte was named The Sexiest Man Alive by People Magazine in 1992. Don’t do drugs, kids.

In an odd side note, Nolte actually told the press that the (in)famous photo of him with wild hair, a loud Hawaiian shirt, and a facial expression that the Grim Reaper might deem “somber” was not actually a mug shot.

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Instead, Nolte claimed, the pic was a Polaroid snapped at a hospital that he agreed to pose for in hope that it might be auctioned off for charity. The Smoking Gun website debunked that notion in an article bluntly titled, “Yes, That Is Nick Nolte’s Mug Shot, No Matter What the Addled Actor Tells Gullible Interviewers.”

Nick Nolte, 1961 mugshot [Omaha Police Department]

Nick Nolte, 1961 mug shot [Omaha Police Department]

The 2002 snap does make for quite the contrast when compared to Nolte’s previous arrest photo. Omaha cops took that one in 1961, after the 19-year-old future star got busted for selling fake draft cards. For that, Nolte got a five-year suspended sentence.

Read more:
KABC
Los Angeles Times
Complex

Main photo: Nick Nolte, 2002 mug shot [California Highway Patrol]