Nick Nolte has told GQ Magazine the infamous image of him in an Hawaiian shirt, hair bursting like flames from his head was not, as reported, a mug shot.
In an interview with GQ’s Chris Heath, Nolte said the picture — taken on the day in 2002 when he fell asleep at the wheel and swerved across the Pacific Coast Highway — was shot by a young officer who recognized the movie star and thought it might be funny (and profitable) to snap a Polaroid.
The Smoking Gun, which originally obtained and published the image in 2002, said Wednesday afternoon that Nolte is either lying or mistaken. The California Highway Police also say Nolte is wrong.
Officer Leland Tang, who was present at the booking, told ABC News the picture was taken at the the Lost Hills Sheriff’s station, as was reported at the time.
“He goes around here, to the local papers, saying these things every now and then,” Tang said. “I don’t think [Nolte] really remembers what happened that day.”
Nolte told GQ the photograph was taken at a local hospital, while he was waiting for blood test results after being arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence. He said the actual mug shot was taken later, when he was booked at the Sheriff’s station.
The hospital tests found that People Magazine’s Sexiest Man of the Year in 1992 had been taking GHB, or “liquid ecstasy” as Nolte called it, at the time he lost control of his vehicle. Nolte claimed he gave the officer permission to take the photograph provided the young man share with his colleagues whatever money he made from selling it.
Nolte also told GQ that while he hasn’t touched the drug since the accident, he expects he will again in the future. Only this time under a doctor’s supervision. He believes that GHB can be used as a substitute for opiates in the treatment of arthritis.
The Golden Globe winner is making a return to television in the HBO series Luck, a drama about the horse racing industry.