California Highway Police have told ABC News that actor Nick Nolte was either mistaken or lying when he told GQ this month that his epic 2002 post-DUI arrest photo — Hawaiian shirt buttoned to the neck, stringy hair pulled in every direction — was actually just a favor to a young, fortune-seeking cop, and not a proper mug shot.
Officer Leland Tang, who said he was present at the booking, says the photograph — a mug shot — was taken at Lost Hills Sheriff’s station as originally reported.
“[Nolte] goes around here, to the local papers, saying these things every now and then,” Tang said. “I don’t think he really remembers what happened that day.”
In an interview with GQ’s Chris Heath, Nolte said the picture — taken on the day almost a decade ago when he fell asleep at the wheel and swerved across the Pacific Coast Highway — was shot by an officer who recognized the movie star and thought it might be funny (and profitable) to snap an impromptu Polaroid of the disheveled star.
The Smoking Gun, which originally obtained and published the photo in 2002, wrote on Wednesday afternoon that the actor was wrong, and that “GHB appears to have played a few tricks with what’s left of Nick Nolte’s mind.”
Nolte told GQ the photograph was taken at a local hospital, while he waited for blood test results. The actual mug shot, he said, was taken later at the jail, but never released.
Those 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.