A distinguished career

Esteemed Tulsa native Tim Blake Nelson returns home this month to accept the 2012 Tulsa Awards for Theater Excellence Distinguished Artist Award. Here, he talks with TulsaPeople about his journey to Hollywood and his diverse body of work.



(page 1 of 2)

Tim Blake Nelson, lauded actor/screenwriter/director and Tulsa native, returns home June 24 for the fourth annual Tulsa Awards for Theatre Excellence at the Lorton Performance Center on the University of Tulsa campus. He will receive the 2012 Distinguished Artist Award.

If you don’t know his name right off the bat (and you should), you’ll likely know his face. This sought-after, hard-working character actor has appeared onscreen in more than 40 movies and TV shows to date, including a memorable performance as Delmar O’Donnell, one of the three lead characters in the Coen Brothers’ 2000 masterpiece, “O Brother, Where Art Thou?”

But he does more than act. A 1982 Holland Hall graduate who was born and raised in Tulsa, Nelson received his classics degree from Brown University before attending Juilliard. He is an award-winning playwright and screenwriter whose directorial career got off to a fine start when his first film, “Eye of God,” (which he also wrote) became a Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury Prize winner.

Since then, Nelson has directed five more critically lauded films, including “The Grey Zone,” which deals with the Holocaust, and “Leaves of Grass,” starring Edward Norton in a dual role as two brothers — one a professor, the other a small-time Oklahoma pot grower.

Nelson, who now resides in New York City with his wife and three sons, spoke with TulsaPeople on the phone from Los Angeles (during a shooting break for a new film) about his career so far, his abiding love for Okie accents and his outlook on the film industry.

So…when did you first catch the acting bug?

It was second or third grade. I went in and out of wanting to act and perform for some years after that. I thought maybe I would be a writer or a professor or a teacher.

Then, in ninth grade, they were casting “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” at school. I auditioned and had a great time, and I thought, “Well, maybe this is something I would want to do.” Then, finally, when I was in college and trying to figure out what to do for the summer, my mother made the unlikely suggestion that I go work at a summer theater. I did … and it was really the final seduction. (laughs)

Ultimately, I have my mother (Ruth Nelson) to thank. She’s one of those few parents who actually encouraged their child to go into the arts.

You attended Brown University, studying classics, after graduating from Holland Hall. At what point did you decide to pursue acting full time?

During college, I acted pretty extensively even though I was pursuing a classics degree. And I also did stand-up comedy. I decided one summer to go out to Los Angeles and see how I liked doing stand-up in the clubs. I did open-mic nights at the Comedy Store and got paid to perform at other second-tier venues.

After a while, I realized I would be OK as a stand-up comic, but I really wasn’t going to be a real innovator in that field. But I thought I could do stuff as a character actor, perhaps, that others hadn’t done or couldn’t do. To achieve that, I really needed serious actor training, though. And since I wasn’t gonna win any beauty contests, I figured most of my work would come for me later as I got older and grew into my face. My first choice was Juilliard — a four-year training program — and I got in.

How did you get started writing plays?

I wrote a lot of poetry in high school and went to the Summer Arts Institute at Quartz Mountain. That, along with some really good English teachers — in particular Karen Clark at Holland Hall — taught me a lot about writing. I continued to study writing at Brown. And then, when I got to Juilliard, I just kind of missed schoolwork. … I missed the academic rigors that my undergraduate years had afforded me. So I started writing plays for my classmates and me.

When you were writing your first plays — “Cyrus,” “Eye of God,” “The Grey Zone” — some of which went on to be adapted into screenplays and made into films by you, did you initially imagine them as stage productions or cinema pieces?

Originally I was writing them as stage plays. I didn’t think I’d ever have much success as a film actor. I imagined I would be a New York stage actor and that I would write for the theater. I guess I just read the cards wrong. I started to get film work … and some television. But it was the film industry that really took an interest in me. I think it’s just because movies need faces that have texture and, um — I don’t know — slight deformities.

Oh, come now. You’re just trying to say they want character.

Yeah. They’re trying to reflect the essence of real life in a very stylized and enormous way. That screen is very big. I had always labored under the assumption that you had to be pretty or super handsome to be in movies; that’s actually not really the case. They’re much more interested in odd-looking characters than pretty faces for most of the good roles. I never wanted to play leads anyway. Character parts are always more interesting.

What was it like the first time you saw your face 30 feet tall on a movie screen?

I generally just thought I had a lot to learn … and I continue to think that. Whenever I watch myself in films, I’m generally thinking about how I could have done it better.

Does your work as a sought-after character actor help fund your career as a writer/director of indie projects?

That has been the case in the past … but I’m not sure that’s necessarily true anymore. The way the economics of the film industry are working right now, I think maybe the next project I do as a writer/director will help fund my acting. It oscillates back and forth. The movie industry right now is actually trying to figure out how to sustain itself. That’s impacted what actors are paid in a very dramatic way.

Is that scary for you or are you interested in the challenge of it all?

I don’t get scared much anymore because I’ve diversified my career to the extent where I always know I’m gonna have remunerative work. If I’m not working as an actor, I’m writing. And even when I’m working as an actor, I’m writing. No matter what happens to the film industry, as long as movies are being made, they need scripts and directors. This is all to say one thing: Learning how to write has made a huge difference for me. It’s allowed me to be very patient with the acting work.

You’ve got a wife and kids and a busy career as an actor, and yet you seem quite prolific with your writing and independent film projects. Describe your creative process — do you literally make time to write every day?

Oh, without question. Not so much on the weekends because the kids are home, but I write every weekday. I get the kids off to school and then I’m at the computer.

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Archive »You Might Like

Worth a LOOK

This summer, the newly renamed LOOK Musical Theatre offers a diverse slate of modern musicals.

Add your comment:

 

Get the best in arts, entertainment and more straight to your inbox.

Join our email list

Edit ModuleShow Tags

November 2017

Over the past twelve years, the Williams Route 66 Marathon has become a 26.2-mile party! You might find yourself asking "Is this a race or really just a huge...

Cost: Varies

Where:
Cox Business
100 Civic Center
Tulsa, OK  74103
View map »


Telephone: 918-408-1208
Contact Name: Ally Lightle
Website »

More information

This marks the first time this remarkable collection has been exhibited internationally. OKCMOA will present some of the most important works from the Victoria and Albert’s outstanding...

Cost: Free with admission

Where:
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
415 Couch Dr.
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Website »

More information

Opening to the public on Thursday, Nov. 16, the 110th anniversary of Oklahoma statehood, “The Art of Oklahoma” celebrates the Museum’s outstanding and...

Cost: Free with admission

Where:
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
415 Couch Dr.
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Website »

More information

This marks the first time this remarkable collection has been exhibited internationally. OKCMOA will present some of the most important works from the Victoria and Albert’s outstanding...

Cost: Free with admission

Where:
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
415 Couch Dr.
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Website »

More information

Open House Celebration   Joys to the World, Inc is NOW a 501(c)3! It is a mindfulness program for individuals with severe/profound multiple exceptional needs and their family....

Cost: FREE

Where:
Wyndham Hotel
10918 E. 41st St
Tulsa, OK  74146
View map »


Sponsor: JOYs to the World, Inc.
Telephone: 918-282-3191
Contact Name: Jenny Joy
Website »

More information

Open House Celebration   Joys to the World, Inc is NOW a 501(c)3! It is a mindfulness program for individuals with severe/profound multiple exceptional needs and their family....

Cost: FREE

Where:
Wyndham Hotel
10918 E. 41st St
Tulsa, OK  74146
View map »


Sponsor: JOYs to the World, Inc.
Telephone: 918-282-3191
Contact Name: Jenny Joy
Website »

More information

  The Harry Potter™ film series is one of those once-in-a-lifetime cultural phenomena that continues to delight millions of fans around the world. The concert will feature the Tulsa...

Cost: $45-$90

Where:
Tulsa Performing Arts Center
110 E 2nd St
Tulsa, OK  74103
View map »


Sponsor: Tulsa Symphony
Telephone: 918-584-3645
Contact Name: Amy Roark
Website »

More information

join us friday november 3rd for our newest exhibit.   Norman artist JASON CYTACKI and his exquisite exhibit, 'Living is Easy with Eyes Closed'   we'll have live music with...

Cost: free

Where:
mainline art bar
111 n main street
tulsa, OK  74103
View map »


Sponsor: mainline art bar
Telephone: 918-704-3330
Contact Name: katy eagleston

More information

Working in large-scale paper and graphite collages, Mark Lewis, Applied Associate Professor at the University of Tulsa, builds up layers of paper to create highly dimensional urban landscapes,...

Cost: Free Admission

Where:
108 Contemporary
108 E Mathew B. Brady St
Tulsa, OK  74103
View map »


Sponsor: 108 Contemporary
Telephone: 918-895-6302
Contact Name: 108 Contemporary Intern
Website »

More information

Big Fish is a story that shifts between two timelines.  In the present-day real world, sixty-year-old Edward Bloom faces his mortality while his son Will prepares to become a father himself....

Cost: $10

Where:
VanTrease PACE
10300 E. 81st Street
Tulsa, OK  74133
View map »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

This marks the first time this remarkable collection has been exhibited internationally. OKCMOA will present some of the most important works from the Victoria and Albert’s outstanding...

Cost: Free with admission

Where:
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
415 Couch Dr.
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Website »

More information

This marks the first time this remarkable collection has been exhibited internationally. OKCMOA will present some of the most important works from the Victoria and Albert’s outstanding...

Cost: Free with admission

Where:
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
415 Couch Dr.
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Website »

More information

Opening to the public on Thursday, Nov. 16, the 110th anniversary of Oklahoma statehood, “The Art of Oklahoma” celebrates the Museum’s outstanding and...

Cost: Free with admission

Where:
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
415 Couch Dr.
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Website »

More information

All children ages 13 and under, accompanied by an adult, will be allowed in to all 2017-18 ORU Athletics ticketed sports. ALL KIDS – IT’S FREE! is strictly a promotion. These tickets have no...

Cost: $12, $17, $22

Where:
Mabee Center
7777 S Lewis Ave.
Tulsa, OK  74171
View map »


Sponsor: Mabee Center
Telephone: 918-495-6000
Contact Name: Box Office
Website »

More information

join us friday november 3rd for our newest exhibit.   Norman artist JASON CYTACKI and his exquisite exhibit, 'Living is Easy with Eyes Closed'   we'll have live music with...

Cost: free

Where:
mainline art bar
111 n main street
tulsa, OK  74103
View map »


Sponsor: mainline art bar
Telephone: 918-704-3330
Contact Name: katy eagleston

More information

Come give those calories one last dance!  We dance in the park behind Jenks Nutrition.  But don't worry, we'll move inside if the weather gets bad.  For $5, you get a fun...

Cost: $5.00

Where:
Jenks Nutrition
124 N 3rd St
Jenks, OK  74037
View map »

More information

Cost: $8

Where:
Mabee Center
7777 S Lewis Ave
Tulsa, OK
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

This marks the first time this remarkable collection has been exhibited internationally. OKCMOA will present some of the most important works from the Victoria and Albert’s outstanding...

Cost: Free with admission

Where:
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
415 Couch Dr.
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Website »

More information

Opening to the public on Thursday, Nov. 16, the 110th anniversary of Oklahoma statehood, “The Art of Oklahoma” celebrates the Museum’s outstanding and...

Cost: Free with admission

Where:
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
415 Couch Dr.
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Website »

More information

This marks the first time this remarkable collection has been exhibited internationally. OKCMOA will present some of the most important works from the Victoria and Albert’s outstanding...

Cost: Free with admission

Where:
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
415 Couch Dr.
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Website »

More information

Join us on Tuesday, November 21, at 5:30 p.m. in our dining room as the Culinary team from Cancer Treatment Centers of America warms you up with your favorite winter dishes! For more information or...

Cost: Free

Where:
Cancer Treatment Center of America
10109 E. 79th Street
Tulsa, OK  74133
View map »

More information

join us friday november 3rd for our newest exhibit.   Norman artist JASON CYTACKI and his exquisite exhibit, 'Living is Easy with Eyes Closed'   we'll have live music with...

Cost: free

Where:
mainline art bar
111 n main street
tulsa, OK  74103
View map »


Sponsor: mainline art bar
Telephone: 918-704-3330
Contact Name: katy eagleston

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

This marks the first time this remarkable collection has been exhibited internationally. OKCMOA will present some of the most important works from the Victoria and Albert’s outstanding...

Cost: Free with admission

Where:
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
415 Couch Dr.
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Website »

More information

This marks the first time this remarkable collection has been exhibited internationally. OKCMOA will present some of the most important works from the Victoria and Albert’s outstanding...

Cost: Free with admission

Where:
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
415 Couch Dr.
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Website »

More information

Opening to the public on Thursday, Nov. 16, the 110th anniversary of Oklahoma statehood, “The Art of Oklahoma” celebrates the Museum’s outstanding and...

Cost: Free with admission

Where:
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
415 Couch Dr.
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Website »

More information

Come see how Tulsa offers a 'home away from home' for families caring for loved ones in medical crisis at Hospitality House of Tulsa. This free 30 minute tour is free. RSVP at...

Cost: free

Where:
Hospitality House of Tulsa
1135 S. Victor AVE
Tulsa, OK  74104
View map »


Sponsor: Hospitality House of Tulsa
Telephone: 918-794-0088 x205
Contact Name: Rhonda McDaniel
Website »

More information

join us friday november 3rd for our newest exhibit.   Norman artist JASON CYTACKI and his exquisite exhibit, 'Living is Easy with Eyes Closed'   we'll have live music with...

Cost: free

Where:
mainline art bar
111 n main street
tulsa, OK  74103
View map »


Sponsor: mainline art bar
Telephone: 918-704-3330
Contact Name: katy eagleston

More information

Come give those calories one last dance!  We dance in the park behind Jenks Nutrition.  But don't worry, we'll move inside if the weather gets bad.  For $5, you get a fun...

Cost: $5.00

Where:
Jenks Nutrition
124 N 3rd St
Jenks, OK  74037
View map »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

This marks the first time this remarkable collection has been exhibited internationally. OKCMOA will present some of the most important works from the Victoria and Albert’s outstanding...

Cost: Free with admission

Where:
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
415 Couch Dr.
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Website »

More information

This marks the first time this remarkable collection has been exhibited internationally. OKCMOA will present some of the most important works from the Victoria and Albert’s outstanding...

Cost: Free with admission

Where:
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
415 Couch Dr.
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Website »

More information

Opening to the public on Thursday, Nov. 16, the 110th anniversary of Oklahoma statehood, “The Art of Oklahoma” celebrates the Museum’s outstanding and...

Cost: Free with admission

Where:
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
415 Couch Dr.
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Website »

More information

join us friday november 3rd for our newest exhibit.   Norman artist JASON CYTACKI and his exquisite exhibit, 'Living is Easy with Eyes Closed'   we'll have live music with...

Cost: free

Where:
mainline art bar
111 n main street
tulsa, OK  74103
View map »


Sponsor: mainline art bar
Telephone: 918-704-3330
Contact Name: katy eagleston

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

This marks the first time this remarkable collection has been exhibited internationally. OKCMOA will present some of the most important works from the Victoria and Albert’s outstanding...

Cost: Free with admission

Where:
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
415 Couch Dr.
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Website »

More information

Get out with the family for a walk. Pick up a Signs of Fall Scavenger Hunt sheet and see how many things you can find on the Garden’s nature trail. Tulsa Botanic Garden is open Tuesday...

Cost: FREE for Garden members; $8 for ages 13+; $4 for ages 3–12; 2 & under are free.

Where:
Tulsa Botanic Garden
3900 Tulsa Botanic Drive
Tulsa, OK  74127
View map »


Sponsor: Tulsa Botanic Garden
Telephone: 918-289-0330
Website »

More information

Opening to the public on Thursday, Nov. 16, the 110th anniversary of Oklahoma statehood, “The Art of Oklahoma” celebrates the Museum’s outstanding and...

Cost: Free with admission

Where:
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
415 Couch Dr.
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Website »

More information

This marks the first time this remarkable collection has been exhibited internationally. OKCMOA will present some of the most important works from the Victoria and Albert’s outstanding...

Cost: Free with admission

Where:
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
415 Couch Dr.
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Website »

More information

join us friday november 3rd for our newest exhibit.   Norman artist JASON CYTACKI and his exquisite exhibit, 'Living is Easy with Eyes Closed'   we'll have live music with...

Cost: free

Where:
mainline art bar
111 n main street
tulsa, OK  74103
View map »


Sponsor: mainline art bar
Telephone: 918-704-3330
Contact Name: katy eagleston

More information

Celebrate this Christmas with the experience taking North America by storm! Marking the 25th Anniversary Tour, Moscow Ballet’s Great Russian Nutcracker features over-the-top production...

Cost: $28 - $175

Where:
Mabee Center
7777 S Lewis Ave
Tulsa, OK  74171
View map »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Come give those calories one last dance!  We dance in the park behind Jenks Nutrition.  But don't worry, we'll move inside if the weather gets bad.  For $5, you get a fun...

Cost: $5.00

Where:
Jenks Nutrition
124 N 3rd St
Jenks, OK  74037
View map »

More information

This marks the first time this remarkable collection has been exhibited internationally. OKCMOA will present some of the most important works from the Victoria and Albert’s outstanding...

Cost: Free with admission

Where:
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
415 Couch Dr.
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Website »

More information

Get out with the family for a walk. Pick up a Signs of Fall Scavenger Hunt sheet and see how many things you can find on the Garden’s nature trail. Tulsa Botanic Garden is open Tuesday...

Cost: FREE for Garden members; $8 for ages 13+; $4 for ages 3–12; 2 & under are free.

Where:
Tulsa Botanic Garden
3900 Tulsa Botanic Drive
Tulsa, OK  74127
View map »


Sponsor: Tulsa Botanic Garden
Telephone: 918-289-0330
Website »

More information

This marks the first time this remarkable collection has been exhibited internationally. OKCMOA will present some of the most important works from the Victoria and Albert’s outstanding...

Cost: Free with admission

Where:
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
415 Couch Dr.
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Website »

More information

Opening to the public on Thursday, Nov. 16, the 110th anniversary of Oklahoma statehood, “The Art of Oklahoma” celebrates the Museum’s outstanding and...

Cost: Free with admission

Where:
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
415 Couch Dr.
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Website »

More information

Come by for our open house! We’ll have lots of fun for everyone: Face painting by Karen Refreshments Stained Glass Demonstrations Open workshop space for past students and it’s all FREE!...

Cost: Free

Where:
Tulsa Stained Glass
4131 S. Sheridan Rd.
Tulsa, OK  74145
View map »


Sponsor: Tulsa Stained Glass
Telephone: 918-664-8604
Contact Name: Richard Bohm
Website »

More information

All children ages 13 and under, accompanied by an adult, will be allowed in to all 2017-18 ORU Athletics ticketed sports. ALL KIDS – IT’S FREE! is strictly a promotion. These tickets have no...

Cost: $12, $17, $22

Where:
Mabee Center
7777 S Lewis Ave.
Tulsa, OK  74171
View map »


Sponsor: Mabee Center
Telephone: 918-495-6000
Contact Name: Box Office
Website »

More information

join us friday november 3rd for our newest exhibit.   Norman artist JASON CYTACKI and his exquisite exhibit, 'Living is Easy with Eyes Closed'   we'll have live music with...

Cost: free

Where:
mainline art bar
111 n main street
tulsa, OK  74103
View map »


Sponsor: mainline art bar
Telephone: 918-704-3330
Contact Name: katy eagleston

More information

The Oklahoma Swing Syndicate (TOSS) hosts a Swing dance and lessons  The Oklahoma Swing Syndicate (TOSS) is the only UNESCO recognized dance organization in Oklahoma.  We are a 501c3...

Cost: $7

Where:
Community Center - South Minister Presby Church
3500 So Peoria
1/2 west of Peoria, on 35pl behind the church
Tulsa, OK  74102
View map »


Sponsor: The Ok Swing Syndicate
Telephone: 918-450-691
Contact Name: Rita Robbins
Website »

More information

Making plans for this weekend? You can't do better than The Drunkard & The Olio at the historic Spotlight Theater. You know you've always wanted to go, and now's your chance. And if...

Cost: Adults $20, kids $12, seniors & military $17

Where:
Spotlight Theater
1381 Riverside Dr.
Tulsa, OK  74127
View map »

More information

Cost: $15-$50

Where:
H.A. Chapman Stadium
3110 E 8th St
Tulsa, OK
View map »


Website »

More information

Cost: $8

Where:
Mabee Center
7777 S Lewis Ave
Tulsa, OK
View map »


Website »

More information

Cost: $15-$44

Where:
Reynolds Center
3208 E 8th St
Tulsa, OK
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
Edit ModuleEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

TULtalk


QUIZ: What kind of wedding cake are you?

Which of these locally made wedding cakes speaks to your soul?

Comments

Cyntergy Hurtland brings tailgating fun to town

November 12, compete in fun Parkathlon activities while cheering on Cyntergy Hurtland cyclists.

Comments

6 reasons to live downtown

In preparation for Dwell in the IDL, I chatted with a few downtown residents to see what makes the burgeoning area so livable.

Comments

Money mind

Financial considerations to help reduce stress, anxiety

Comments

Charitable Events: November 2017

This month's fundraisers and fun happenings

Comments