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John Forbes Nash defends himself on ''60 Minutes''

John Forbes Nash defends himself on ”60 Minutes.” Will his going public rehabilitate ”A Beautiful Mind”’s Oscar chances, asks Gary Susman?

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Mike Wallace, John Forbes Nash, ...
60 Minutes: CBS

John Forbes Nash defends himself on ”60 Minutes”

John Forbes Nash, the victim of a supposed smear campaign against him and the Oscar-nominated film about him, ”A Beautiful Mind,” got a chance to clear his name in a ”60 Minutes” interview Sunday night. Along with star Russell Crowe, director Ron Howard (both nominated), and biographer Sylvia Nasar, whose book inspired the film, Nash believes that some recent news reports have distorted controversial details of his life that were omitted from the movie. (These include his affair with nurse Eleanor Stier that resulted in an out-of-wedlock son, possible evidence of bisexuality, and anti-Semitic ravings he uttered and wrote at the height of his schizophrenia.)

”60 Minutes”’ Mike Wallace had approached the long-silent Nash with an interview request two months ago, but only as the current wave of unflattering stories was breaking did the 73-year-old Nobel Prize-winning mathematician agree to appear on the CBS show. Talking to Wallace, Nash and his family echoed the defense that Nasar had offered in a Los Angeles Times op-ed essay last week, when she said that his anti-Semitic remarks had been taken out of context, and that she had found no evidence that he’d ever had sex with another man. (However, her 1998 book did cite men who claimed Nash made ”sexual overtures” toward them, as well as detailing his George Michael-like arrest for indecent exposure in a public bathroom.)

Nash denied being an anti-Semite, though he acknowledged, ”I did have strange ideas during certain periods of time. It’s really my subconscious talking. It was really that. I know that now.” He also denied being gay but refused to elaborate, saying, ”I’ve learned that it’s better that I don’t talk about it.” Wife Alicia Nash backed him up, saying, ”I’ve known him since I was 20, and that’s just not true. I should know.” As for charges that he had abandoned his out-of-wedlock son, John David Stier, Nash said that he and his son are now close and that Stier received a share of the royalties from the movie. Of his son by Alicia — Johnny Nash, also a schizophrenic mathematician who lives with his parents — the elder Nash said, ”It’s almost as if a demon might have passed from one host to another.”

With most Academy members having mailed their ballots already, it’s doubtful that Nash’s ”60 Minutes” appearance will have any effect on the movie’s Oscar chances. But we’ll leave it to a master game theorist like Nash to calculate the odds in such a close competition.

What do you think of John Forbes Nash’s remarks?