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UPDATED 12/02/1996 at 01:00 AM EST Originally published 12/02/1996 at 01:00 AM EST

>Brawley Nolte


IT MAY BE PREMATURE TO SAY THAT HE stands at a career crossroads, but Brawley Nolte, the 10-year-old son of actor Nick, admits he's in something of a quandary. Although he has two films in current release—Mother Night, in which he plays the senior Nolte's younger self, and Ransom, in-which he plays Mel Gibson and Rene Russo's kidnapped son—he is wary of child stardom. He's not sure, he says, whether "I want to be an actor or a scientist."

It's not that he doesn't have any fun on the set. One day while shooting Ransom, for example, he came to work with a can of a gooey substance called Gak—and a plan to gross out Russo. "I pretended to sneeze in front of Rene," he says. "And I had Gak hanging out of my nose." But some aspects of his three-month shoot in New York City earlier this year proved trying. "Being away from home was the toughest thing in my life," says Brawley, an only child who lives with his mom, model Rebecca Linger, 37, in Fort Lauderdale. "I missed my friends at school."

So much so that when Disney executives asked him to attend the film's premiere in Los Angeles last month, Brawley declined. "They wanted him to go, but he didn't want to miss his Halloween party," says his father, Nick, 56, who separated from Linger after 10 years of marriage in 1994—they later divorced—but still maintains a house nearby, as well as one in Malibu. "I honestly don't know if he even wants to continue acting or not. It is entirely up to him. I'll support him either way."

Now, as his movies play on screens across America, Brawley is back to doing all the things fifth graders do. Life is good, but Ransom director Ron Howard hopes the kid stays in pictures. "Brawley didn't seem like a windup actor who is on autopilot. He really stood out from the other kid actors," says Howard. "Brawley has a real laconic quality." Sounds like another Nolte we know.

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