Trixie writer-director Alan Rudolph has found the perfect collaborator in

Nick Nolte — an actor who knows how to deliver the goods and do it cheaply.

"Nick is this guy who was making seven figures and was probably the first male actor to get into that category, and then he turns his back on it," Rudolph, who previously worked with the actor on Afterglow and Breakfast of Champions, tells TV Guide Online. "Afterglow was a decidedly low-budget movie and he worked for a tenth of what his normal salary was. And then the next movie we do is Breakfast of Champions [and] he works for a third of what he did on Afterglow. And now we do Trixie and he works for a third of what he did on Breakfast!"

"Bruce Willis told me this about Nolte: he's the most influential actor working today because he turned his back on the basic franchise," adds Rudolph. "Nick decided that his real chances and real interests and challenges came by not doing Hollywood movies."

Maybe Nolte just enjoys the freedom of working on a Rudolph set. According to Trixie co-star Brittany Murphy, the laid-back director managed to keep his cool even when one of the movie's stars broke out into unscripted laughter during a pivotal scene.

"He makes this environment that's so conducive to creating that it's okay to do whatever you feel and somehow you patch it all together so that it all works and if you crack up you're supposed to," says Murphy. "And there is no 'supposed to' and 'not supposed to.' It all sort of works together."