Mike Nichols’s Life and Career: The Definitive Oral History
September 12, 2015 - accent chair
Over a years, both in museum and film, Nichols became famous as a actor’s director.
MERYL STREEP (actress, starred in Nichols’s Silkwood, Heartburn, Postcards from a Edge—for that she was nominated for an Academy Award—and Angels in America):
I consider Mike was so desired by his actors given he was an actor. Yes, yes, of march he had a executive jones and impression and panache; he knew how to set a theatre and pierce a camera, though what he was famous for, in my community, was how good he was during permitting a opening that he knew resided within someone and giving actors a space in that to recover it…. If he expel you, he devoted we to move it, and a usually square of instruction we ever remember him giving was: warn me.
ANNETTE BENING (actress, who seemed in Nichols’s films Postcards from a Edge, Regarding Henry, and What Planet Are You From?):
I remember when we initial started operative on [Regarding Henry], we was so nervous, thinking, Oh, my God, it’s Mike Nichols, it’s Harrison Ford—I’m a chairman who doesn’t know anything, and they know everything. And we remember a initial day we were operative and Mike was saying, You know, it’s amazing. No matter how many times we do this, we still have to overcome a same fears and nervousness. And we remember that unequivocally stranded in my conduct given we suspicion we was a chairman that was ostensible to be nervous, and we were a chairman that was, we know, all on tip of it and cool.
DUSTIN HOFFMAN: [When we were filming a hotel theatre in The Graduate], Mike said, Have we ever been nervous, unequivocally nervous—did we ever take a lady to a hotel? we pronounced no, we hadn’t. Have we ever been shaken about anything sexual? we said, Well, we remember—and it usually came to me—purchasing—we didn’t call them condoms; we called them rubbers, and a imagination word was prophylactics.
He said, O.K., let’s play a theatre like you’re removing a dozen prophylactics. And he strike it.
HANK AZARIA (actor, who seemed in Spamalot and The Birdcage):
He’d say, “No, no, dear boy”—by a way, he’s a usually chairman we know who could get divided with pursuit me “dear boy”—“dear boy, here’s how we’re going to do it.”
WHOOPI GOLDBERG (comedian, actress; Nichols constructed her dual Broadway shows):
Mike came to see a uncover we was doing during a Dance Theater Workshop, and one of a characters we did talks about Anne Frank. So he connected to it, and, in tears, pronounced to me, I’d like to benefaction we on Broadway, and we was like, O.K. A few months later, we said, Maybe this isn’t right. He said, Why not? we said, Well, what if we suck? You sucked before, right? we said, Yeah. So you’ll siphon on a bigger stage. He would never contend sucked.
TOM HANKS: If we had a four-hour operation report [for Charlie Wilson’s War], we’d spend 3 hours and 45 mins articulate about all underneath a sun, and for 15 mins we’d review a small bit. And afterwards when we would be carrying cooking in Morocco or a place like that, it would be a same thing: we’d have a five-and-a-half-hour review around a table, and though even meaningful it we were somehow commenting on a film and a work that we had finished that day and a work that we were going to do a subsequent day.
JULES FEIFFER: With Mike it was always about a work and never about his ego, never about his clarity of importance. It was about storytelling; it was about a relationships. It wasn’t about a laugh, though if we could get a good laugh, given not.
DAVID HYDE PIERCE (actor, who seemed in Spamalot):
He pronounced once we have figured out accurately how to get your laugh—he described it as your favorite cheep and turn—don’t do that. You could always do it again a subsequent night. It’s a biggest present we can ever give an actor given it frees we from ever saying, Oh, we didn’t get my giggle there. Sometimes we learn there’s a outrageous giggle dual lines after that never would’ve happened.
WHOOPI GOLDBERG: we would be in a center of rehearsing, and you’d hear this shrill sigh, and he would say, Are we going to keep talking? Because this square finished 5 mins ago and you’re still talking. And he was positively right.
ERIC IDLE: He could make grown group cry during notes, that we saw on a integrate occasions.
[On Spamalot] he’d still be giving records after 4 years on Broadway. “Get a expel in.”
EMMA THOMPSON: we consider that one of a many critical things he ever asked of all of us is: What’s a event? What’s indeed function here? And are we doing too much, something that’s totally unnecessary? “That’s a shawl on a hat,” he’d say.
HANK AZARIA: we was carrying difficulty in one theatre with Nathan [Lane, in a 1996 film The Birdcage], where I’m removing him prepared for a uncover and he’s refusing to go on. we said, Mike, we don’t know how to play this theatre given it’s unequivocally apparent that this energetic happens each time, though they’re treating it as if it’s a disaster. And Mike said, Your impression is partially formed on Judy Garland’s dresser. Judy would panic before each opening and her dresser would panic with her and he would panic some-more than her so that she’d have to be a one to tell him to ease down, and that was a protocol they had. And we was like, Brilliant! No other directors contend things like that to you, during slightest in my experience.
MATTHEW BRODERICK (actor, who seemed in Nichols’s 1988 film Biloxi Blues):
He was unequivocally actor-y and all that—you know, good notes. But infrequently he would usually make a face and tell we to make that face.
EMMA THOMPSON: He was good during casting, that my father, who also was a executive [Eric Thompson], pronounced is 90 percent of a job. He competence have been positively awful during directing some actors—he usually chose a ones he could direct.
JULES FEIFFER: He said, There’s a man named Nicholson in [the 1969 movie] Easy Rider—have we seen it? we pronounced no. So we went. we didn’t like a movie, and we didn’t like Jack Nicholson. Mike said, Trust me, he’s going to be a many critical actor given Brando, and we devoted him. And we disturbed if Candy Bergen [in Carnal Knowledge] was good enough, and he said, Trust me, and we devoted him.
Over and over again we would have my doubts, and over and over again he valid right.
STOCKARD CHANNING (actress, who seemed in Nichols’s 1975 film, The Fortune, and Heartburn):
I remember Mike and Jack [Nicholson] and we had supper, after [Nichols’s 2013 reconstruction of a Harold Pinter play] Betrayal, and we forsaken Jack off, and we common a automobile to a East Side, and we remember he referred to Jack; he said, He’s pristine gold. It chokes me adult given he meant that on each probable level. He unequivocally desired him, and it came out in that moment. I’ll never forget sitting in a behind of that automobile with Mike. He shook his head. It was as if he couldn’t trust that such a chairman existed.
DAVID HYDE PIERCE: The underlying summary of all his instruction is: You are enough. we don’t need some-more than you; we don’t need reduction than you. You’re enough.
TOM STOPPARD (playwright, who wrote The Real Thing, which Nichols destined on Broadway):
He was distinct many of us in a approach he usually invested totally in somebody he motionless was a good thing, possibly an actor or a author or a show. His unrestrained was total.
Maybe twice a week he would speak about some new chairman he’d seen behaving who was life-changingly good. He didn’t skimp in his praise.
BUCK HENRY (Nichols’s propagandize classmate, actor, screenwriter for The Graduate, Catch-22, and The Day of a Dolphin):
There were times when he would call in a center of a night to say, Have we seen so-and-so? It’s not open yet, though you’d improved go right divided and see it, that happened half a dozen times in a relationship.
2001: A Space Odyssey was one. He said, It’s a eremite experience—get to it.
BOB BALABAN: we got a feeling that when we was with him we could do anything. And I’m not an actor who quite feels they can do anything.
MERYL STREEP: we listened from a declare on a set of Working Girl that he was perplexing to get a unequivocally demure Melanie Griffith to feel gentle vacuuming semi-nude. He volunteered confidently: Meryl would do it. Ha!
ERIC IDLE: He could be brutally frank. We had one actor [in Spamalot]—we had to cut his large scene, and he went around groan and pissing and grumbling. Mike said, we see we have to give we my asshole speech. He said, Look, we can possibly be an asshole and leave or we can get with a group and know this is not about you. This is about creation a uncover better. And a man was poetic and darling ever after.
MICHAEL HALEY (assistant executive on several of Nichols’s films, including Working Girl, Angels in America, and Closer):
He could do some-more with a judgment to make we wish to find a hole to yield into than many guys could do with a gun or a sword.
But one time we called Mike and said, Barbra Streisand has been asked to do [the 1991 movie] The Prince of Tides. Do we have anything entrance up? No, no, go ahead. And then, during a final second, Mike calls and says, I’ve got something. And we said, But, Mike, I’m about to go. And he says, Who would we rather have insane during you, me or Barbra?
MATTHEW BRODERICK: One of a unequivocally meant things he would contend sincerely mostly was “Let’s do it again, though let’s fake it’s a genuine movie.”
HANNAH ROTH SORKIN: He was always like, Don’t hatred me. Please, don’t hatred me. Don’t be insane during me. That fear of someone being indignant during him was unequivocally big. And to still do what we need to do to get a formula we need to get is a good tension.
DAVID GEFFEN: Mike wasn’t a easiest man in a world, and he used to worry that there were times he hadn’t behaved. He remembered them all. And we used to contend to him, Give yourself a break, for Chrissake. You have this in common with humanity.
PAUL SIMON: Having gifted identical career arcs, we could contend this: it’s unequivocally tough when you’re in your mid-30s, with an unusual volume of celebrity and praise, to be nice.
I wasn’t unequivocally nice.
ERIC IDLE: And he always gimlet a grudge.
DAVID HYDE PIERCE: He was a large fan of genuine life. we remember him observant to us, If you’re using lines, and someone comes adult and interrupts we and says, Oh, I’m sorry, we didn’t comprehend we were using lines—that’s a biggest enrich we can ever get as an actor, he said. Because they suspicion we were usually talking.
ERIC IDLE: He would contend to a actors, You’ve got to take this seriously. If we don’t trust in it, given should a audience? And I’m sitting here going, Yeah, that creates a lot of sense, solely he’s giving records [for Spamalot] on a Knights Who Say Ni!
STEVE MARTIN: Mike told me once, You always aim high in something low.
TOM STOPPARD: we was sitting in a stalls, and a stagehand walked in with a chair in possibly hand, and he shouted to Mike, Which chair? And Mike now said, That one, indicating a one in his left hand. As a man walked off, we was thinking, Christ, I’ll never be a director. The chairs weren’t that different, we know, and we said, What was it about that chair? He said, Nothing, we usually have to answer instantly—you can change your mind later.
WALLACE SHAWN (actor, playwright, who wrote The Designated Mourner):
[When Mike seemed as an actor in David Hare’s 1997 movie, The Designated Mourner], he not usually never missed a operation though he was never late. He never said, Today we have to leave half an hour early given I’m compelling my film, or we have an critical phone call. He usually was a totally mild actor.
Not ever did he say, Well, that’s wrong, or try to approach it himself.
MERYL STREEP: There is a square of film of him behaving in The Designated Mourner, Wally Shawn’s superb play. Mike suppressed it for years, went to good lengths to keep it out of dissemination here in a U.S. we don’t know why, maybe given he usually didn’t like to demeanour during himself—a lot of actors share this reluctance. It was so naked, positively riveting and upsetting and humorous and, well, usually like life. It’s adult there with a best things I’ve seen any actor do on film.