Mike Nichols

Mike Nichols
Mike Nichols
  • Born: November 6, 1931
  • Died: November 19, 2014
  • Nationality: German
  • Profession: Film Director, Theatre Director, Film Producer, Actor, Comedian

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Mike Nichols was an American film and theater director, producer, actor, and comedian. He was noted for his ability to work across a range of genres and an aptitude for getting the best out of actors regardless of their acting experience. Nichols began his career in the 1950s with the comedy improvisational troupe, The Compass Players, predecessor of The Second City, in Chicago. He then teamed up with his improv partner, Elaine May, to form the comedy duo Nichols and May. Their live improv acts were a hit on Broadway resulting in three albums, with their debut album winning a Grammy Award.

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A great thing is happening on cable TV. You see characters change in stories over years, like in Tolstoy. That's a whole, thrilling new form that I really enjoy. They are Tolstoy-an in their endless character development and narrative changes... a show like 'Breaking Bad' is astonishing.
A movie is like a person. Either you trust it or you don't. Trust
A play, after all, is a mystery. There's no narration. And as soon as there's no narration, it's open to interpretation. It must be interpreted. You don't have a choice... Each play can become many things.
All movies are pure process. A commercial movie isn't less process than an art movie. You can't make your decisions about a film on the basis of, 'Is it important enough? Is it serious enough?' It's either alive or it's not for me. If it's alive, I want to do it. Arts, Culture, Entertainment & Lifestyle
All the theories that acting is reacting to imaginary circumstances as though they are real, and directing is turning psychology into behavior, those are all stabs at something that can't be taught. All the great actors can't talk about what they do, and they don't want to begin to talk about it. They just do it.
American society to me and my brother was thrilling because, first of all, the food made noise. We were so excited about Rice Krispies and Coca-Cola. We had only silent food in our country, and we loved listening to our lunch and breakfast. Society ;Nutrition, Food, Starvation, Farming & Agriculture
Any good movie is filled with secrets.
As a director, my job is, and always has been, divided into a number of things: dealing with the crew, the money and the studio, and the marketing and publicity. These are all different jobs that have to be learned and done as well as possible. The celebrity part rarely touches a director. Money, Coins & Minting
As a little kid in a sometimes hard place, I went to the movies as often as I could. Movies - making them, seeing them - is not something that could ever lose its pleasure for me. That puts them on a short list of things that eternally give me joy - love, family, food, movies. Love, Romance, Marriage & Sex ;Families, Children & Parenting ;Nutrition, Food, Starvation, Farming & Agriculture
Being with an insanely jealous person is like being in the room with a dead mammoth.
'Catch-22' was a nightmare to make, and everybody was unhappy except me.
Chicago is not a very fashion-driven place. Nobody says, 'Oh, you've got to come see these fabulous people!' Nobody cares.
Clay Aiken is amazing beyond that glorious voice. Turns out he is an excellent comic actor and a master of character.
Comedy is brutal. It's powerful, though.
Directing is mystifying. It's a long, long, skid on an icy road, and you do the best you can trying to stay on the road... If you're still here when you come out of the spin, it's a relief. But you've got to have the terror if you're going to do anything worthwhile.
Everybody wants to be known. Everybody's a Kardashian.
Fear of comedy is all so much about who you do it with.
For a director, a musical is a special kind of hell.
Here's the most mysterious thing to me. I look back at those first plays I did and the first movies I did, and I only have one question, which is, 'What was I so confident about? Where did I get that? Arts, Culture, Entertainment & Lifestyle
I am drawn to the mystery of marriage. You can never know what the contract is between two people, and that is a very strong subject. I think it may be my subject. Families, Children & Parenting
I asked a shrink: 'Everything is so great. Why am I still so angry?' He said, 'Anger doesn't go away.' I always thought it was kind of a good engine.
I believed early and still believe that everybody who can act can do it already, just they don't know how and don't want to talk about it.
I came to love silence, because it's so rare, and it's now my favorite aural condition. Love, Romance, Marriage & Sex
I don't expect anything from reviews. Sometimes I am bemused by them.
I don't know that a political climate - as long as it's still a free country - makes much difference in the film world.
I had a high school girlfriend whose mother gave us theater tickets, so I saw the second night performance of 'A Streetcar Named Desire.' My girl and I could not get up during intermission, we were so stunned. To this day it's the only thing I've seen on stage that's 100 percent real and 100 percent poetic simultaneously.
I keep coming back to it, over and over - adultery and cheating. It's the most interesting problem in the theater. How else do you get Oedipus? That's the first cheating in the theater.
I love to take actors to a place where they open a vein. That's the job. The key is that I make it safe for them to open the vein. Love, Romance, Marriage & Sex
I loved all movies, literally. I certainly loved 'Shane' and 'Roxie Hart.' Later on, when I was less of a kid, I loved 'L'Avventura' and 'Persona' and all Fellini movies and like everybody else I loved John Ford. Then and now, I loved Preston Sturges, maybe above anyone. Arts, Culture, Entertainment & Lifestyle
I never understand when people say, 'Do you do comedy or tragedy?' I don't think they're very much different. They both have to be true, and there isn't a great play in the world that doesn't have funny parts to it - as 'Salesman' does, as 'King Lear' does. The whole idea is to reflect life in some way, which means surely you have to have both. Life ;Humor
I still think that luck is what a lot of the good things come from. It's simply the luck of where you are, when.
I think a director can make a play happen before your eyes so that you are part of it and it is part of you. If you can get it right, there's no mystery. It's not about mystery. It's not even mysterious. It's about our lives.
I think that to make something alive, instead of on a page, is an honorable task. And it turns me on.
I think the main thing about comedy and humor is that it's impossible and always was impossible to define. Humor
I used to say that winning the Oscar means being back at the Beverly Hills Hotel at 1 A.M. feeling empty. It's the industry voting. It doesn't come from God. It doesn't change your life, really. Life ;Religion & God
I was standing right behind Marilyn, completely invisible, when she sang 'Happy birthday, Mr. President.' And indeed, the corny thing happened: Her dress split for my benefit, and there was Marilyn, and yes, indeed, she didn't wear any underwear.
If you lose a parent, it never goes away. As a kid, I dreamed about my father coming back for 15 or 20 years. I still do sometimes.
If you want to be a legend, God help you, it's so easy. You just do one thing. You can be the master of suspense, say. But if you want to be as invisible as is practical, then it's fun to do a lot of different things. Religion & God
If you're fleeing Nazi Germany in 1939 and you're a Jew, you don't think so much about relationships. People didn't have a lot of divorces during the Holocaust, for instance.
I'm an enormous fan of 'The West Wing.' It was one of the very few shows I would watch every week.
I'm anything but confident.
I'm in the theater because of two plays: 'A Streetcar Named Desire' and 'Death of a Salesman.' Death
Improvisation has to do with exploring something like two brothers in a room together. You find out things about situations by discovering the things that they aren't saying. It's a way to explore scenes. Sometimes it's more useful than others, but it's always there to see if there's anything that you might improve.
In a weird way, when I was looking back, I didn't know I was going to be a director until I was.
It took me forever, learning improvisation, because I had studied with Lee Strasberg - I dropped out of Chicago and went to his classes in New York for a couple of years, once or twice a week. What I didn't realize was I was learning directing because he wasn't all that good about acting, not for me. Education, Learning, Knowledge & Training
It's not a film-maker's job to explain his technique, but to tell his story the best way he can.
It's the hardest thing on earth to like yourself, and then when you do, it's a catastrophe. I mean, the people I know who like themselves - I don't want to see them!
It's very weird about movies: you never know which ones are going to stay alive and which one are going to be meaningless. When you're there, you couldn't possibly predict it. Some things slowly die, and others slowly stay a while. Arts, Culture, Entertainment & Lifestyle
It's very, very corrupting to the spirit, doing comedy. And you have to be almost a saint, like Jack Benny was, like Steve Martin is, to avoid the corrupting of it, because there's very little work where the actual work and the reward are simultaneous, and comedy is that. Work, Workers & The Labor Force
I've learned that many of the worst things lead to the best things, that no great thing is achieved without a couple of bad, bad things on the way to them, and that the bad things that happen to you bring, in some cases, the good things.
Limitations are inspiring: they lead to thinking, so I don't mind them.
Most great plays of the past lose their grip on immediacy; on application to our lives right now.
My father wasn't too crazy about me. I loved him anyway. One of the things I regretted for a long time was that he died before he could see that he would be proud of me. I was actually more what he wished for than he thought. Time
My first memory in the world is my gym teacher ripping my mother's necklace off her neck and throwing it out the window and her running downstairs to go after it. I have no memory before that. I was 4. My father had a lot of girlfriends and my mother had a lot of boyfriends. Education, Learning, Knowledge & Training
Nerves provide me with energy... It's when I don't have them, when I feel at ease, that's when I get worried.
Never let people see what you want, because they will not let you have it. Never let anybody see what you feel, because it gives them too much power. You're probably better off not showing weakness whenever you can avoid it, because they'll go for you. Power
Oh my God, if I know anything, I know I'm gonna die! I never forget that. I know I'll be forgotten in a minute, and that's just fine with me. Religion & God
People, by and large, would rather be talking than listening.
Plays, especially great plays, yield their secrets over a long period of time. You can't read it three times and say, 'OK, I got it. I know what's happening.' Time
Stand-up comedy is a very hard thing on the spirit. There are people who transcend it, like Jack Benny and Steve Martin, but in its essence, it's soul-destroying. It tends to turn people into control freaks.
'Streetcar' is no longer about the moment at all. There is no Blanche DuBois anywhere; south, north, east or west. We don't have Blanche DuBois at the moment. But we have Willy Loman; everywhere we look we see Willy Loman. We are Willy Loman. We're on Facebook; we need to be known; we're selling all the time. Time
Technically, maybe I learned most of all from George Stevens, and among his movies I learned the most from 'A Place in the Sun.' It's a lesson in moviemaking. Arts, Culture, Entertainment & Lifestyle
That seems to me the great American danger we're all in, that we'll bargain away the experience of being alive for the appearance of it.
The degree to which you're peculiar and different is the degree to which you must learn to hear people thinking. Just in self-defense you have to learn, where is their kindness? Where is their danger? Where is their generosity?
The greatest thrill is that moment when a thousand people are sitting in the dark, looking at the same scene, and they are all apprehending something that has not been spoken. That's the thrill of it, the miracle - that's what holds us to movies forever. It's what we wish we could do in real life. Life ;Arts, Culture, Entertainment & Lifestyle
The only safe thing is to take a chance.
The producers want us to sell, sell, sell. That's my little joke. That's what we do by day; by night, we're artists.
The reason that most British actors are better than most American actors in the end is that they don't make any money. At the very end of their lives, they get into a space movie and they make a lot of money, but until that happens, basically, they don't have bank accounts. They live from day to day. Money, Coins & Minting
The reason you do this stuff - comedy, plays, movies - is to be seized by something, to disappear in the service of an idea. Arts, Culture, Entertainment & Lifestyle
The thing about being an outsider... is that it teaches you to hear what people are thinking because you're constantly looking for the people who just don't give a damn.
The thing is, as a film director, you're essentially alone: You have to tell a story primarily through pictures, and only you know the film you see in your head.
The things that you saw earlier in your life generally have more power than the things you saw last week. Life ;Power
The whole point about laughter is it's like mercury: you can't catch it, you can't catch what motivates it - that's why it's funny. Humor
There are absolutely almost perfect people who experience no guilt; they don't know what it is. They simply do what they need to do - or want to do - next. They see nothing wrong with it. They feel no guilt. They express no guilt. And it's not even certain what harm they do.
There's nothing better than discovering, to your own astonishment, what you're meant to do. It's like falling in love. Love, Romance, Marriage & Sex
There's nothing in the American dream about character. It's a serious flaw.
Things come in waves, and I'm always more interested in places like, for instance, Chicago, where people don't follow fashion. They're not galloping past your window on the way to the latest anything. They're living their lives. You do a play, they come and see it and say, 'That's nice', and then they go home.
Very often when a story really holds us, it gets pushed away because it's too close for comfort.
We are being entertained all the time - in the bathroom, on the train, in our beds. Sure, there is a smaller audience for theater. But we know from radio that entertainment never goes away, it just changes. And more power to it. Time ;Power
When we talk about reviews, what we are really talking about is just a market report - it's like reading about the new Lexus. You have to know what the guy writing the review cares about to understand his take. Does he like sports cars, or does he like Bentleys? Sports & Athletics
Whether something is a success or not has never had much to do with what you do next. Success
You can always tell gifted and highly intelligent people as they always turn to the past. Any young person who knows anything that happened before 1980, or 1990, or 2000 for that matter, is immediately someone who is intelligent, probably creative, maybe a writer. Nobody who is drawn to the past and learning about the past is not gifted. Education, Learning, Knowledge & Training
You could say that it's in talking movies that inner life begins to appear. You can see things happen to the faces of people that were neither planned nor rehearsed. Life ;Arts, Culture, Entertainment & Lifestyle
You want to make money, remake 'Cinderella.' You want to move people, remake the Hippolytus and Phaedra myth. Money, Coins & Minting

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