About theater Mike Nichols has said, “There are only three kinds of scenes: negotiations, seductions and fights. I’m finished. That’s all.” All scenes, Nichols continues in “Becoming Mike Nichols” come into one of those three categories.
This blog isn’t a review. But theater lovers who do tune in to the documentary, currently on various HBO stations and available on demand as well, will learn a lot. It’s filled with delightful bon mots, and leaves us wanting more.
Filmed during two nights at Broadway’s John Golden Theater — one with an audience and one without — theater director Jack O’Brien asks questions, often from a director’s point of view of how and why Nichols made certain choices, such as insisting Richard Burton appear opposite his then-wife Elizabeth Taylor in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolff,” and why he shot her through the screen door in one scene. And how Burton, drunk, finally delivered a perfect “Bergin” speech after numerous misfires. And that scene is shown in its entirety.
Also, Nichols explains what he was trying to tell us in the final scene of “The Graduate” when he leaves the camera running on Dustin Hoffman and Katharine Ross at the back of the bus.
And why he thinks “The Odd Couple” is Neil Simon’s best play
That when he got his first job directing a film — “Virginia Wolff,” can you believe that? — he contacted his friend Anthony Perkins asking him questions, such as how when the door opens and people enter the room it doesn’t hit the camera. “Lenses,” Perkins replies, something Nichols said he knew nothing about. Perkins also advised there wasn’t anything he couldn’t learn from watching George Stevens “A Place in the Sun.” He learned fast: “Wolff” earned 13 Academy Award nominations.
I love that kind of stuff.
To watch the documentary on demand or find times it will air on HBO, click here.