Friday, November 21, 2014

Mr. Nichols

Director Mike Nichols passed away yesterday at the age of 83.  I heard the news on NPR as I was driving to work.  Interestingly, the first thing I thought of was Philip Seymour Hoffman, who died earlier this year. The men had collaborated on stage and screen, with Hoffman's great performance as CIA agent Gust Avrakotos in CHARLIE WILSON'S WAR so memorable. I pictured both of these artists to have similar methods and personalities.  Brilliant, maybe difficult sometimes.

CHARLIE WILSON'S WAR would be Nichols' swan song in 2007, capping a career of mostly excellent films,  including THE GRADUATE, CARNAL KNOWLEDGE, CLOSER, POSTCARDS FROM THE EDGE, ANGELS IN AMERICA, and many more. I've yet to see WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF?, his scorching debut.

Nichols was just as renowned for his stage work, recently mounting productions of Spamalot and Death of a Salesman.  Many younger fans may be unaware of his earlier days as 1/2 of the great comedy team of Nichols and (Elaine) May. Their brand of humor is sorely missed: comedy based more or characterization than jokes. Check out some YouTube clips; this is how it's done.

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