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Episode 02: Mike Nichols

Featuring Kyle Stevens

Mike Nichols portraitFrom the intro:
“In an interview with The Independent, Dustin Hoffman recently recounted his time working on a small movie back in the 60s: “it had a wonderful script that they spent three years on, and an exceptional director with an exceptional cast and crew, but it was a small movie, four walls and actors, that is all, and yet it was 100 days of shooting.” That movie was The Graduate, made for $3 million in 1967 by director Mike Nichols (1931-2014) and, given its weight as a cultural mainstay, is probably not thought as a small picture anymore. The Graduate launched Hoffman’s career and validated Nichols not only as an adept of the psychological drama, but a profitable one. A year before, he made a film adaptation of pitch black comedy Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, a film about the usually unspoken struggles of human relationships that would extend to nearly every film he’d make. Whether it be tales of war – 1970’s Catch-22 and 1988’s Biloxi Blues – tales of jealousy in Hollywood from 1990’s Postcards from the Edge, or tales of a publishing house editor-turned-werewolf in 1994’s Wolf ––– relationships in psychological turmoil set the foundation for a Nichols film.”

“Why don’t you leave me?… For God’s sake, I’d almost marry you if you’d leave me.”

– Jonathan in Carnal Knowledge

“No one has ever asked an actor, ‘You’re playing a strong-minded man…’ We assume that men are strong-minded, or have opinions. But a strong-minded woman is a different animal.”

– Meryl Streep

Guest Kyle Stevens currently teaches film studies at Colby College, and has contributed to The Film Experience, as well as academic journals Film Criticism, Cinema Journal, World Picture Journal, and Critical Quarterly. His book Mike Nichols: Sex, Language, and the Reinvention of Psychological Realism is now out via Oxford University Press.

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The painting above is John William Waterhouse’s Cleopatra (1887).


Title Year
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? 1966
The Graduate 1967
Teach Me! 1968
Catch-22 1970
Carnal Knowledge 1971
The Day of the Dolphins 1973
The Fortune 1975
Gilda Live 1980
Silkwood 1983
Heartburn 1986
Biloxi Blues 1988
Working Girl 1988
Postcards from the Edge 1990
Regarding Henry 1991
Wolf 1994
The Birdcage 1996
Primary Colors 1998
What Planet Are You From? 2000
Wit 2001
Angels in America 2003
Closer 2004
Charlie Wilson’s War 2007

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