Mike Nichols spent his life shaping modern comedy through stage and screen. Long before he directed his brilliant films, he was performing comedy on stage with his comedy partner Elaine May. Subversive, sexy, eccentric, and fresh, they did sketches and characters that had audiences lining up around the block. Later Nichols went on to direct some of the greatest dark comedies in film history. He was a brilliant man and his death is a tremendous loss to the comedy world, but fortunately he leaves his great work behind. Film star Danny Aiello never got to work with Mike Nichols but always wished he had. He spoke with us about what Mike meant to him.
I wish I had been directed by Mike because he was one of the greats,in film and on stage. The closest I came, he chose me to replace Harvey Keitel on broadway in Hurly Burly. I almost quit when I was told Mike was unable to direct me, he had another commitment. I wanted to leave but decided to stay, and I was directed by the stage manager. A month later Mike came backstage after seeing one of my performances and said “Danny you were great!” my response, “Imagine how good I could have been, if you directed me”.
He smiled, a beautiful smile. He will be missed, but never forgotten.
More on Mike Nichols. Read film journalist Lesley Coffin’s remembrance of Mike Nichols. Watch Mike’s filmography. More on Danny Aiello. Danny has an amazing new book out, talking about his career in film, “I Only Know Who I Am When I’m Somebody Else.” Follow his newest projects at dannyaiello.com.