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Life Isn't Everything: Mike Nichols, as Remembered by 150 of His Closest Friends.

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An up close and personal portrait of a legendary filmmaker, theater director, and comedian, drawing on candid conversations with his closest friends in show business and the arts—from Dustin Hoffman and Meryl Streep to Natalie Portman and Lorne Michaels. The work of Mike Nichols pervades American cultural consciousness—from The Graduate and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? t An up close and personal portrait of a legendary filmmaker, theater director, and comedian, drawing on candid conversations with his closest friends in show business and the arts—from Dustin Hoffman and Meryl Streep to Natalie Portman and Lorne Michaels. The work of Mike Nichols pervades American cultural consciousness—from The Graduate and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? to Angels in America, The Birdcage, Working Girl, and Primary Colors, not to mention his string of hit plays, including Barefoot in the Park and The Odd Couple. If that weren’t enough, he was also one half of the timelessly funny duo Nichols & May, as well as a founding member of the original improv troupe. Over a career that spanned half a century, Mike Nichols changed Hollywood, Broadway, and comedy forever. Most fans, however, know very little of the person behind it all. Since he never wrote his memoirs, and seldom appeared on television, they have very little sense of his searching intellect or his devastating wit. They don't know that Nichols, the great American director, was born Mikail Igor Peschkowsky, in Berlin, and came to this country, speaking no English, to escape the Nazis. They don't know that Nichols was at one time a solitary psychology student, or that a childhood illness caused permanent, life-altering side effects. They don't know that he withdrew into a debilitating depression before he "finally got it right," in his words, by marrying Diane Sawyer. Here, for the first time, Ash Carter and Sam Kashner offer an intimate look behind the scenes of Nichols' life, as told by the stars, moguls, playwrights, producers, comics and crewmembers who stayed loyal to Nichols for years. Life Isn't Everything is a mosaic portrait of a brilliant and original director known for his uncommon charm, wit, vitality, and genius for friendship, this volume is also a snapshot of what it meant to be living, loving, and making art in the 20th century.


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An up close and personal portrait of a legendary filmmaker, theater director, and comedian, drawing on candid conversations with his closest friends in show business and the arts—from Dustin Hoffman and Meryl Streep to Natalie Portman and Lorne Michaels. The work of Mike Nichols pervades American cultural consciousness—from The Graduate and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? t An up close and personal portrait of a legendary filmmaker, theater director, and comedian, drawing on candid conversations with his closest friends in show business and the arts—from Dustin Hoffman and Meryl Streep to Natalie Portman and Lorne Michaels. The work of Mike Nichols pervades American cultural consciousness—from The Graduate and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? to Angels in America, The Birdcage, Working Girl, and Primary Colors, not to mention his string of hit plays, including Barefoot in the Park and The Odd Couple. If that weren’t enough, he was also one half of the timelessly funny duo Nichols & May, as well as a founding member of the original improv troupe. Over a career that spanned half a century, Mike Nichols changed Hollywood, Broadway, and comedy forever. Most fans, however, know very little of the person behind it all. Since he never wrote his memoirs, and seldom appeared on television, they have very little sense of his searching intellect or his devastating wit. They don't know that Nichols, the great American director, was born Mikail Igor Peschkowsky, in Berlin, and came to this country, speaking no English, to escape the Nazis. They don't know that Nichols was at one time a solitary psychology student, or that a childhood illness caused permanent, life-altering side effects. They don't know that he withdrew into a debilitating depression before he "finally got it right," in his words, by marrying Diane Sawyer. Here, for the first time, Ash Carter and Sam Kashner offer an intimate look behind the scenes of Nichols' life, as told by the stars, moguls, playwrights, producers, comics and crewmembers who stayed loyal to Nichols for years. Life Isn't Everything is a mosaic portrait of a brilliant and original director known for his uncommon charm, wit, vitality, and genius for friendship, this volume is also a snapshot of what it meant to be living, loving, and making art in the 20th century.

30 review for Life Isn't Everything: Mike Nichols, as Remembered by 150 of His Closest Friends.

  1. 4 out of 5

    David

    This loving tribute will mainly be of interest to theater folk and those who hold director Nichols in high regard for his work in either theater or film, or both. I saw all of his films and more than a few of his stage productions - so, for me, this was a special treat. Unlike what the book's sub-title suggests, this isn't merely a collection of laudatory quotes from those who knew him best. It is *also* that but the artistry of editors Ash Carter and Sam Kashner makes the book read like a tradi This loving tribute will mainly be of interest to theater folk and those who hold director Nichols in high regard for his work in either theater or film, or both. I saw all of his films and more than a few of his stage productions - so, for me, this was a special treat. Unlike what the book's sub-title suggests, this isn't merely a collection of laudatory quotes from those who knew him best. It is *also* that but the artistry of editors Ash Carter and Sam Kashner makes the book read like a traditional biography. It's structured like one: the chapters follow the progression of his early life (not so much on that) through to the fullness of his career. More often than not, the remembrances are stitched together in such a way as to tell a complete story in each chapter. There's a lot of praise here for Nichols' unique talent but there's also a lot of sharp honesty about Nichols the man. Although he differed from Elia Kazan (one of the few directors who also divided his time between film and stage) in that he didn't tend to be confrontational with actors in order to get from them what he thought was their best, he was still very firm when it came to what he wanted. Nevertheless, he was well-known among actors for his immense and intense love of them; hundreds of quotes here attest to that. If he could also be "lethal" (esp. with his wit) in times of creative trouble, he tended to feel guilty about it shortly afterward (as many explain at length). In fact, in the latter part of his life, it seems that Nichols was on a mission to make amends to those he felt he had hurt professionally. As Tony Kushner remarks at one point: "I think his view of human beings in general is that we're all sinful and corruptible *and* completely delightful and wonderful, some of us more so than others. He didn't love everybody equally. But I think he saw human frailty and failure as being part of what makes people precious and dear, not as something to be despised or denied." Until reading this book, I was unaware of just how awful Nichols' start in life was and how much he had to overcome as a child through to being a young adult. As director Gregory Mosher states: "People who had traumatic childhoods build up walls around themselves. ...But Mike, while he may have those walls, has thousands of doors through the walls. And he marches in and out and invites people inside the walls constantly. So it's not that they aren't there, but they're porous, these walls. And he works hard to make them porous." This books overflows with (often hilarious) anecdotes and little-known-facts. (For example, we learn that, although 'The Graduate' - due to union rules - credits both Calder Willingham and Buck Henry with the screenplay, "it's all Buck's." Willingham's original script was rejected, Henry came in to rewrite it - without even reading what Willingham had done.) I very much enjoyed this breeze of a memorial. Nichols was a class act, in a class by himself.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Ron Pederson

    This was exeptional. Brilliantly organized and unpacked. A must for lovers of theatre and film. Amazing stories about an incredible mind and talent. All hail Mike Nichols.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Lynn

    Not a comprehensive biography but a collection of comments on Mike Nichols and people who knew him. It’s very entertaining and moving.

  4. 5 out of 5

    W. Whalin

    An Insightful Book about the Life of Mike Nichols Director Mike Nichols resisted writing a memoir or autobiography despite his remarkable life and amazing experiences. Nichols died in 2014 so the memoir opportunity disappeared. Authors Ash Carter and Sam Kashner instead wrote this book with insights from 150 of his friends. The result is a book with fascinating stories and full of insights. I’ve read numerous biographies and written a number as well—and I’ve never seen a book like LIFE ISN’T EVERY An Insightful Book about the Life of Mike Nichols Director Mike Nichols resisted writing a memoir or autobiography despite his remarkable life and amazing experiences. Nichols died in 2014 so the memoir opportunity disappeared. Authors Ash Carter and Sam Kashner instead wrote this book with insights from 150 of his friends. The result is a book with fascinating stories and full of insights. I’ve read numerous biographies and written a number as well—and I’ve never seen a book like LIFE ISN’T EVERYTHING. In some ways it is like gathering 150 people in a room and recording their thoughts and words about the life of Mike Nichols then piecing those conversations together into a cohesive biography—not how I assume it was actually done. The result is listening to well-known people talk about different aspects of Nichols life. The insights and stories are an incredible listening experience. I loved listening to LIFE ISN’T EVERYTHING and highly recommend it. W. Terry Whalin is an editor and the author of more than 60 books including his latest author of 10 Publishing Myths, Insights Every Author Needs to Succeed

  5. 5 out of 5

    Offbalance

    Hooked though I may be on so-called oral histories, "Life isn't everything" was more than that. I felt like I was privileged enough to go to the wake or shiva for Nichols, and spend time with his loved ones hearing the most incredible stories about his experiences and those connected to him. There's an anecdote about Robert Redford from around the time the Graduate was being cast that had me screaming with laughter. There were some glaring omissions, though - I can't believe the collectors/edito Hooked though I may be on so-called oral histories, "Life isn't everything" was more than that. I felt like I was privileged enough to go to the wake or shiva for Nichols, and spend time with his loved ones hearing the most incredible stories about his experiences and those connected to him. There's an anecdote about Robert Redford from around the time the Graduate was being cast that had me screaming with laughter. There were some glaring omissions, though - I can't believe the collectors/editors of this book didn't get anything from Elaine May or Diane Sawyer (two of his most significant female relationships). There were a lot of stories about these women, but I would have loved to hear from them firsthand. A small blemish on an otherwise fabulous collection, essential for any fan of film or theater.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Toni

    Very similar to the recently published biography but this one came out a few years before. Each chapter has blurbs or thoughts from friends and people he worked with on their memories. Includes pictures of family I hadn’t seen before.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Marsha Valance

    150 friends offer insights into this fascinating 20th century "Renaissance Man". 150 friends offer insights into this fascinating 20th century "Renaissance Man".

  8. 5 out of 5

    Kate Guinan

    Wonderful anecdotes from people that knew Mike Nichols, worked with him and cared about him. Lots of information, I didn't know. It makes me want to to go back and sit through his entire filmography. I wish I'd had the opportunity to see any of his stage productions. If you love movies, actors or theater, it's a treat. Wonderful anecdotes from people that knew Mike Nichols, worked with him and cared about him. Lots of information, I didn't know. It makes me want to to go back and sit through his entire filmography. I wish I'd had the opportunity to see any of his stage productions. If you love movies, actors or theater, it's a treat.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Tim Pinckney

    A great read. It's like being at a swell cocktail party, filled with funny, smart storytellers. A great read. It's like being at a swell cocktail party, filled with funny, smart storytellers.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Dennis Hogan

    Finished Life Isn't Everything: Mike Nichols, as remembered by 150 of his closest friends by Ash Carter & Sam Kashner, a terrific book about the legendary EGOT winner, that is an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony. I had no idea the breadth of Nichol’s talent. The friends quoted in the book paint a picture of a true artist and generous soul but not without the humanness we all possess. The Graduate, The Bird Cage, Primary Colors, Charley Wilson’s War are some of my favorite movies. He produced Annie o Finished Life Isn't Everything: Mike Nichols, as remembered by 150 of his closest friends by Ash Carter & Sam Kashner, a terrific book about the legendary EGOT winner, that is an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony. I had no idea the breadth of Nichol’s talent. The friends quoted in the book paint a picture of a true artist and generous soul but not without the humanness we all possess. The Graduate, The Bird Cage, Primary Colors, Charley Wilson’s War are some of my favorite movies. He produced Annie on Broadway and directed a number of classic plays like the original Barefoot in the Park and The Odd Couple; directed Angels in America for HBO and of course his breakthrough improv with Elaine May as Nichols and May. He gives as good an explanation of performance as I’ve ever heard in a Charley Rose interview on 4/5/2005 at the time Spamalot debuted on Broadway; check it out on You Tube. Brilliant book!

  11. 4 out of 5

    False

    An oral history on the life of Mike Nichols from his family, friends and co-workers. His wife is referenced but apparently did not participate in this book. I first read excerpts from this book in the magazine Vanity Fair when it came out. Despite his hard scrabble early childhood, fleeing Nazi Germany, he led a charmed life at the level he wanted (that of a prince,) and seemingly had success after success, working as he wished with the freedoms he wanted. He had loyal family and friends and the An oral history on the life of Mike Nichols from his family, friends and co-workers. His wife is referenced but apparently did not participate in this book. I first read excerpts from this book in the magazine Vanity Fair when it came out. Despite his hard scrabble early childhood, fleeing Nazi Germany, he led a charmed life at the level he wanted (that of a prince,) and seemingly had success after success, working as he wished with the freedoms he wanted. He had loyal family and friends and the utmost respect of his work community. Who could ask for more? Yet do we really understand the man? What if he had been thwarted in the way he set the tone on the movie sets where he worked, or the casting? He seemed to have deftly sidestepped the mundane pettiness most of us have to live with throughout our lives. His female friends adored him, calling themselves "Mike's wives." Men are divided into two groups,” a friend of Mike Nichols says on the first page of this book. “There are guys who want to be Babe Ruth, and there are guys who want to be Mike Nichols. That’s it.” Yes, that’s it, if you’re collecting Social Security. Younger men don’t know or care much about Babe Ruth; they barely remember Michael Jordan. And as for Mike Nichols, who died in long ago 2014… Mike who? Oh, he’s one of the elite, who won an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony — but can you name one thing he directed? “The Graduate.” Really? So. It is stipulated that Mike Nichols was famous for many of his 83 years. And that these are stories from his equally famous friends: Richard Burton, Paul Simon, Art Garfunkel, Whoopi Goldberg, Tony Kushner, Tom Hanks, Alec Baldwin, Robin Williams, Emma Thompson, and 90+ others in a who’s who of late 20th century show business. Stipulate also that although there is a long section about the Nichols-and-May years that launched his career, there is no contribution from Elaine May. And that the book skids over his three previous marriages and his three children, focusing instead on his fourth marriage, to Diane Sawyer. And that there is no mention of what a biography of Richard Avedon — "Avedon: Something Personal" — describes as Nichols’ secret 10-year affair with the photographer. Stipulate all those omissions, and you still get a book you can’t put down. Just for the account of an outsider who felt like an alien no matter how successful he became. Just for the sense that everything he had could be taken away in an instant. Many suspect they aren't alone in feeling that no matter how much they achieve they are never quite enough, which is why I think you’ll read this book non-stop. Yes, the show biz stories are great. But the pathology is the hook. Here’s the “Rosebud” of this life: He was born Mikhail Igor Peschkowsky in 1931 Berlin. This family fled Nazi Germany late — in 1939 — and changed their name in New York City. At 4, a reaction to vaccination for whooping cough caused him to suffer alopecia, which cost him every hair on his body and condemned him to a lifetime toupee. Yes, he was the first director to be paid a million dollars for a movie, and the first director to get 5 percent of a play’s gross. It was never enough. Some samples… DAVID HARE (playwright): Mike liked being Mike Nichols: very, very good at his job and known to be very, very good at his job. He got this tremendous sensual pleasure from being in America. He liked being king in his town. But underneath it, there was that sense that he’d come out of the midcentury catastrophe—that he’d managed to get out, and very few people had. EMANUEL AZENBERG (producer): It would be presumptuous to try to figure out Mike’s life, but you can’t get away from the fact that he escaped the Nazis. JEREMY IRONS (actor): In a way he was carrying the flag for those dead brethren, not wasting his life, because his had been given to him while it hadn’t to many others. ROBERT NICHOLS (brother): My mother always emphasized how extraordinarily intelligent our father was. And yet: Hitler became chancellor in 1933. It was obvious—the dislike and humiliation of Jews was out there—but my father didn’t leave for five years. Why the hell did he stay around? German Jews often feel more German than Jewish, and I’m afraid my father might have been one of those. HANNAH ROTH SORKIN: He would never ever, ever touch anything vaguely Holocaust-related. He had tremendous survivor guilt. PETER LAWRENCE (stage manager): At the opening of Death and the Maiden, I was standing in front of the theater talking to Fred Zollo, the producer, when Mike drove up in a huge, top-of-the-line Mercedes that he had just bought. When Mike got out of the car, Fred said, “It’s the Mengele 500.” The next day, Mike sold the car. PAUL SIMON (musician): We were once at dinner with Lorne Michaels and Tina Fey, and Tina said that she speaks German. I think Mike was surprised. They started talking about how people who speak German don’t tell you that their second language is German. RENATA ADLER: Mike and I came from similar backgrounds. We were both refugees. Our first language was German. Every once in a while, he would use a little phrase from our childhood, “Riech mal dran,” if there was a question whether something was spoiled or not. Meaning literally, “Smell at it.” Quotations, jokes, rhymes. CANDICE BERGEN: At what age did he become “Mike”? Because it couldn’t have been easy being Igor in New York at that time. I don’t think any child was ever put through more. ART GARFUNKEL: Let’s face it: “Mike Nichols” is a construction of a human being. He is busy leaving this guy who left Germany behind and becoming a very appealing American guy named Mike Nichols. What a choice: Mike Nichols. RENATA ADLER: Mike said that if you are a refugee, you begin to read people’s minds. Which is true in a way. It’s from learning a style of comprehension. In order to assimilate, to become one of them. There was a big upside to being Mike Nichols. He knew how to direct, and as you watch him do it, you learn how to do it — even if you’re only directing a kitchen staff. You learn how to use humor to deliver the hammer blows of tragedy. You learn that drama is about relationships, not plots. And you learn that you are an actor, acting your life. Mike Nichols paid a price for that. By the end of this book, you won’t envy him. But you will understand him. And you’ll have some fresh compassion for the Nichols in you.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Stephen

    Thoroughly enjoyed this book. Ash Carter does a wonderful job of editing and shaping the personal comments of Nichols' friends and colleagues in a way that delivers all the biographical narrative chronologically and, at the same time, offers intimate insight. A biography as told through the words of those who knew him best. When you get 150 people talking about one person, some opinions are agreed upon, others are argued, creating a fascinating complexity that is true of any human being. This bo Thoroughly enjoyed this book. Ash Carter does a wonderful job of editing and shaping the personal comments of Nichols' friends and colleagues in a way that delivers all the biographical narrative chronologically and, at the same time, offers intimate insight. A biography as told through the words of those who knew him best. When you get 150 people talking about one person, some opinions are agreed upon, others are argued, creating a fascinating complexity that is true of any human being. This book is an entertaining read. I learned details about Nichols' life and career, and got a sense of who he was as a person.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Connor

    There are some good celebrity anecdotes and a pretty full and instructive portrait of what made Nichols such a great director in both film and theater but it’s all sort of subsumed by a fawning, over-reverential approach that makes the whole thing feel like an unending memorial service. It’s not a bad book but it’s not edited well enough for me to give it my full attention. Found myself skimming bits.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Bonnie E.

    The book is true to its title and consists solely of interesting stories and anecdotes by a wide variety of people (mostly celebrities) who knew Mike Nichols well. Actors, screenwriters and others who worked with Nichols heaped him with praise throughout the book, and at some point, reading it felt like being at a long and very entertaining memorial service. Nichols' frequent collaborator, Meryl Streep, said, "The most endearing thing about Mike is the way he weeps when he laughs. For an actor, The book is true to its title and consists solely of interesting stories and anecdotes by a wide variety of people (mostly celebrities) who knew Mike Nichols well. Actors, screenwriters and others who worked with Nichols heaped him with praise throughout the book, and at some point, reading it felt like being at a long and very entertaining memorial service. Nichols' frequent collaborator, Meryl Streep, said, "The most endearing thing about Mike is the way he weeps when he laughs. For an actor, it's the reaction you most ache to be able to pull from the director you adore. Nobody's funnier, tougher or more forgiving, more scathing or easily moved to tears, lazier or inexhaustibly alert, and nobody, nobody's smarter than Mike Nichols." I had never seen the Nichols and May comedy vignettes from early in his career, so I searched online. The two of them were magical together. They were touching, and precise, and quick, and hilarious. The comedy improv duo disbanded in the early 60's although they collaborated on a few movies and plays later in their careers. Nichols was married four times, but his marriage to Diane Sawyer seemed to be the one that stuck. According to David Geffen, "After he married Diane, he was the happiest that he’d ever been. He always said that and meant it. He said, I finally got it right." It would have been fascinating to have heard from Elaine May and Diane Sawyer although their commentary was not available. The book is well constructed. It provides excellent insight into the thoughtful and intuitive approach that Nichols brought to a truly brilliant body of work.

  15. 5 out of 5

    M Goldfried

    I totally enjoyed this book and recommend it! It's a compelling and fast read. It's comprised of first-hand accounts from the talented and very lucky people whose lives were changed by working with and knowing this incredible man. The book is organized mostly chronologically, and is a good mix that highlights key moments from his fabulous life and career (ie Second City improv, Nichols & May on Broadway, "The Graduate", life with Diane Sawyer etc..) There is not an overall narrative voice in the I totally enjoyed this book and recommend it! It's a compelling and fast read. It's comprised of first-hand accounts from the talented and very lucky people whose lives were changed by working with and knowing this incredible man. The book is organized mostly chronologically, and is a good mix that highlights key moments from his fabulous life and career (ie Second City improv, Nichols & May on Broadway, "The Graduate", life with Diane Sawyer etc..) There is not an overall narrative voice in the book, it works well that the authors let the interviews speak for themselves (when it's folks like Meryl Streep and Tony Kushner talking, by all means I'm interested!) I've always wondered how it is that Mike Nichols got such great performances from so many different kinds of actors, and how it was that he toggled so successfully between directing both film and theater, and what came out of his roots in improvisation and sketch. This book paints a clear picture of this remarkable "mensch", a man who seems to know - and be loved - by so many of the smart and talented players of the second half of the 20th Century. Not bad for a kid who came to the U.S. as an immigrant who did not know english. I only wish Nichols was still around to offer us more smart and funny film, TV and theater. At least we have this book that deepens the story on him.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Robert

    This is not as much a biography as it is a kind of group hug shared by dozens of people who knew and loved director Mike Nichols. There are omissions (a few of his later films are ignored entirely and when Nichols mentions that Diane Sawyer - the woman who seems to have changed his life and personality most drastically - was his fourth wife, it will probably occur to the reader than there hasn't been a single word up to that point about wives 1-3) as well as repetitions and contradictions (inevi This is not as much a biography as it is a kind of group hug shared by dozens of people who knew and loved director Mike Nichols. There are omissions (a few of his later films are ignored entirely and when Nichols mentions that Diane Sawyer - the woman who seems to have changed his life and personality most drastically - was his fourth wife, it will probably occur to the reader than there hasn't been a single word up to that point about wives 1-3) as well as repetitions and contradictions (inevitable in an oral history), but overall this book creates a generous portrait of a much-loved man whose six-decade career found him at the center of the creation of improv comedy, the New Hollywood and an unsurpassed theater career that ranged from Albee and Beckett to "Annie" and "Spamalot". Nichols appeared to have been genuinely loved - no, revered - by those who knew him, and while he had a dark side, it was aimed mostly at himself. When his friends discuss and time near the end of his life when he tried to make amends for misbehavior in his past, it's not entirely clear what those transgressions were.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Simon

    There is a giant hole in the middle of this book. Three guesses, and the first two don't count. It is believable that Nichols had 150 close friends, but not that you would attempt to remember him without getting Elaine May on record. It is difficult to understand his comic sensibility without her take on it, and as far as what made him such a good director, well, that remains a mystery. The reminiscences of actors are uniformly laudatory, and while I am impressed that Meryl Streep and Emma Thomp There is a giant hole in the middle of this book. Three guesses, and the first two don't count. It is believable that Nichols had 150 close friends, but not that you would attempt to remember him without getting Elaine May on record. It is difficult to understand his comic sensibility without her take on it, and as far as what made him such a good director, well, that remains a mystery. The reminiscences of actors are uniformly laudatory, and while I am impressed that Meryl Streep and Emma Thompson thought Nichols was a terrific director, that aspect of his talent --- perhaps his main talent --- remains a mystery to me. It probably didn't hurt to get terrific scripts like The Graduate, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf and Angels in America, but Nichols made his share of stinkers as well. Wolf, anyone? Still, it was an entertaining read. Like being at an A-list cocktail party.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Robin

    The 'oral biography' is an interesting form, and this particular example is a very successful example, largely because of the enormously interesting, charming, witty, and complex man who is its subject. It's almost difficult to take in - all the talented and famous people, the long roster of achievements in theater, film, and television, and the evident affection he inspired in so many people. But the experience of reading this book was, for me, like eating something unspeakably delicious, somet The 'oral biography' is an interesting form, and this particular example is a very successful example, largely because of the enormously interesting, charming, witty, and complex man who is its subject. It's almost difficult to take in - all the talented and famous people, the long roster of achievements in theater, film, and television, and the evident affection he inspired in so many people. But the experience of reading this book was, for me, like eating something unspeakably delicious, something that makes one want to keep eating even when full to bursting. Extremely interesting if you care about the cultural landscape of the past 60 years, perhaps less so if one's interesting in films and theater and television is more casual.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Carole

    Life Isn’t Everything: Mike Nichols, as Remembered by 150 of His Closest Friends by Ash Carter and Sam Kashner recounts the life of the famous director, from his arrival in the U.S. as a child from Berlin, during the war to the end of his days with his wife Diane Sawyer. I have listened to this title as an audiobook, which is well-suited for the format of this biography: there are hundreds of comments and stories told by some of his friends (of which there were many) and professionals who had wo Life Isn’t Everything: Mike Nichols, as Remembered by 150 of His Closest Friends by Ash Carter and Sam Kashner recounts the life of the famous director, from his arrival in the U.S. as a child from Berlin, during the war to the end of his days with his wife Diane Sawyer. I have listened to this title as an audiobook, which is well-suited for the format of this biography: there are hundreds of comments and stories told by some of his friends (of which there were many) and professionals who had worked with Mike Nichols. The book is informative but what makes it interesting is a look at the life of someone who had such an impact on the entertainment field, while maintaining his integrity and sharing his love of the craft. Highly recommended.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Gracie

    i knew this was gonna be good when i saw the back inside photo was mike making faces at garfunkel trying to make him laugh on the set of catch-22. beautiful. this book really glows with all of mike's presence and is illuminating in a lot of the same ways he seemed to be. anecdotal histories are a little difficult to get used to but this was fascinating and so much more revealing and human than most biographies and given mike's prosperity for anecdotes himself and his career as a storyteller, it i knew this was gonna be good when i saw the back inside photo was mike making faces at garfunkel trying to make him laugh on the set of catch-22. beautiful. this book really glows with all of mike's presence and is illuminating in a lot of the same ways he seemed to be. anecdotal histories are a little difficult to get used to but this was fascinating and so much more revealing and human than most biographies and given mike's prosperity for anecdotes himself and his career as a storyteller, it was really fitting. i'm not saying there are tear stains on my copy but there might be. miss you and love you endlessly, mike.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Alice

    This is a book for anyone who is interested in or loves theater and movies. The insight into the director's role is fascinating. The chapter on the making of "The Graduate" alone makes this book worthwhile. Nichols was a genius at what he did, both as a comic with Elaine May, and as a director. His personality could be abrasive, and he wasn't above throwing around his weight and his money. He was surely larger than life, as they say, and he lived at a grand scale. The book is compiled from conve This is a book for anyone who is interested in or loves theater and movies. The insight into the director's role is fascinating. The chapter on the making of "The Graduate" alone makes this book worthwhile. Nichols was a genius at what he did, both as a comic with Elaine May, and as a director. His personality could be abrasive, and he wasn't above throwing around his weight and his money. He was surely larger than life, as they say, and he lived at a grand scale. The book is compiled from conversations, archives, letters, etc., and the entries from his "150... closest.." are put together in a unique way. A very different reading experience.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Leslie Peterson

    Audiobook version. Format was problematic. It is a collection of remembrances and observations by various people narrated by just 2 voices, so it was sometimes confusing when listening what celebrity was “speaking”.’ A little choppy for this reason. However, I love books about actors, movies, theater, etc, so the actual a content was very interesting to me. Mike Nichols was a beloved genius, his career spanning decades. He had close friendships with and knew the best of the best. Makes me want t Audiobook version. Format was problematic. It is a collection of remembrances and observations by various people narrated by just 2 voices, so it was sometimes confusing when listening what celebrity was “speaking”.’ A little choppy for this reason. However, I love books about actors, movies, theater, etc, so the actual a content was very interesting to me. Mike Nichols was a beloved genius, his career spanning decades. He had close friendships with and knew the best of the best. Makes me want to go watch some films he did that I missed. Also compelled me watch on YouTube some of his improvisational bits with Elaine May. They are timeless and still funny.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan Rosenbaum

    I'm not exactly a Mike Nichols fan--he may be too mainstream for me in some ways--but this is hard to put down because of all the interesting information--and not just gossip--it has to impart about both him and many of his pals and coworkers. Predictably, Elaine May (whom I value much more than Nichols) isn't one of the coworkers whose comments are recorded, but I found insights about her as well as others about Nichols. (I'm only about halfway through at this point, but I doubt I'll be reading I'm not exactly a Mike Nichols fan--he may be too mainstream for me in some ways--but this is hard to put down because of all the interesting information--and not just gossip--it has to impart about both him and many of his pals and coworkers. Predictably, Elaine May (whom I value much more than Nichols) isn't one of the coworkers whose comments are recorded, but I found insights about her as well as others about Nichols. (I'm only about halfway through at this point, but I doubt I'll be reading anything else before I finish it.) .

  24. 5 out of 5

    Anne Libera

    I have a deep affinity for Nichols and his work - partially, of course, due to the Second City/improv connection but also something deeper. It would be impossible to be Mike Nichols but there is a manner of looking at the world, of looking at text and theater that feels deeply "right" to me. The thing with this book - it was good, I'm glad I read it, but I really want more. The glimpses of Nichols, his thought processes, his insights are so tantalizing. They create a deep desire for the book tha I have a deep affinity for Nichols and his work - partially, of course, due to the Second City/improv connection but also something deeper. It would be impossible to be Mike Nichols but there is a manner of looking at the world, of looking at text and theater that feels deeply "right" to me. The thing with this book - it was good, I'm glad I read it, but I really want more. The glimpses of Nichols, his thought processes, his insights are so tantalizing. They create a deep desire for the book that he never wrote himself.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

    What a remarkable window into a remarkable artist. As someone for whom improv is like religion, it was fascinating to read about the early days in Chicago when the Compass Theater and Nichols & May were born; and it was exciting to see how his improv sensibility informed so much of his directing in both theater and film. I'm really impressed with how the authors shaped all of these quotes from 150 (!) sources into such a compelling arc that offers such a robust portrait. And it was great to get What a remarkable window into a remarkable artist. As someone for whom improv is like religion, it was fascinating to read about the early days in Chicago when the Compass Theater and Nichols & May were born; and it was exciting to see how his improv sensibility informed so much of his directing in both theater and film. I'm really impressed with how the authors shaped all of these quotes from 150 (!) sources into such a compelling arc that offers such a robust portrait. And it was great to get a window into how people like Meryl Streep think about their craft. Wonderful, wonderful book.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jay

    I had purchased this book before the now popular biography was published, and I'm so glad that I did. This was a wonderfully put together book, told by the people who loved and worked with him. The downside, is all these folks are romanticizing him. But there is plenty of room for critique. The authors / editors did a wonderful job of still making me feel like I read a biography of his life. It's full of life lessons I will take with me, and made me excited to revisit some of the amazing work Mi I had purchased this book before the now popular biography was published, and I'm so glad that I did. This was a wonderfully put together book, told by the people who loved and worked with him. The downside, is all these folks are romanticizing him. But there is plenty of room for critique. The authors / editors did a wonderful job of still making me feel like I read a biography of his life. It's full of life lessons I will take with me, and made me excited to revisit some of the amazing work Mike Nichols has left us. Highly recommend!

  27. 5 out of 5

    Erin

    Loved this bio if Nichols which is filled with insider stories like that Mandy Patankin was the male lead in Heartburn but was fired a few days into filming & replaced with Jack Nicholson. Or that Gene Hackman was Dustin Hoffman’s dad in The Graduate & later replaced by Murray Hamilton. These are just two of a ton of great Hollywood stories from this bio by those who knew Nichols best- his friends & coworkers.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Pamela

    (Note: Audio book review) The introduction to this gave me pause, as I thought it would be a jumble of remembrances at random. Wrong! It's a brilliantly curated oral history of one of the most talented people of our time. It'll send you running to the original materials... the records, the movies, the plays, the TV shows... they all hold up. Timeless! This is a rabbit hole you never want to leave. (Note: Audio book review) The introduction to this gave me pause, as I thought it would be a jumble of remembrances at random. Wrong! It's a brilliantly curated oral history of one of the most talented people of our time. It'll send you running to the original materials... the records, the movies, the plays, the TV shows... they all hold up. Timeless! This is a rabbit hole you never want to leave.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Kate

    Why didn't I know Mike Nichols? Everyone else did, and they all loved him. He was funny and kind and incredibly smart and talented and a little weird (because aren't we all). And his output was incredible. I knew about his partnership with Elaine May and of course The Graduate and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf but that is such a tiny tiny fraction of what he did. This book is an oral history, and you couldn't imagine a better subject than someone who did know everyone. Why didn't I know Mike Nichols? Everyone else did, and they all loved him. He was funny and kind and incredibly smart and talented and a little weird (because aren't we all). And his output was incredible. I knew about his partnership with Elaine May and of course The Graduate and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf but that is such a tiny tiny fraction of what he did. This book is an oral history, and you couldn't imagine a better subject than someone who did know everyone.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Scott Wilson

    Virtually nothing here offers a concrete notion of how Mike Nichols became who he was and did what he did. Nor is there much specific about the ways in which his peers early on acknowledged him as difficult or aloof. But the tale of a self-made intellectual who achieves unprecedented artistic and commercial success at a precocious age and then generally stays golden, particularly in oral-history form with mostly A-listers doing the talking, makes for effective escapist reading right now.

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