Mike Nichols and the sounds of silence

Mike Nichols and Tom Hanks on the set of "Charlie Wilson's War."

The New York Times has an interview today with Mike Nichols, the legendary director of stage and screen (and, with co-conspirator Elaine May, one of the funniest improv actors ever). Hard to believe he's 77 but, thankfully, he's still busy directing.

His list of credits includes iconic movies like "The Graduate" and "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" And plays and musicals ("Annie," "The Odd Couple," "Spamalot"). And even TV (he did "Wit" and "Angels in America" for HBO). He's purposely cultivated a directorial style of invisibility, preferring to work in several genres instead of just one and to make his focus the writing and detail in what he works on.

In his youth he was an avid listener of classical music but said he now prefers silence. The last graphic in the Times' piece shows how this informs his work and his view of his art. I like this because it's something I enjoy in a good play or movie: That moment when the whole audience is silent and listening and getting something that hasn't been said:
“The greatest thrill is that moment when a thousand people are sitting in the dark, looking at the same scene, and they are all apprehending something that has not been spoken. That’s the thrill of it, the miracle — that’s what holds us to movies forever. It’s what we wish we could do in real life. We all see something and understand it together, and nobody has to say a word. There’s a good reason that the very best sound an audience can make — in both the theater and the movies — is no sound at all, just absolute silence.”

No comments: