Life Isn't Everything
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.

Life Isn't Everything Details

TitleLife Isn't Everything
Author
ReleaseNov 12th, 2019
PublisherHenry Holt & Company
ISBN-139781250112873
Rating
GenreBiography, Nonfiction

Life Isn't Everything Review

  • David
    January 1, 1970
    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 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.
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  • Offbalance
    January 1, 1970
    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 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.
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  • Ron Pederson
    January 1, 1970
    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.
  • M Goldfried
    January 1, 1970
    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 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.
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  • Jonathan Rosenbaum
    January 1, 1970
    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.).
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  • Erin
    January 1, 1970
    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.
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  • Michael
    January 1, 1970
    4.5
  • Joe Meyers
    January 1, 1970
    Wonderful collection of anecdotes about the great stage and screen director. Respectful but gossipy too. If you were a fan of Mike Nichols this is a must read.
  • Doris Raines
    January 1, 1970
    NIICE BOOK.
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