Mike Nichols passed away today, as you’ve probably heard. I don’t have a lot to contribute to this discourse because I’m not exactly a film buff or even a very good viewer of films — I saw most of the Twilight movies by myself on their opening weekend, for example — but I do have a cool story about him.
When I was about 16-17, I really wanted to be a film director. (Honestly, sitting here in a cubicle typing this right now, I kinda wish I had stayed on that course for a bit longer.) At the time, I had just read Count of Monte Cristo in school — which admittedly seems like a late time to read that book — and I remember blocking it out as a director would (“story-boarding”) and thinking of how I would film different sequences. I had absolutely no social life to speak of at this point.
That summer before I turned 17 (possibly before I turned 16; things get hazy), my family and my dad’s brother and his family went to Joe’s Pond in Vermont. My dad and his brother had gone there as kids, but hadn’t been back together in years — so it was kind of one of those emotional family things, you know? I decided I would make a short film about it, and interview all the people up there. I even got my cousin (on my mom’s side) to compose an original score for it. I made a film from all this — probably about six-10 minutes in length — and sent it to a couple of low-grade film festivals. I think I might have come in sixth at the Charleston Internet Festival or some shit.
Regardless, at the time I was really into Mike Nichols. I didn’t come of age in the 1960s, but The Graduate still resonates with me. (That’s always the first thing someone says about The Graduate; it’s like the Catcher in the Rye of films for people who came of age in the 1960s.) I really liked Primary Colors and I loved, loved, loved Working Girl.
So, I took a copy of my little movie and I sent it to Mike Nichols — because I guess I had some stones, or else didn’t mind being ignored — and he wrote me back. Sure, there was one of those things at the bottom that indicated it was transcribed by someone else, but regardless, the guy who directed The Graduate wrote me back and told me thanks, he liked the film (WHAT?!?!??!) and to keep at it.
Well, I didn’t keep at it, so I suppose I’ve gone and disgraced his legacy here, but … pretty cool guy, right? I bet Christopher Nolan wouldn’t write me back if I sent him a 10-minute film right now. Alas. Although frankly I’m more of a David Fincher guy…