×

Mike Nichols: ‘Angels In America’ Was Like ‘Being in Heaven Early’

In one of his final interviews, Mike Nichols said he considered “Angels in America”–the sprawling 2003 HBO mini-series adapted from the Tony Kushner play about the AIDs crisis—-as the crowning achievement of his career.

“When I did ‘Angels in America,’ and I had Emma Thompson, Meryl Streep, Mary-Louise Parker and Al Pacino, it was like being in heaven a little early,” Nichols said.

Nichols, the director of classic films “The Graduate,” “Working Girl” and “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?,” died at 83. He spoke to me in November 2013 by phone for a profile I was working on Emma Thompson, who appeared in three of his films.

Remembrances of Nichols poured in from across the entertainment industry on Thursday, with many hailing him as a beloved visionary. But Nichols admitted that he did manage to make an enemy out of Bill Clinton after 1998’s “Primary Colors,” a political comedy starring John Travolta as a philandering but charismatic presidential candidate who bears a striking resemblance to you know who. “It never occurred to any of us that he’d be horrified by the movie, but of course he would be,” Nichols said. Thompsons’ first lady in the comedy seems to be channeling Hillary Clinton. “To some extent, yes,” Nichols admitted. “But she didn’t hold herself to literalness.”

Nichols said he enjoyed directing comedians, such as Thompson and Robin Williams (“The Birdcage”), because they understood the craft of acting the best. “To be able to be funny in character is the essence of acting, including serious acting,” Nichols said.

Nichols acknowledged the rampant sexism in Hollywood, where producers and directors try to force women to retire once they hit 30. “As an actress, you have to be very alert, or they try to get you to play a mother at 38 or 40,” Nichols said. “In Hollywood, you’re old at 22 if you’re a woman.”

Nichols talked about the close bond he’d formed with Thompson over the years. “It seems like we’ve known each other forever. She’s a hell of a cook,” Nichols said, who fondly reminisced about attending dinner parties in her London home with pasta and parlor games. “I would love nothing more than to work with her again,” Nichols said. “It’s my greatest happiness.”

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • Inhabited

    ‘Inhabited,’ ‘Sisters,’ ‘Aracne’ Stand Out at Sanfic Industria Prize Gala

    Friday night saw Sanfic Industria close out a week of co-production meetings, screenings and tutoring with an awards ceremony where a handful of the 34 projects and six works in progress at this year’s 6th edition were recognized. In addition to the awards ceremony, Friday night’s festivities included a 10th anniversary party for the partnership between CinemaChile [...]

  • DSCF6823.RAF

    Box Office: 'Angel Has Fallen' Heads for $20 Million Opening Weekend

    Lionsgate and Millennium’s “Angel Has Fallen” is performing above expectations, taking in $7.9 million in Friday’s domestic ticket sales as it heads to a projected $20 million opening weekend. Early estimates originally placed the third installment of the “Fallen” series within the $12 million to $16 million range, but a solid 95% audience score on [...]

  • Juntos

    Juntos Films Production House Launches in Chile with Ambitious Slate (EXCLUSIVE)

    Francisco Hervé of Panchito Films, Moisés Sepúlveda from Madriguera Films and Daniela Raviola, three of Chile’s most exciting international-minded independent producers, have together launched a new indie production house, Juntos Films. Hervé has written, directed (“The Power of Speech,” “The Lost City”) and produced (María Paz González ‘s “Daughter”) several feature films, documentaries and TV [...]

  • Noele trailer Anna Kendrick

    Disney Unveils 'Noelle' Trailer Starring Anna Kendrick, Bill Hader

    Among the many announcements at the D23 Expo, Disney debuted the first look at holiday feature “Noelle,” which is set to premiere exclusively on Disney Plus this fall. “It isn’t Christmas without Santa’s Sister,” Walt Disney Studios said of the film on Twitter. Starring Anna Kendrick and Bill Hader, the Christmas flick tells the story [...]

  • A Hidden Life Movie Austria

    Film News Roundup: Austin Festival Selects Terrence Malick's 'A Hidden Life'

    In today’s film news roundup, the Austin Film Festival selects a Terrence Malick title, “A Day Without a Mexican” gets a sequel and DCR Finance signs a first-look deal. FESTIVAL SCREENING The Austin Film Festival will screen Terrence Malick’s “A Hidden Life,” which won the Francois Chalais and Ecumenical Jury awards at the Cannes Film [...]

  • Blake Lively

    Blake Lively's 'Rhythm Section' Moved Back to 2020

    Paramount Pictures has moved the release date of Blake Lively’s “The Rhythm Section” back two months from Nov. 22 to Jan. 31, 2020, the weekend of Super Bowl LIV. The spy tale, adapted from Mark Burnell’s novels surrounding character Stephanie Patrick, is produced by James Bond producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson through their [...]

  • The Mandalorian

    'The Mandalorian': Watch the First Trailer for 'Star Wars' Series

    The gunslinging lone warrior — the Mandalorian, as they call him — calls the far reaches of the “Star Wars” galaxy home. Disney dropped the first trailer for the spinoff series during its biennial D23 convention on Friday, finally giving fans a closer look at the franchise’s newest character. “The Mandalorian” creator Jon Favreau, who [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content