Firing an Actor “Early Could Be a Motivator for the Remaining Cast”

The ability to fire at will gives the entrepreneur (and the movie director) the ability to put together the right team for a project. Keeping those employed who are not doing their jobs, can be demoralizing for those who are doing their jobs.

(p. C1) When the writer and director Mike Nichols was young, he had an allergic reaction to a whooping cough vaccine. The result was a complete and lifelong inability to grow hair. One way to read Mark Harris’s crisp new biography, “Mike Nichols: A Life,” is as a tender comedy about a man and his wigs.

. . .

(p. C5) Harris is the author of two previous books, “Pictures at a Revolution: Five Movies and the Birth of the New Hollywood” and “Five Came Back: A Story of Hollywood and the Second World War.” He’s also a longtime entertainment reporter with a gift for scene-setting.

He’s at his best in “Mike Nichols: A Life” when he takes you inside a production. His chapters on the making of three films in particular — “The Graduate,” “Silkwood” and “Angels in America” — are miraculous: shrewd, tight, intimate and funny. You sense he could turn each one into a book.

Nichols was an actor’s director. &nbsp. . .  But he had a steely side.

He fired Gene Hackman during week one on “The Graduate.” Hackman was playing Mr. Robinson and it wasn’t working, in part because, at 37, he looked too young for the role.

Sacrificing someone early could be a motivator for the remaining cast, he learned. He fired Mandy Patinkin early in the filming of “Heartburn,” and brought in Jack Nicholson to play Meryl Streep’s faithless husband.

For the full review, see:

Dwight Garner. “BOOKS OF THE TIMES; The Wit and Wigs Of a Star-Studded Life.” The New York Times (Tuesday, January 26, 2021): C1 & C5.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the review was updated Jan. 29, 2021, and has the title ‘BOOKS OF THE TIMES; ‘Mike Nichols’ Captures a Star-Studded Life That Shuttled Between Broadway and Hollywood.”)

The book under review:

Harris, Mark. Mike Nichols: A Life. New York: Penguin Press, 2021.

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