When Mike Nichols died on Wednesday, the world lost a man who was an incomparable comedian (with Elaine May), filmmaker (The Graduate, Whos Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Silkwood) and Broadway director (The Odd Couple, Barefoot in the Park, Spamalot). He was one of only twelve people to ever win the EGOT, an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar and a Tony.
He also left behind a long list of family and friends who knew the man who was the creator of so many pieces of iconic cultural pieces. They have spoken of his unassuming nature and his quiet mentoring of their careers. One of those people was Carly Simon who wrote songs for five of Nichols' movies, three of which made it into the productions including Coming Around Again from Heartburn and Let the River Run from Working Girl.
On Friday, Simon posted a touching tribute to Nichols on her official website:
A Farewell to Mike Nichols (1931-2014)
I am saying farewell to a great man and a beloved friend. My pain and sorrow that I will never see Mike again is huge. He was the biggest influence in my adult life. Like a father or older brother to me. Giving me advice and when I didn’t take it, he’d smile the most understanding smile and say: “You see, I warned you!!!” It was never mean or patronizing. His charm and wit are famous. I saw him so many times in the flesh, just sitting still, not knowing he was being watched. I felt his deep thoughts and observations without knowing what they were specifically.
Diane (Sawyer) is a miracle, as you all probably know. A brilliant and beautiful and refined woman who is the only woman I can imagine being such a partner to Mike. Two of his children, Max and Jennie, spent a lot of time with my own children: Sally and Ben. They were born almost exactly the same days as each other: Max and Sally, Jennie and Ben. We spent a lot of holidays with them, the two families together with just ourselves and the games we made up. At times his third daughter, Daisy, and other friends of Mike and Diane's joined the festive holiday dinners.
I did see him last summer and he seemed jolly an looked pretty damned good. I am deeply sad that i didn’t see him this fall. I sent him flowers for his birthday two weeks ago and asked the florist to make them the most beautiful arrangement they had ever made. I imagine I was one of 100 people who did the same. . Diane and Mike, Jim Hart (my former husband) and I were often a foursome and the chemistry was dazzling. Again, we were only two of the myriad of dazzling foursomes they engaged in the company of. The two of them were the two who made sure that living well was the best revenge, the Gerald and Sarah Murphy of the Vineyard whose reputation as the host and hostess of the South of France inspired young or old artists to live in an atmosphere of creativity and beauty. They were mentors. There was that great ability in Mike to encourage people to do their best. He was stunning in that arena. The number of artists he discovered proves the point. But he didn’t suffer fools. Once, talking on the phone to him, his other phone rang and he said: “No, I can’t, it’s probably one of “them”. I asked him for further explanation. He said “We are the ones who don’t ask each other for things and “them” are the ones who want something from us”. He was gracious to both groups and I was careful never to be one of “them". He knew who they would be almost by the ‘ring’ of the phone. Usually the people you had already turned down three or four times before. I made several errors in the duration of our friendship of asking him somethings that made me a “them”. I learned like a little child, it’s hand on a hot stove.
I’ll always remember the songs I wrote for the five of his movies I worked on. Only three of them came to fruition, but never the less, songs were written and he inspired them. He was appreciative and inspiring to work for. When I had taken the idea at the end of the script of “Heartburn”, (when Merryl Streep sings to her daughter “the itsy bitsy spider” as the plane is taking off), it turned out of be the theme of the movie. He got Merryl Streep on the phone with him and called me because I had gotten it so ‘right’. The theme also served as a book-end front to back, the score opened and ended the movie. The song version was: “Coming Around Again”. When I asked Mike for one word that he might think would be the essence of the song version, he said: “Again, yes, something about ‘again’. No different, and possibly more enthusiastic was his reaction to “Let The River Run” which I played for Mike and Diane one night when they were over for dinner. I don’t think I’ll ever have such a time again. The pride I felt in accomplishment when we finished all the cues for the soundtrack (with the notable help of Robbie Kilgore) was so satisfying. It brimmed with the atmosphere of someone winning. On camera and off.
But then there were all the people in his life, his extended family and the wide group of friends who just adored him. He is the subject of one of the largest obituaries the New York times has ever published and there still is not enough space to say even one iota of what he meant to people. I think of Elaine May where his comedy routines began with and I send her love, and I send Max and Jennie and Daisy and Rachel love, and I send Annabel love, and Catherine and Mike and Diane’s dog: Lila, all the grandchildren and of course most of all Diane, the fullest part of my empty heart.
With so much love and missing, Carly Simon