The Very Best Sound an Audience Can Make

Mike Nichols, from “Mike Nichols, Master of Invisibility,” by Charles McGrath, New York Times (April 10, 2009):

“Movie acting was invented less than 100 years ago — movie acting with sound. You know how Harold Bloom says that Shakespeare invented us? It’s a fascinating idea, and you can go quite far with it. You could say that it’s in talking movies that The Graduateinner life begins to appear. You can see things happen to the faces of people that were neither planned nor rehearsed. This is what Garbo was such a master of: actual thoughts that had not occurred before that particular take. And you can see this taking tremendous leaps with Brando and Clift and then with Streep.”

“The greatest thrill is that moment when a thousand people are sitting in the dark, looking at the same scene, and they are all apprehending something that has not been spoken. That’s the thrill of it, the miracle — that’s what holds us to movies forever. It’s what we wish we could do in real life. We all see something and understand it together, and nobody has to say a word. There’s a good reason that the very best sound an audience can make — in both the theater and the movies — is no sound at all, just absolute silence.”


Meryl Streep said: “What makes Mike so great is one of the hardest things for people temperamentally drawn to directing. People who direct tend to want to be in control, and Mike’s gift is knowing when to take his hands off and just let it happen. A lot of directors are still dealing with the text when you’re on the set. Mike has done all that beforehand, so when you get on the set you feel it’s a secure world where all the architecture is in place. You can jump as hard as you want and the floor won’t give way.”