NY Mag has a piece featuring actors talking about what the late Mike Nichols meant to them. Natalie has a lot to say and wow, I was quite taken aback at one very honest story in particular. An emotional moment in Natalie’s life that, given the timeline, probably refers to the end of her relationship with Gael Garcia Bernal. It’s clear to see why Nichols held such a big space in her heart.
“I remember Meryl Streep took us all to this Russian place to celebrate the opening [of The Seagull in Central Park]. Mike turned to me and said, “You know, someone at this table almost died of a drug-induced heart incident in the ’80s. Can you guess who it is?” And I was like, Chris Walken? No. John Goodman? No. Phil Hoffman? No. And I went around the entire table—Meryl?!—and he said, “It was me.” [Nichols spoke publicly about his addiction to the sleep aid Halcion.] He was so open about his flaws and his mistakes. I think it was part of his mentorship. Oftentimes, people are so ashamed of their mistakes they want to hide them and pretend to be perfect. He was the opposite. He was perfect, and he had to humanize himself.”
“Star Wars had come out around the time of Seagull, and everyone thought I was a horrible actress. I was in the biggest-grossing movie of the decade, and no director wanted to work with me. Mike wrote a letter to Anthony Minghella and said, “Put her in Cold Mountain, I vouch for her.” And then Anthony passed me on to Tom Tykwer, who passed me on to the Wachowskis. I worked with Milos Forman a few years later. He said, “Mike saved me. He wrote a letter so that I could get asylum in the U.S.” He did that for 50 people, and it doesn’t make any one of us feel less special.”
“When I was 25, I had my heart broken—the rupture of my adolescence, the big heartbreak. I was at his apartment on the floor, and he picked me up and gave me a pep talk and sent me to a doctor and straightened me out—literally peeled me off the floor.”
“When he would see something that he loved, he would say, “It’s like life.” I think he meant that it had this combination of darkness and joy and strangeness. I think people as intelligent as him are often blighted with sadness, but he really was so content. I don’t know anyone else like that—to be the smartest person that ever was and also be so happy.”
A big thanks to Belerofonte.