Director Mike Nichols on Julia Roberts: “She’s got life licked.’

By Mike Cidoni, AP
Friday, June 11, 2010

Nichols on Roberts: ‘She’s got life licked.’

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — American Film Institute honoree Mike Nichols serves up perspectives on some of the famous actors he’s directed:

— ELIZABETH TAYLOR: Toward the end of filming “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” (1966), Taylor was worried about getting through an intense sequence where she was required to cry. While in the midst of nailing the scene, a crew member could be heard — snoring. “It was so loud,” Nichols recalled. “I say, ‘Cut!’ And she said, ‘Don’t fire him. Please don’t fire him.’ Now, you can’t find that. You can’t find a person who is concerned about the guy who screwed it up. And that’s Elizabeth.”

— DUSTIN HOFFMAN: When shooting the screen tests for “The Graduate” (1967), Nichols was impressed, but not sold, on the relative newcomer. “He was very good on the floor, but we weren’t sure. He tested with Katherine Ross. And then, the next day, seeing the dailies, I thought, ‘Oh, look at this. He’s like Elizabeth. He has a deal with Technicolor. And when the film was in the bath, overnight, it’s much more than what you saw on the floor. He’s the real thing. He’s a movie actor.”

— MERYL STREEP: Nichols has worked with the Oscar winner on numerous projects, including the big-screen “Silkwood” (1983), “Heartburn” (1986), “Postcards From the Edge” (1990) and the telefilm “Angels in America” (2003). “I think that the thing she has more than anyone I’ve ever worked with, besides her indescribable gift, is the joy (acting) gives her. I have never, ever seen her anything but happy to do this another day.”

— JACK NICHOLSON: While working on their first film together, “Carnal Knowledge” (1971), “the one thing I learned from him was not just how he was with everyone on the set, but on the ring behind: the wardrobe people in the trailers, and the people behind that. He was connected to every single person. And when he had to do a nude scene, they were rolling on the floor. He was so funny — what he said, what he did. He made it everybody’s.”

— JULIA ROBERTS: “When we did a certain scene in ‘Closer’ (2004), there was a point in the scene where she blushed every time. Many actors have to work up emotion before a scene. She has to hold it down. And she’s got it licked. She’s got life licked. She’s got making movies licked. And she does it all with happiness and adoration for her amazing family. She’s a kind of — I don’t know what? — lesson in what can be done with making your life simple, true and happy.”

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