Wordfest presents Mark Harris
Wordfest’s Imagine On Air is thrilled to present Mark Harris with his highly anticipated biography of award-winning theatre and film director Mike Nichols. This event is a gift for everyone who is fascinated by the mechanics of creation – in improv comedy, theatre, and movies – told through the unparalleled life of a conflicted genius. The hour-long conversation will start at 7:00 PM MT and will be hosted by Shelley Youngblut, Wordfest’s CEO and Creative Ringleader (The pre-show will begin at 6:50 PM.)
This live-stream event, broadcast on Wordfest.com, is free, but if you RSVP, we'll send you a reminder and easy instructions to help you get set up, as well as our unique Digital Doggie Bag after the event with links, goodies and references from the conversation.
We are grateful to Penguin Random House Canada for making this conversation possible.
About Mike Nichols: A Life
A magnificent biography of one of the most protean creative forces in American entertainment history, a life of dazzling highs and vertiginous plunges — some of the worst largely unknown until now — by the acclaimed author of Pictures at a Revolution and Five Came Back.
Mike Nichols burst onto the scene as a wunderkind: while still in his twenties, he was half of a hit improv duo with Elaine May that was the talk of the country. Next he directed four consecutive hit plays, won back-to-back Tonys, ushered in a new era of Hollywood moviemaking with Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, and followed it with The Graduate, which won him an Oscar and became the third-highest-grossing movie ever. At thirty-five, he lived in a three-story Central Park West penthouse, drove a Rolls-Royce, collected Arabian horses, and counted Jacqueline Kennedy, Elizabeth Taylor, Leonard Bernstein, and Richard Avedon as friends.
Where he arrived is even more astonishing given where he had begun: born Igor Peschkowsky to a Jewish couple in Berlin in 1931, he and his younger brother were sent to America on a ship in 1939. The young immigrant boy caught very few breaks. He was bullied and ostracized — an allergic reaction had rendered him permanently hairless — and his father died when he was just 12, leaving his mother alone and overwhelmed.
The gulf between these two sets of facts explains a great deal about Nichols's transformation from lonely outsider to the center of more than one cultural universe — the acute powers of observation that first made him famous; the nourishment he drew from his creative partnerships, most enduringly with May; his unquenchable drive; his hunger for security and status; and the depressions and self-medications that brought him to terrible lows. It would take decades for him to come to grips with his demons. In an incomparable portrait that follows Nichols from Berlin to New York to Chicago to Hollywood, Mark Harris explores, with brilliantly vivid detail and insight, the life, work, struggle, and passion of an artist and man in constant motion. Among the 250 people Harris interviewed: Elaine May, Meryl Streep, Stephen Sondheim, Robert Redford, Glenn Close, Tom Hanks, Candice Bergen, Emma Thompson, Annette Bening, Natalie Portman, Julia Roberts, Lorne Michaels, and Gloria Steinem.
Mark Harris gives an intimate and even-handed accounting of success and failure alike; the portrait is not always flattering, but its ultimate impact is to present the full story of one of the most richly interesting, complicated, and consequential figures the worlds of theater and motion pictures have ever seen. It is a triumph of the biographer's art.
About Mark Harris
Mark Harris is the author of Pictures at a Revolution: Five Movies and the Birth of the New Hollywood, a New York Times notable book of the year, and Five Came Back: A Story of Hollywood and the Second World War, a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize in History. He wrote the script for Netflix's Emmy-winning documentary adaptation of Five Came Back and he has written about popular culture, politics, and film history for many other publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, Vanity Fair, New York, Time, GQ, and Grantland. He lives in New York City with his husband, Tony Kushner.
Buy the Book:
Borrow the Book from the Library:
- Mike Nichols: A Life –Publishers Weekly
- A sturdy, sympathetic biography about one of pop culture’s rangiest creators. –Kirkus Reviews
- Mike Nichols: A Life Excerpt –New York Magazine
- Who Was Mike Nichols When He Wasn’t Playing Mike Nichols? –The New Yorker