The Book Review

Mark Harris on His Biography of Mike Nichols

Episode Summary

Harris discusses the great director’s life and work, and Adam Higginbotham talks about “Midnight in Chernobyl.”

Episode Notes

For the next few months, we’re sharing some of our favorite conversations from the podcast’s archives. This week’s segments first appeared in 2021 and 2019, respectively.

In his first two books, “Pictures at a Revolution” and “Five Came Back,” the entertainment journalist Mark Harris offered an ensemble look at Hollywood history, focusing first on five seminal movies and then on five wartime directors. But for his third book, in 2021, Harris trained his spotlight on a single individual: “Mike Nichols: A Life” is a biography of the renowned writer, director and performer whose many credits included “The Graduate” and “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”

“He was remarkably open,” Harris said of Nichols on the podcast last year. “There are few bigger success stories for a director to look back on than ‘The Graduate,’ and I was asking Mike about it 40 years and probably 40,000 questions after it happened. But I was so impressed by his willingness to come at it from new angles, to re-examine things that he hadn’t thought about for a while, to tell stories that were frankly not flattering to him. I’ve never heard harsher stories about Mike’s behavior over the years than I heard from Mike himself. He was an extraordinary interview subject.”

Also this week, we revisit Adam Higginbotham’s 2019 appearance, in which he discussed his book “Midnight in Chernobyl,” about the nuclear disaster in that city. Higginbotham visited the site enough times “to lose count,” he told the host Pamela Paul. “And I never really stopped being afraid of it.”

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