It's funny how film legends grow. Something happens on set one day and everyone is amazed or stunned. Witnesses talk about it to their friends, their friends tell their friends, and suddenly a legend is born. Those legends live on. Movie nerds and cinephiles talk about them, write them down in books, and pass them on.
Recently, I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts, How Did This Get Made, and they were talking about erotic thrillers and how they never get made anymore. Then they launched into a story about Mike Nichols' Regarding Henry I had never heard. It involved shutting down set to get some authentic caviar.
I posed the question to the No Film School staff about the caviar, and our very own Jo Light not only knew the story, she had the source of the legend. After Nichols' passing, Vanity Fair did a write-up about him. In it, collaborators told stories about Nichols on set.
Actress Susan Forristal told this story:
"We were shooting a cocktail party in this very elegant townhouse, and my job was to be one of the elegant ladies eating caviar. So we start to shoot and he yells, 'Cut! What kind of caviar is that?' And Mike comes up and he looks at it and he says, 'This isn’t good enough. I want big, bubbled beluga caviar.' So they send this kid out to get caviar. It took an hour and a half. It wasn’t lunch break—it wasn’t anything. We’re just standing around waiting. The kid comes back: wrong caviar. 'That’s not what I want! Someone go with him!' Scott Rudin as the producer is not only paying for all this caviar, three different kinds, but the clock is ticking. But he never said a word because it was Mike."
This story is both charming and indicative of a time Hollywood seems to have forgotten. Hollywood used to be classy. It was about the magic of movies and the pomp and circumstance, and sometimes excess of what it was like making them. At this year's Academy Awards, it felt like people gathered to make fun of the industry, and not celebrate it. Hollywood is weird and indulgent. It buys the right caviar because it cares so much about the art on screen.
We need to find a way back to that. Or else it all just becomes content.