The comic brilliance of Robin Williams combines with the gifts of Oscar-winning director Mike Nichols in a contemporary American version of the outrageous French comedy La Cage Aux Folles.
Two-time Academy Award winners Gene Hackman (Unforgiven, The French Connection) and Dianne Wiest (Bullets Over Broadway, Hannah and Her Sisters), and Broadway star Nathan Lane (Guys and Dolls) also head the cast of this insightful comedy that gives new meaning to the phrase "straighten up and fly right."
As modern as this minute, as pertinent as today, this Elaine May-scripted film portrays Armand (ROBIN WILLIAMS) and Albert (NATHAN LANE) as having a home life many would envy. They share a long-term committed relationship encompassing their lives and careers and have together raised Armand's son Val (DAN FUTTERMAN) into a caring, responsible and mature young man. So when Val arrives home and announces his engagement to the daughter of an ultra-conservative U.S. Senator, what choice is there but to accept his decision with love?
Meanwhile, Senator Keeley (GENE HACKMAN) and his wife (DIANNE WIEST) are facing bigger problems than their daughter's (CALISTA FLOCKHART) unexpected engagement. The senator is watching his right-wing constituency evaporate with the scandalous demise of his closest political ally. A visit to their future in-laws could be just the thing to take the public's focus off the Keeleys' messy predicament.
With the impending visit of his fiancee's rigid family, Val asks his father to straighten up the apartment just a bit. All it entails is the removal of Armand's art collection, furnishings, clothes, job... and Albert.
Easier said than done.
The arrival of the Keeleys sets off a comedy of errors as Armand and Albert attempt to play out the roles of your typical American husband and "wife."
United Artists presents a Mike Nichols Film, THE BIRDCAGE, starring Robin Williams, Gene Hackman, Nathan Lane, Dianne Wiest, Hank Azaria, Christine Baranski, Dan Futterman and Calista Flockhart. Mike Nichols produced and directed the film from a screenplay by Elaine May. Neil Machlis and Marcello Danon are the executive producers.
With a large helping of laughter and more than a measure of truth, Mike Nichol's newest comedy, THE BIRDCAGE, demonstrates that the value of family is far more important that anyone's notion of family values.
"Family values is an idea that can't belong to any one group, because everyone has families," Nichols points out. "THE BIRDCAGE is a comedy about what constitutes a family and the lengths to which people who love their family will go for them."
When Nichols saw the original movie La Cage Aux Folles in 1978, he thought it would make a great American movie about family. From the beginning, it was planned to be the first onscreen collaboration for him and his former comedy partner Elaine May. Though the team of Nichols and May had virtually re-defined improvisational comedy in the late 1950s and into the 1960s, their individual success in films began after the dissolution of their partnership.
Nichols offers, "We've never done a movie from first to last together. This is a project we've wanted to do for 15 years because we knew from the first that it was a timeless comedy with a terrific plot and a wonderful ending. We went through the story many times before Elaine wrote it, and it was exciting to remember the joy of just being funny together. We bring out the best in each other."
To bring this sparkling comedy to the screen, Nichols gathered an extraordinary ensemble of some of today's most talented and honored screen and stage stars.
"One of the main things we wanted to do in casting the movie was to find actors who would inhabit the characters rather than comment on them," Nichols notes. "The most important thing was that they be truthful, and now I can't imagine anyone else as any of these characters. They are exactly the right actors for each role, right down to the non-speaking parts."
Three-time Academy Award nominee Robin Williams stars as Armand, whose attempt to support his son's illusion leads to one of the most frenzied dinner parties ever seen on screen.
"It goes without saying that Robin is a wonderful actor, and the story required someone with Robin's unlimited resources at the center of it," states Nichols. "What I wanted in Armand was a kind of suppressed hysteria; someone who could appear perfectly straight and ordinary, but with a little something just under the surface that he can't completely control. Robin played that brilliantly. He's funny all the way through, but funny in a controlled way."
Williams immediately responded to the relevance of the story, as well as its pointed comedy. "It's one of the great comic plots, containing a wonderful perspective for today," he remarks. "It's very appropriate to make it now--and in this country."
The actor also relished the chance to do what he refers to as "learn a new set of acting muscles." Williams adds, "I wanted to play Armand because it gave me an opportunity to portray a very dry type of comedy versus being outrageous. It was very interesting because it's restrained and reactive... finding different layers of behavior."
To play opposite Williams as Armand's longtime companion, Albert, Nichols cast Nathan Lane, who is best known for his acclaimed work on the Broadway stage.
"Nathan is brilliant and hilarious and he could keep up with Robin--no easy feat," Nichols says. "You can see him thinking, which is the mark of a fine movie actor. He made everything about Albert very real, and still very funny. Nathan throws the drag aspect of the character away for the most part; it was more about creating a whole person. At the heart of it was the partnership of Robin and Nathan; they loved each other and it was great to see."
Lane recalls, "Robin and I met and started reading the script, and there was an instant chemistry and rapport."
Lane was starring on Broadway in Neil Simon's "Laughter on the 23rd Floor" when he was initially approached by Mike Nichols regarding the role in THE BIRDCAGE. He recalls, "To have Mike Nichols come backstage and say, 'I'd like you to star in a movie,' was a dream come true."
For his portrayal, Lane steadfastly avoided resorting to any stereotypes. "It's not about extremes; I just tried to be more feminine and softer," he reflects. "When Albert is in drag, it's a performance, and though he's melodramatic at times--as many performers are--at home he loves being a family man."
Providing a perfect counterpart to Albert and Armand are the conservative Senator Keeley and his unassuming wife Louise, played by Oscar winners Gene Hackman and Dianne Wiest.
"I've known Gene Hackman for a long time," Nichols says, "and knew that he started out, as I did, in improvisational comedy. I know how funny he can be. His genius is that he can be 100 percent true and funny at the same time. Gene never fakes anything. And Dianne Wiest, of course, is not only a marvelous actress, but a brilliant comedienne."
Nichols had spotted Hank Azaria in the film Quiz Show and initially offered him the part of Albert's dresser. The role eventually evolved into Albert and Armand's flamboyant houseman Agador, an integral member of their singular family.
Having worked with Mike Nichols on Broadway, Christine Baranski joined the cast as Val's biological mother Katharine. "In a film peopled with eccentric and wildly funny people, Katharine is quite centered and calm," Baranski observes. "I think it's true of Elaine's script that you come away with a sense that there's love and dignity to all these characters, however eccentric they are. Love levels things; unconditional love can normalize any situation."
Relative newcomers Dan Futterman and Calista Flockhart round out the main cast as the young couple whose romance is the catalyst for two seemingly dichotomous families to find common ground.
As in few other films, the efforts of those behind the scenes on THE BIRDCAGE was as intrinsic to reflecting the characters as the actors who played them. Nichols assembled an outstanding creative team whose talents are as evident in the film as those of the cast.
Nichols agrees, "I was very lucky. Bo Welsh is a great production designer, and I have a long history with costume designer Ann Roth, whose sense of character and detail is magnificent. Their ability to make a metaphor out of the truth--out of the accurate observations of what these people would wear and how they would live--is of immeasurable importance for a story like this. They loved the challenge and brought so much to the film. We were endlessly excited by the sets and clothes when we saw them."
Joining these veterans of earlier Nichols movies was acclaimed cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki (affectionately nicknamed "Cheevo"), who enjoyed his first collaboration with the director on THE BIRDCAGE. "I loved Cheevo's work even before I met him and was even more thrilled with our work together," Nichols states. "He's an ideal director of photography for me because he's obsessed with detail and yet approaches his job in a way that's always imaginative and original."
THE BIRDCAGE is set in the eclectic community of South Beach, Florida. Interiors were primarily accomplished on soundstages in Los Angeles, while the exterior of The Birdcage was shot on location in Miami.
"South Beach is perfect for this movie because it's the closest equivalent in the United States to the French Rivera (where the original film took place)," Bo Welch offers. "It has perhaps the largest collection of 1930s Art Deco buildings in the world. The walk in front of where our Birdcage nightclub was located is a non-stop parade of scantily clad beautiful people, sprinkled with tourists from all over, so it's a great smorgasbord of characters, and you could imagine that this club should flourish there."
For The Birdcage itself, Nichols was insistent that it not appear to be a specialized club. "We wanted it to be a family place, a spot where people go on dates, birthdays and anniversaries. It ended up being a club for everybody."
In crafting Armand and Albert's apartment, Welch tried to capture the lifestyle of those who lived there as well as the neighborhood. "You walk the line between decorated and comfortable," he explains. "Armand and Albert are happy, they're settled, and that is reflected in their decor, but the overall design is more in response to the environment of South Beach, which is very warm and tropical."
In sharp contrast, the overhauled version of the apartment was a study in Gothic austerity. The severity of the setting and furniture has the desired effect of subtly adding to the tension and discomfort of the two families meeting for the first time.
Nichols credits costume designer Ann Roth and make-up artist Roy Helland with helping all of the actors define their characters, but their contributions were especially noted with regard to Nathan Lane's Albert. "Ann Roth is a genius; she instinctively knows what everybody should wear, even when it's just a t-shirt and shorts. But there's something about the way she and Roy conceive Nathan's character when he's in drag--especially when he's in drag for the family as 'Mrs. Coleman'--that made her a whole person with a specific identity."
Roy Helland also worked with Nichols to conceive the make-up for the corps of entertainers at The Birdcage. "Mike wanted the make-up in this movie to be real," Helland states. "He wanted a complete illusion so that the audience will suspend their disbelief. It can be funny, but it shouldn't be funny just looking at it."
To help mount the nightly extravaganza that draws regulars and tourists alike to The Birdcage, Nichols recruited noted choreographer Vince Paterson.
"We made the decision to use professional dancers and dress them in drag," Paterson recalls. "Mike wanted me to create six girls who were very individual, so I resisted the inclination to make their movements clean and precise. Inside the framework of all the steps being correct, they had the freedom to present their personalities."
The most difficult aspect of the show became the five-inch heels in which the dancers had to execute the choreography. "I told them they would be wearing heels, and they thought I meant those clunky little dance shoes, but I told Ann Roth to get me five inch heels. The first week was really tough for those guys because they'd never danced in anything like those before. So they suffered through the pain, but, you know... the price of beauty," Paterson laughs.
Before principal photography got underway, Nichols gathered his cast for a period of rehearsals. The director expounds, "I always rehearse a movie for a couple of weeks so we can understand the shape and architecture of the story, because you'll never be doing it in order again. Turning psychology into behavior is one of the director's jobs and it's easier for everyone when you've taken the journey from beginning to end."
Despite that, he acknowledges, "The great thing about making movies is you have this unique combination of preparing everything and then showing up to find out what's going to happen because you can never control it. You have to hope for a small miracle every day."
During the course of production, several of those small miracles arose from the creative input that Nichols encouraged from his remarkably versatile cast. "We had a rule on the picture," Nichols reveals. "The actors would do the written script until I was satisfied and then we would do one take in which they could improvise. Given this cast, there were obviously some improvs that were insanely funny, but didn't fit the story. But there are moments all through the picture that are improvised and were perfect."
Williams comments, "It does two things: it frees you up and it adds a certain wild energy to the mix. Then, even the scripted lines are gassed up because it's no holds barred, the rules are off. Sometimes it's great; sometimes it misses, but it spices it up and adds fire to the situation."
"It was an opportunity to try something different," Lane agrees. "Mike might not use the whole take, but little bits and pieces that were wonderful."
Nichols reveals one such moment: "Robin says to Nathan, 'Oh, you're going to the cemetery and you're taking your toothbrush--how Egyptian.' 'How Egyptian' was Robin's."
Both scripted takes and wild takes had the ability to end in work-stopping laughter. "There was a lot of falling down laughing on the set," Lane recalls. "Gene Hackman in tears, Dianne Wiest... everyone."
Even the director wasn't immune. "Mike would have to leave the set with his monitor and a handkerchief in his mouth so he wouldn't ruin the take with his laughter," Wiest tells. "We were all guilty of breaking up during takes. There were nights we would laugh from the time we arrived in the morning until we wrapped at night."
"Everyone involved added to the joy of making this movie," Nichols says. "I got even more than I anticipated from the comedy and, more importantly, from the reality."
"Armand and Albert don't live in a separate world," Williams agrees. "They're a couple and they have the same dynamics as any couple. It may not go with what was initially thought of as a nuclear family, but there are a lot of families like this, and they all share the same kinds of problems trying to get through life."
"Elaine's triumph," Nichols reflects, "was to ask the question, 'How would it be if this happened right here, right now, in today's society?'. She understood that you have to include every possible kind of prejudice in the telling of this story, because in the final reconciliation you represent everyone--not just gays and heterosexuals, but Jews and Gentiles, Democrats and Republicans... one hopes the whole country."
Nichols concludes, "THE BIRDCAGE is a comedy, but it has other elements as everything does. In the end, literally and figuratively, this is a film about reconciliation. The story doesn't take sides; the movie loves all of them, and I think the audience will too."
Robin Williams (Armand Goldman),
hailed for his comic genius, has earned equal acclaim for his powerful
performances in a number of decidedly dramatic roles.
He has been honored with three Academy Award nominations for Best Actor, the first coming for his multi-layer performance as a popular war zone deejay in Barry Levinson's Good Morning, Vietnam. His moving portrayal of a dedicated teacher in Peter Weir's Dead Poets Society brought him his second Best Actor nod, and he earned his third nomination for his inventive portrayal of a homeless man in Terry Gilliam's The Fisher King. In addition, Williams won a special Golden Globe Award for his irrepressible incarnation of the Genie in the animated hit musical Aladdin.
Williams also garnered widespread praise for his work in such
diverse films as Chris Columbus's Mrs. Doubtfire,
Penny Marshall's Awakenings, for which he was
honored by the National Board of Review as Best Actor, and Paul Mazursky's
Moscow on the Hudson. He most recently braved the
unique adventure of Jumanji, and he includes among
his additional screen credits Steven Spielberg's Hook,
George Roy Hill's The World According to Garp and
Robert Altman's Popeye. He will next be seen
starring in the title role of Francis Ford Coppola's
Jack, due out this fall.
Born in Chicago, Williams grew up in northern California where
he first showcased his comedic gifts. He was later accepted to the prestigious
Julliard Academy in New York, where he spent three years under the tutelage of
John Houseman, among others. Retuning to the West Coast, he began performing
at comedy clubs in San Francisco and Los Angeles, where he quickly built a
reputation as one of the most gifted young comedians on the scene.
He first gained national attention in an unforgettable close
encounter with the cast of television's hit series "Happy Days," where he
guest starred as the visiting alien Mork. The response to his appearance led
to the successful spin-off series "Mork and Mindy,"
which debuted in 1978.
Williams previously collaborated with director Mike Nichols on the revival of Samuel Beckett's " Waiting For Godot ," which enjoyed a sold-out run at New York's Lincoln Center.
Gene Hackman (Senator Keely) is
unquestionably one of the film industry's most admired actors, whose work
has been consistently honored by critics, audiences and his peers. In addition,
he is one of the most prolific actors of our time with a career spanning over
three decades and encompassing over 50 films.
In 1993, he swept the Academy Award, Golden Globe Award, British Academy Award, and Los Angeles and New York Film Critics Awards for Best Supporting Actor for his work in Clint Eastwood's Western blockbuster Unforgiven. Earlier in his career, he won a Best Actor Oscar for his indelible portrayal of tough cop Popeye Doyle in The French Connection. He earned another Best Actor Oscar nomination for his performance as a Federal agent in the compelling drama Mississippi Burning, as well as two more Supporting Actor nods for his work in Bonnie and Clyde and I Never Sang For My Father.
Hackman last year continued his list of acclaimed performances with his portrayal of B-movie producer Harry Zimm in MGM's smash hit comedy Get Shorty. He also delivered a powerhouse performance as a by-the-book submarine captain in the hit action thriller Crimson Tide. He had previously earned widespread praise for his portrayal of a slick corporate attorney in the suspense-filled drama The Firm, based on John Grisham's best seller, and next returns to Grisham territory with his starring role in the upcoming screen version of the author's The Chamber. Also ahead on Hackman's schedule is Extreme Measures.
His illustrious film career also includes such notable titles as The Poseidon Adventure, The Conversation, Scarecrow, Young Frankenstein, French Connection II, Night Moves, A Bridge Too Far, Superman, Reds, Uncommon Valor, Under Fire, Hoosiers, No Way Out, The Package, Narrow Margin, Postcards From the Edge and Class Action.
Hackman recently enjoyed a well-received return to his New York stage roots, when he starred in Mike Nichols' theatrical production of Death and the Maiden, also starring Glenn Close and Richard Dreyfuss.
Nathan Lane (Albert) is a familiar
face to Broadway and off-Broadway theatre audiences, and is also becoming
well-known for his work on the screen.
An award-winning stage actor, he received a Tony Award nomination as well as the Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Awards for his performance in the hit revival of the musical "Guys and Dolls." Lane also earned rave reviews for his work in the Broadway plays "Love! Valour! Compassion!," in which he reprised his role from the original off-Broadway production, Neil Simon's "Laughter on the 23rd Floor," "Present Laughter," "On Borrowed Time," "Some Americans Abroad" and "Merlin, The Wind in the Willows." He next returns to Broadway in the revival of "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum," directed by Jerry Zaks, due to open in April.
In 1992, Lane was honored with an Obie Award for Sustained Excellence for his work in a wide variety of off-Broadway productions. His extensive off-Broadway repertoire includes the Terrence McNally plays "The Lisbon Traviata," "Bad Habits" and "Lips Together, Teeth Apart"; as well as "The Film Society," "In a Pig's Valise," "She Stoops to Conquer," and "Measure For Measure," directed by Joseph Papp for the New York Shakespeare Festival.
For the screen, Lane lent his singing and speaking talents to the role of Timon in the animated blockbuster The Lion King. He was most recently seen in the highly praised feature Jeffrey, for which he has been nominated for an American Comedy Award. He includes among his additional film credits Addams Family Values; Frankie and Johnny; Life With Mikey; Ironweed; He Said, She Said; and The Lemon Sisters.
On television, he played the Cowardly Lion in TNT's "The Wizard of Oz," which was taped at Lincoln Center, and appeared in the Great Performances productions of "Alice in Wonderland" and Terrence McNally's "The Last Mile." He most recently starred in the Hallmark Hall of Fame presentation of "The Boys Next Door."
Dianne Wiest (Louise Keeley) is a
two-time Academy Award winner and one of today's most respected screen
actresses. Last year, she won the Oscar and was recognized by several
distinguished critics organizations for her portrayal of a flamboyant stage
actress in Woody Allen's Bullets Over Broadway. She had previously been
honored with an Academy Award for her role in Allen's Hannah and Her Sisters,
and was also Oscar nominated for her work in Ron Howard's Parenthood.
Wiest made her feature film debut in Claudia Weill's It's My Turn, and has gone on to appear in such movies as Jack Hofsiss' I'm Dancing As Fast As I Can, Ulu Grossbard's Falling in Love, Tim Burton's Edward Scissorhands and Jodie Foster's Little Man Tate. Wiest has also enjoyed a long collaboration with director Woody Allen in the films The Purple Rose of Cairo, September and Radio Days, in addition to her aforementioned Oscar-winning roles.
Wiest is presently starring in Peter Cohn's Drunks, which was screened at this year's Sundance Film Festival. The festival also honored the actress personally with the 1996 Piper-Heidsieck Tribute for Independent Vision. She will next star opposite Whoopi Goldberg in Donald Petrie's The Associate.
Also an accomplished stage actress, Wiest won the Obie, Clarence Derwent and Theatre World Awards for Best Actress for her performance in "The Art of Dining" off-Broadway. She more recently starred in "In The Summer House," presented at Lincoln Center.
Hank Azaria (Agador) most recently
appeared in Michael Mann's action hit Heat, with Al Pacino. He was previously
seen in a cameo role in Lesli Glatter's Now and Then, produced by and starring
Demi Moore. In Robert Redford's Best Picture Academy Award-nominated Quiz Show,
Azaria portrayed Al Freedman, a television producer who colludes with David
Paymer's character to rig a game show. Azaria was also seen in Garry Marshall's
comedy hit Pretty Woman.
No stranger to television, Azaria starred in CBS' romantic comedy "If Not For You," with Elizabeth McGovern. He is also the voice of several key characters on Fox's long-running comedy series "The Simpsons," and starred in Fox's innovative sitcom "Herman's Head."
Azaria trained at the prestigious American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York, and played the title role in a production of "Hamlet" at Columbia University. He continued his theatre studies at Tufts University, where he appeared in productions of such plays as "Uncle Vanya," "The Merchant of Venice," "The Ballad of the Sad Cafe" and "The Dumb Waiter."
He subsequently moved to Los Angeles, where he further honed his skills under the direction of Roy London. He experimented in improvisation and sketch comedy, becoming a favorite at local comedy clubs, and co-wrote "An Evening on Thin Ice," which was presented at The Comedy Store. Azaria also won a DramaLogue Award for his work in the play "Conspicuous Consumption."
Christine Baranski (Katherine) is
perhaps best known to television fans for her Emmy-winning portrayal of Cybill
Shepherd's wisecracking best friend in the CBS series "Cybill." However, she
has long delighted New York theatre audiences with her highly praised
performances in a wide variety of stage roles.
Though THE BIRDCAGE marks her first screen collaboration with Mike Nichols, she previously worked with the director in the Broadway production of Tom Stoppard's "The Real Thing," for which Baranski won a Tony Award and a Drama Desk Award. Nichols also directed her on Broadway in David Rabe's "Hurlyburly."
Baranski won a second Tony Award for her work in Neil Simon's "Rumors," and a Drama Desk Award for Terrence McNally's "Lips Together, Teeth Apart." She also starred in the Broadway presentation of John Guare's "The House of Blue Leaves."
On the screen, Baranski most recently joined the ensemble cast of the film version of Paul Rudnick's off-Broadway hit Jeffrey. She appeared as Claus von Bulow's mistress in Barbet Schroeder's Reversal of Fortune, and includes among her additional film credits Addams Family Values, Life With Mikey, 9 1/2 Weeks, Lovesick and Legal Eagles. She has also been seen in the television movies "Playing for Time" and "To Dance With the White Dog."
Dan Futterman (Val Goldman) performs
his first studio feature film starring role in THE BIRDCAGE. He was previously
seen in Terry Gilliam's The Fisher King, Joan Micklin Silver's Big Girls Don't
Cry and Charlie Peters' Passed Away. He stars in the upcoming independent
features Till Christmas and Dr. Spielberg's Boat.
A graduate of Columbia University, Futterman has earned praise for his work on the New York stage. He appeared in the award-winning Broadway play "Angels in America" and the Lincoln Center production of "The Lights." He also had roles in such off-Broadway plays as "The Raft of Medusa" and "Club Soda."
On television, Futterman was featured in the longform projects "The Out of Towners" and "Class of '61."
Calista Flockhart (Barbara Keeley)
is a young actress who has already built an impressive New York stage repertoire.
She was recognized with the Theatre World and Clarence Derwent Awards for her
performance as Laura in "The Glass Menagerie" at the Roundabout Theatre. She
also earned praise for her work in the off-Broadway production of "The Loop,"
in which she came to the attention of Mike Nichols.
Her other credits include off-Broadway presentations of "All for One," "Sophistry," Garry Marshall's production of "Wrong Turn at Lungfish," "Beside Herself" and "Bovver Boys." In addition to her work on the New York stage, Flockhart has starred in several prominent regional productions, including "The Three Sisters" at Chicago's Goodman Theatre, and "Our Town" and "Death Takes a Holiday" at the Williamstown Theatre Festival.
Flockhart has also been seen onscreen in the features Quiz Show, Naked in New York and Drunks, and in the television movies "Darrow" and "The Secret Life of Mary Margaret Carter."
Mike Nichols (Director/Producer)
is a multi-faceted leader in the entertainment industry who has been repeatedly
recognized for his contributions to both the stage and screen. During the
course of his distinguished career, his many honors have included an Oscar,
an Emmy, seven Tony Awards, and a Directors Guild Award.
Nichols had already established himself as an award-winning Broadway stage director when he made an auspicious feature film directorial debut on the screen version of Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, starring Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Sandy Dennis and George Segal. Nichols earned his first Best Director Academy Award nomination for his work on the film, which was also nominated for Best Picture and brought Oscars to Taylor and Dennis. The following year, Nichols won the Oscar for his direction of the groundbreaking film The Graduate, which propelled Dustin Hoffman to instant stardom and an Academy Award nomination. The Graduate was also nominated for Best Picture and nearly three decades later remains one of the seminal films of a generation.
Nichols has since garnered Academy Award nominations for Best Director for his work on the acclaimed drama Silkwood, which also brought Oscar nods to Meryl Streep and Cher; and the delightful comedy Working Girl, which received five other nominations, including Best Picture, Actress (Melanie Griffith) and Supporting Actress (Sigourney Weaver).
Nichols has also helmed such diverse features as Catch-22, Carnal Knowledge, The Day of the Dolphin, The Fortune, Heartburn, Biloxi Blues, Postcards From the Edge, Regarding Henry and Wolf.
Nichols began directing for the stage, making his Broadway debut in 1963 on the Neil Simon comedy "Barefoot in the Park," starring Robert Redford. His work gained him his first Tony Award, and he went on to direct a string of critical and commercial successes, including the Neil Simon hits "The Odd Couple," "Plaza Suite" and "Prisoner of Second Avenue," all of which were honored with Tony Awards. He also directed the Tony-winning "The Knack," "Luv" and "The Apple Tree," as well as "Streamers," voted Best Play by the New York Drama Critics, and the Pulitzer Prize-winning "The Gin Game."
In 1977, he produced the smash Broadway musical "Annie," which won seven Tony Awards, spawning a feature film adaptation and the now-classic anthem "Tomorrow."
More recently, Nichols directed the Broadway productions of Tom Stoppard's Tony-wining "The Real Thing," David Rabe's "Hurlyburly," the comedy "Social Security," and Ariel Dorfman's "Death and the Maiden," starring Glenn Close, Richard Dreyfuss and Gene Hackman. He also mounted Whoopi Goldberg's 1984 one-woman show, which first brought her national attention. In addition, he crafted the Chicago and New York presentations of Jules Feiffer's "Elliott Loves," and the sold-out Lincoln Center revival of Samuel Beckett's "Waiting for Godot," starring Robin Williams and Steve Martin.
Born in Berlin, Nichols emigrated with his family to New York in 1939 to escape Nazi persecution. While attending the University of Chicago, he shuttled to New York to study acting with Lee Strasberg and ultimately left college to help form an acting company called the Compass Players. The troupe soon evolved into the innovative Second City, where his colleagues included Elaine May, Alan Arkin, Shelley Berman, Barbara Harris, Zohra Lampert and others.
In 1957, Nichols and May launched their now-legendary comedy team. Their successful partnership, including a year-long, sold-out Broadway engagement, lasted four years until they elected to pursue independent career paths. Though they have since reunited on a variety of projects, THE BIRDCAGE marks their first official collaboration for the big screen.
Elaine May (Screenwriter) has
enjoyed a multi-facet career as a highly regarded writer, director and
She was honored with an Academy Award nomination for Best Screenplay for the hit comedy Heaven Can Wait, which she co-wrote with the film's star Warren Beatty.
May made her feature film directorial debut on A New Leaf, which she also scripted. She also wrote and directed Mikey and Nicky and Ishtar, as well as helming the comedy The Heartbreak Kid, from a screenplay by Neil Simon.
She has also lent her talents to the legitimate theatre, where she has seen several of her plays produced, including "Adaptation," "Not Enough Rope" and "Mr. Gogol and Mr. Preen." In addition, she wrote the one-act play "Hot Line," which was presented as part of the 1995 off-Broadway hit "Death Defying Acts." She also directed the off-Broadway production of Terrence McNally's "Adaptation/Next."
May and Mike Nichols were both members of the trailblazing Compass Players which later became Second City. They went on to create one of the most successful comedy duos of the day. Together they headlined "An Evening With Nichols and May" on Broadway for a successful year-long run, in addition to appearing at cabaret clubs around the country.
May has also appeared onscreen in such films as Luv, Enter Laughing, A New Leaf, California Suite, and In the Spirit.
Neil Machlis (Executive Producer)
previously worked with Mike Nichols as the executive producer on Postcard
From the Edge and Wolf. He also executive produced the hit comedies Honeymoon
in Vegas, starring Nicolas Cage, Trains, Planes, and Automobiles, teaming
Steve Martin and John Candy, and Chances Are, starring Robert Downey, Jr.
and Cybill Shepherd.
In addition, Machlis served as the co-producer on such films as the recent romantic comedy I.Q., starring Walter Matthau, Meg Ryan and Tim Robbins; the hit sequel Three Men and a Little Lady; An Innocent Man, starring Tom Selleck; and Monster Squad.
A graduate of the very first class of the Directors Guild Training Program, Machlis began his career working on such films as Lenny and Play it Again, Sam. He later worked his way up through the ranks from second assistant director to first assistant director, and then to production manager and associate producer.
His early credits as associate producer or production manager include such diverse films as Grease, Grease 2, American Gigolo, Mommie Dearest, Johnny Dangerously, 2010 and Gung Ho.
Marcello Danon (Executive Producer)
has enjoyed a successful career extending over the last half of this century.
He was the producer of the original French/Italian film La Cage Aux Folles.
Danon began his career in the late 1940s, working as an executive producer for several of the top film companies in France and Italy. In 1955, he produced his first film under his own production banner Da.Ma. Films. Since then he has produced over 50 films, including Rififi Chez Les Hommes, En Cas de Malheur, and the sequels to OSS 117, Fantomas and La Cage Aux Folles.
He has collaborated with such directors as Jules Dassin, Claude Autant-Lara, Henri Verneuil, Marcel Carné, Claude Pinoteau and Edouard Molinaro. His films have also featured such notable actors as Brigitte Bardot, Yves Montand, Fernandel, Claudia Cardinale, Oliver Reed, Pier Angeli, Jean Paul Belmondo, Vittorio De Sica, Melina Mercouri and Curt Jurgens, to name only a few.
In addition, Danon has seen a number of his film honored with a variety of international awards, including the Golden Globe, Cèsar (France), David di Donatello (Italy), and nominations for the Academy Award and Special Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival.
Emmanuel Lubezki (Director of
Photography) most recently served as the cinematographer for the widely hailed
family film A Little Princess, continuing a successful collaboration with
director Alfonso Cuaron that began at the National University in Mexico City.
One of Mexico's most esteemed directors of photography, Lubezki won his first Ariel Award in 1992 for his work on Alfonso Arau's Like Water For Chocolate, becoming the youngest recipient of that country's highest cinematography award. He won another Ariel for Miroslava the following year, and his third in 1994 for his work on Amber, making Lubezki the first person ever to be recognized with the Ariel for three consecutive years.
Lubezki again worked with Alfonso Arau on the recent hit romance A Walk in the Clouds, starring Keanu Reeves. His additional film credits include Alfonso Cuaron's feature film debut Love in the Time of Hysteria, Ben Stiller's offbeat comedy Reality Bites, The Harvest and Twenty Bucks. He also won a Cable ACE Award for his work on the "Murder Obliquely" installment of the Showtime series "Fallen Angels."
Bo Welch (Production Designer)
previously worked with Mike Nicholson the atmospheric romantic thriller Wolf.
Acclaimed an innovative designer with an exceptional ability for blending
fantasy and reality, his imaginative designs have set the tone for such
distinctly stylish Tim Burton hits as Edward Scissorhands for which he won
a BAFTA Award, Beetlejuice and Batman Returns.
He most recently served as the production designer as well as the second unit director on Alfonso Cuaron's A Little Princess, which brought him the 1995 L.A. Film Critics Award for Best Art Director. His additional film credits include Lawrence Kasdan's Grand Canyon and The Accidental Tourist, John Patrick Shanley's Joe Versus the Volcano, and Joel Schumacher's The Lost Boys.
Prior to making the transition to production designer, Welch had been honored with an Academy Award nomination for his art direction on Steven Spielberg's The Color Purple. Earlier in his career, he worked as an art director on such films as Swing Shift, Mommie Dearest, Chilly Scenes of Winter and The Star Chamber.
Arthur Schmidt (Editor) has won
two Academy Awards, the most recent for his astounding blending of past and
present in Robert Zemeckis' blockbuster Forrest Gump. He earned his first
Oscar for another Zemeckis smash, Who Framed Roger Rabbit?. In addition,
Schmidt has been Zemeckis' editor of choice on all three of the Back to the
Future hits, as well as the comedy thriller Death Becomes Her.
Schmidt counts among his other film credits Barry Sonnenfeld's Addams Family Values, Michael Mann's Last of the Mohicans, Ruthless People, The Rocketeer, Fandango, The Escape Artist, Firstborn, Coal Miner's Daughter, and John Schlessinger's Marathon Man. Earlier in his career, he worked with Mike Nichols as the assistant editor on The Fortune.
For television, Schmidt earned an Emmy Award as well as an Eddie Award for his work on the highly praised telefilm "The Jericho Mile."
Ann Roth (Costume Designer)
continues a longtime association with Mike Nichols that began on Broadway
and continued onscreen. She has created the costumes for the director's last
seven films: Wolf, Regarding Henry, Postcards From the Edge, Working Girl,
Biloxi Blues, Heartburn and Silkwood. They also collaborated on the stage
productions of "The Odd Couple," "Lunch Hour," "Social Security" and the
Lincoln Center revival of "Waiting for Godot."
One of the most sought-after designers in the industry, Roth's talents have graced over 40 films in a career spanning more than three decades. She received an Oscar nomination for her work on Places in the Heart and won the British Academy Award for John Schlessinger's The Day of the Locust.
Just a few of her other notable credits are Sydney Pollack's remake of Sabrina and Barbet Schroeder's new film Before and After, in addition to Just Cause, Dave, Q & A, Pacific Heights, Family Business, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, The Morning After, Sweet Dreams, Jagged Edge, The World According to Garp, Dressed to Kill, Nine to Five, Hair, Coming Home, The Goodbye Girl and Midnight Cowboy.
For television, Roth has lent her talents to such outstanding projects as "Serving in Silence" and "O Pioneer!." She also continues to divide her time between the stage and screen, and recently designed the costumes for the New York productions of "Singin' in the Rain" and "Arms and the Man."
Vincent Paterson (Choreographer)
is a highly regarded choreographer and director for both the screen and stage.
In addition, he has been a creative force in the careers of two of the most
influential superstars of our time: Madonna and Michael Jackson.
He was recognized with a Tony Award nomination for his choreography for Hal Prince's musical adaptation of "Kiss of the Spiderwoman" on Broadway. His work also extends to the concert stage, where he directed and choreographed Madonna's "Blonde Ambition" tour and Michael Jackson's "Bad" tour, as well as the tours of other top artists.
Paterson is currently choreographing Alan Parker's long-awaited film adaptation of the Broadway smash Evita, starring Madonna. His additional film credits include Steven Spielberg's Hook, Madonna's documentary Truth or Dare and Sydney Pollack's Havana. He also conceived, choreographed and co-directed the innovative "Smooth Criminal" number in Michael Jackson's film Moonwalker.
His talents have been reflected in the videos of such musical vanguards as Van Halen, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and David Lee Roth. His choreography has also contributed to many of the most memorable award-winning commercials ever produced, including "Barkley of Seville" for Nike, Ray Charles' "Uh Huh" for Diet Pepsi, and the Levis Loose campaign.
Paterson both directed and choreographed the TNT special "In Search of Dr. Seuss." This delightful journey through the works of the legendary author garnered seven Emmy nominations, including Best Choreography, and five ACE Award nominations, including Best Director.