MIKE NICHOLS on "BUSINESS"

MARCH 5, 2016

Mike Nichols directed Neil Simons’ stage and film productions of “The Odd Couple”.  Nichols’ actors complained about all the “business” they had to learn. He told them, “If you want to be an actor, learn it.”

So what is “business”? Let’s say you, the actor, are in the middle of dialog. You learned your lines. You studied and analyzed, and interpreted them.  But in between all those words or along side is the “business” of, let’s say, walking to the refrigerator, opening it, retrieving a bottle of milk, going to the cupboard for a glass, setting down the glass on the counter, pouring the milk, returning the bottle to the refrigerator, carrying the glass to the table, kicking aside the chair . . . . .”

In the poker game at near the beginning of “The Odd Couple,” there is business about the chips, the cards while everyone is talking, and then Jack Lemons comes to the table with his towel over his arm to clear the smoke, he has to check that everyone is using a coaster for his drink, etc., he sprays the air, more business with the towel . . . .

Well, well, well. I am in the middle of editing my new novel The Romantic Imperative. I’m running into “business” that slows me up at every juncture.  The mailman knocks on the door with a registered letter. He has a clipboard. He must go around to the back of the house for something, come back inside the house, forget his clipboard, retrieve it, and so on. All this, while rewriting the dialog and narration.  The cursor on the keyboard is running up and down, trying to keep up with the accuracy of the business.

Get it? This is editing, and the writer’s business.