tv The Last Word With Lawrence O Donnell MSNBC November 20, 2014 7:00pm-8:01pm PST
this is going to be fireworks in washington for a very long time over this. but tonight, right now for these folk, this moment is about all sorts of things. it's about celebration, it's about joy, it's worrying that this will not go far enough to help everybody in their families. maybe there's some relief that finally immigration policy can change, at least in a small way. this announcement tonight will transform the lives of millions of people across this country. and that is truly a very big deal. that does it for us tonight. see you again tomorrow. time for "the last word" with lawrence o'donnell. >> a big news night, rachel. >> indeed, thanks. >> it is also a night of very bad weather news for the buffalo region. as the death count mounts in the historic snowfall there that continues to pile up tonight, creating even more dangers. and in hollywood tonight, an outpouring of loving remembrance for the masterful director mike nichols, diane sawyer's husband who passed away last night. steven spielberg today called mike nichols one of america's
all-time greatest film and stage directors. james lipton will join me for a look at the life and times and achievements of mike nichols. but first, president obama finally announces his executive action on immigration. it was a 15-minute speech, but it took only about a minute to outline the basics of his plan. >> if you've been in america for more than five years, if you have children who are american citizens or legal residents, if you register, pass a criminal background check anticipate you're willing to pay your fair share of tacks you'll be able to apply to stay in this country temporarily without deportation. you can come out of the shadows and get right with the law. that's what this deal is. it does not grant citizenship or the right to stay here
permanently or receive the same rights benefits receive. only congress can do that. all we're saying is we're not going to deport you. >> joining me now, a professor at penn staut's school of law, julia epstein and mari laina, the executive director of the national immigration law center. you're going to be in las vegas tomorrow when the president arrives to talk about this there. what do you think the impact is, the real-life impact of what he said tonight, how do you think it will be received tomorrow in nevada? >> hi, lawrence. i just arrived to las vegas a couple of hours ago, and the president's announcement and his decision to use his executive authority is going to have life-changing impact on individuals. the fact that individuals, about 5 million immigrants will be able to have their sense of dignity and respect restored, where they will be finally able to come forward, work lawfully,
pay taxes, support themselves and their families, and fulfill their full human potential. that is huge. it's such a defieping moment for america. and it will really have ripple effects for the individuals directly affected but also for the families, the community and our economy, our country as a whole. >> the president said that what he was -- all that he is allowing is for these people to stay in the kounl tri temporarily. what does that mean? >> the reference that president obama made was to prosecutorial discretion. this is a decision that the immigration agency or executive branch makes about whether or not to enforce the immigration law against a person or a group of persons. so when the executive branch uses this, it's a temporary
reprieve. it does not leave to an independent path of permanent residency. that's beyond the limit of pos c -- prosecutorial discretion. >> it seems the temporary means three years. anyone who is granted this temporary ability to work, because their case is being deferred under the deferred action option that the agency has, that they will then be granted this basic right to work for three years. is that your understanding of what they're proposing tonight? >> the three-year deferment is what i have heard. and the legality for granting deferred action and allowing individuals to apply for work authorization is very much grounded in the statute and the regulations. the concept of issuing deferred action and work permits based on a deferred action grant enjoys a
very rich history, and has been applied to many of the same kinds of people who have been prioritized by the president today. >> it seems this is the largest number of people who are going to enjoy a different kind of life under deferred action, but the president never mentioned a number tonight because the number it seems to me in his rhetorical approach, anyway, because it's actually a definition of a group that leave i don't say uh with this number, which is to say family members. this is entirely about family members, parents of children who are here totally legal le. some who were born here. parents do not have the same right the as the children and they're trying to match up those
rights so we can keep a family intact in the united states. >> right. the focus of the president's decision has been to focus on family reunification. aerch to make sure parents aren't ripped awe way from their lawful children. the number is estimated to be about 5 million when you look at the combination of the different policies the administration has put together. >> julian, i was slow to come around to see what the legal justification for this was because the white house was absolutely silent about legal justification. you would get no answer as recently as last week or earlier this week. i had a democratic member of congress the other night, i asked him if anyone has told him what the legal frus justification was and he actually honestly admitted no. i couldn't find any democratic elected officials who understand the justification. and it's because you have to dig kind of deeply into immigration
law which i was guided through by immigration law experts on it. and you can see what i side it all, there is this really giant hole in these two words deferred action. it seems to me now, the president's choice is very solidly grounded in a legal basis. >> the president is on very, very solid legal ground. some republicans are talking about suing. i think if you listen to what the president was saying about that, he was saying go ahead, make my day if the republicans want to try to take him to court. the immigration statute makes it expressly clear that the secretary of homeland security not only has the discretion for deferred action but has the decision cession to grant work permits. this discretion has been
validated and acknowledged by the supreme court a number of times including in the case we discussed on this show, the arizona case of 2012. there is probably -- the president probably has this authority anyway in his inherent powers. has has been pointed out, there's ample authority for the use of this precedent. the best precedent in this case is really bush 41 who deferred action of 1.4 million undocumenteds because they had a family member who were legalized. and that's really a pretty similar situation to what we're looking at here. so i think the president on the law is saying go ahead, make my day, take this bait if you want to challenge me legally on this. if you want to challenge me politically on this, i have a real easy answer. do your job, pass immigration reform. you' been saying you want to pass immigration reform. this is him to the congress, for six year nous. you haven't done it don't blame me for a stop-gap measure while
you have failed to do your job when i'm exercising my authority that is squarely within my statutory and inherent authorities. >> and julian, i now want to turn the tables on the opposition side of this because, you know, i challenged the white house, i challenged democrats to show me the legal basis. they couldn't actually, and i had to turn to other legal experts to find it. i now would like to know what is the legal basis for throwing around this word sue? i mean, you know, children can throw around that phrase, i'm going to sue you, i'm going to sue you, but who has standing to sue under this action that the president has taken? doesn't it require you to have had -- to have been damage the by the action the president is taking? who has a cause of action. what is the capacity for ted cruz or these people in congress to actually find a courthouse where they can actually mount some kind of suit against the president on this. >> elected officials won't have
standing. they will have to find an individual that they can argue was somehow injured by this, and that, i think, is a stretch. i can see a couple of hypotheticals. but i hope they do find somebody and i hope that they do try to force this case in courts legally because they will lose. the authority is ample. every president pretty much since eisenhower has exercised this authority. it was exercised really kind of openly and notoriously by reagan and by both bushes, as well as clinton. and, you know, we hear this word sue, sue, sue. we talked about it all the time. we heard these republicans were so confidently in, you know, this full-throated way going to sue the president on the fast anticipate furious investigation. where did that go? nowhere. we heard that they were going to sue the president on libya. where did that go? nowhere in the courts. where did the suit go on the ins contempt citation? nowhere in the course. someone needs date of birth keeping score here. every time the president initiates a policy the
republicans don't like, they say unconstitutional, we're going to sue, we're going to sue. .if anyone is keeping score here, they will realize the republicans are batting about 0 on all these legal threats to hold the president accountable, because they're just wrong on the law and what the president has done in each of these cases including tonight has been squarely within, again, both his inherent authority and the explicit statutory authority. i don't know why these democratic members couldn't find the authority. there's ample precedent for it and the supreme court has validated it. >> we're going to have to leave it there for the moment. thank you very much for all your guidance on the law on this in the last few days. julian epstein, thank you for joining us to night. thank you all. >> thank you. coming up, the republican reaction to the president's plan and the vicious weather in the buffalo region is getting worse. it is already has buried snow. and there's more on the way. the amount of snow on the roofs of homes now is getting very dangerously close to the limit
of the weight those roofs can bear. this is a very dangerous situation up there. and there is more snow coming. also, mike nichols, one of the greatest film and stage directors of our time arrived in this country as a jewish refugee from nazi germany when he was eight years old. had he arrived just two weeks later, his ship would have been turned away in one of the most shameful episodes of anti-immigrant fervor in this country's history. we have the video of mike nichols telling james lipton how lucky he was to be accepted into that country. and james lipton will join me later to consider the extraordinary life and achievements of the legendary mike nichols. >> you're trying to seduce me. aren't you? >> mike nichols died last night at the age of 83. our deepest condolences go out
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esposito and immigrant jeremy wolf. >> it's an historic day. we are absolutely thrilled to be where we are. >> richard, why the secrecy about this? once he said it it took about a minute to relay the actual moving parts of it. the elements of it, why dependent they just say what this was a week ago instead of allowing all sorts of alarmism to be described -- to describe it instead of what it actually is? >> i would like to expand it. why didn't they do it before the election? the policy decisions, the legal framework had all been made. they were only discouraged from doing so by a very nervous bunch of house democrats largely who
said if you do this, we might end up with a wave election against us, a bloodbath, and of course, that's what happened anyway. i think this is a president who clearly knew what he wanted to do. he said this years ago that he thought undocumented immigrants will having in the shadows were a civil rights issue, a civil rights issue that he could make a difference on. he couldn't take part in the civil rights movement when he was young. a chance for him to do something different. he should have gone to the koun trif with it. having said that, why the cloak and dagger now, i think they were waiting for that moment post that international trip. this is the first window they got. >> let's listen to what ted cruz said about it on fox news tonight. >> if he goes forward yuan latically defying the congress elected by the people, defying the american voter, then it's incumbent on republicans in congress to use every single constitutional tool we have to defend the rule of law, to reign in a president so the president does not become an unaccountable
monarch imposing his own policies in defiance of the american people. >> it's a simple set of tools that they have. by the way, defunding isn't one of them. this immigration service is self-funding through fees and all sorts of stuff. so they don't actually control the purse strings of that. but just -- as the president said, you can pass legislation. and, in fact, you know, if he wants to dare them, they can pass legislation to make it illegal to do what he actually did. you can write that into immigration law. he, of course, would veto it. you need 2/3 to pass that. but jackie, this notion that ted cruz wants to advance that somehow there's a difficult challenge here for congress, it's really easy. just go at this in legislation. >> well, i think the problem is that the administration and the president, they have very clear torte to eexercise discretion in the enforcement of immigration law. >> i don't think those guys know
it. i didn't know it a week ago and i was trying to find it out. and digging through the law and, you know, getting the legal experts to guide you to the source of this wasn't easy. and it sounds to me, the republicans haven't bothered to do it. and if any staff member does show it to them they're going to say okay, i don't want to know that, i've got to make this speech that says it's evil. >> immigration authorities know that they are actually independent, almost an independent judicial branch. there is no judicial review. >> yes, yes. >> they act with their own authority. there is no independent review. and so if you knew anything about how immigration law works or immigration authorities work, they act with that kind of executive power. i think you're talking about a group of elected officials who know the politics extremely well and know the policy and the law extremely poorly. >> and you know who it sounds like was not so sure on the law, or was guided well on the law was the president of the united states over a year ago when he said i would have to be an emperor to do what he did
tonight. that quote is coming back to haunt them now because it sound like he, too, was underbriefed on just how much power resides in the executive inside that law. >> well, i think that's true. butly say this -- i think what the president meant when he said that was i can't grant relief to everyone who would have qualified under the senate bill. >> it sowned like to me that he meant i can't grant relief more than i have with these dreamers. he was saying i've gone as far as i can go. >> well, that may be. >> we don't know. there's two possible interpretations. if. >> if he was an emperor, he would have granted relief under the senate bill. he didn't do that. he took a much more thoughtful approach and looked at it and said these are the folks i think i can grant relief to under the law. and there are some folks who unfortunately i condition grant
relief to because i don't have the authority to do that. i think it's pretty solid. >> what about the republican senators? 68 votes in the senate for what jackie was just mentioning, which was a gsh you know, with 11 million beneficiaries, a much bigger idea. what are we going to hear from them about what the president did tonight? >> well, half of them are running for president themselves. so i think -- >> because they were in favor of something much bigger. >> sure they were. and president bush was also in favor of things. as i recall, he had a pretty tough view when it came to things like security and also the future of the republican party. so wise heads in a nonpresidential year sma see this differently from the republican party, but there is not a chance that republican senators l back this. this will be a showdown. they have some tough choices now. are they going to shut down the president, impeach the president or go for a republican infusion with latino voters.
>> add your voice to the discussion on the immigration action. join msnbc tomorrow on twitter starting at 11:30 a.m. eastern. #msnbcchat. coming up, two more feet of snow for people already under six to seven feet of snow in the buffalo region. this is getting really scare. it was already scary. getting much, much worse up there. and later, the film, television and theatre legacy of the great and now late mike nichols. my family, we're close...
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. >> weather taker, nearly seven feet of snow have fallen south of buffalo. and two to three feet of more snow could be on the way tonight. nbc's lester holt has this report. lester? >> lawrence, good evening. we got hit by another heavy band of snow this afternoon. things are calm this hour, but the continuing travel restriction, the fact the fact that a lot of people can't get in and out of their homes has made for some pretty desperate times as we witness both on the ground and in the air today. >> day three, this is absolutely crazy. >> reporter: the snow keel kooeps falling. and the weight of it all is beginning to cause roof collapses. more than 100 patients had to be evacuated from this nursing home when the roof began to show
signs of weakening. >> the roof is compromised. it has not collapsed yet, but there is potential for it. >> more than two dozen people driven from the roads by whiteout conditions and deep snow have been holed new this walmart store since tuesday. >> couldn't ask for a better place tor stranded. >> we could see entire sections of the buffalo area paint white. roof tops that look like they've been slaterred in whipped cream. south of buffalo it gets a lot worse. these are unplowed streets. we can count dozens of cars that were stooped in their tracks. buried in snow to the roof. it's miserable pip's like the day the earth stood still. but even as road crews make progress, there were neighborhoods still cut off, vournded by chest deep snow. we ventured down one cul-de-sac on foot where we could only shout a conversation. have you ever seen it like this? >> i have never seen anything like this. i have lived in this area my
whole life. >> officials say they're their best to reach those facing emergencies and are reminding home bound residents to take precautions. >> we've been stuck here since monday evening. wert remeet this family last night. they're still snow bound. but today, her husband david finally got out, walking four miles to get food for their baby evan. >> worst challenge i had to overcome was the eight-foot high of snow. the cup boards were bare. i was able to get two quarts of miming and baby foot. >> the people shoveling the snow off their roof. six feet of snow on their roof. obviously concerned about a collapse of some kind. they can't dig their way out of this neighborhood. the new york throughway is still closed. still buried under all that
snow, buffalo's ralph wilson stadium where tonight the bills have declared a snow day, calling off sunday's scheduled game against the jets. and about that woman you saw me shouting across the snowy yard. we couldn't get to her, she couldn't get to us. well, it was this house right here. we're happy to report that a few hours after our conversation she was able to get a tractor in here. they plowed a route, an escape route for her, if you will. but again, it's very difficult going even once you get outside your house traveling. so folks still doing without a lot of things they would rather have right about now. back to you. >> thank you, lester. and joining me now by phone is janet snyder. she's buffalo morning show radio host. grew up in buffalo. janet, you've got to start to be worrying about food supplies in people's homes where they're kind of stranded. this is getting to a really critical point. >> absolutely. food supplies are definitely something we're concerned about in western new york because the throughway is closed.
the food and milk and everything like that can't even get into our area. the other concern is with the weather changing we're going to move from all of this snow and a lot of people have two, three, four feet of snow on their roof. rain will act like a blanket and increase the weight op all of the roofs with snow. >> and add to the weight of it as the snow gets heaviest and wetter. >> if you think of it, it would be like a big blanket of water on the roof. what happens is when the rain starts, the snow actually will absorb the rain. anyone who's made a snowball before snows the difference between a light and fluffy snowball and up with of the heavy, thick snowballs. and that's what it's going to turn into this week. and right now, the snow on people's roofs, it would be like the equivalent of having two parked cars on your roof. that is the transition that
we're going to be looking at and worrying about, flooding and roofs collapsing. >> janet snyder, thank you very much for joining us tonight and good luck. thank you, janet. coming up, remembering the great mike nichols. james lipton will be here. ♪ they are a glowing example of what it means to be the best. and at this special time of year, they shine even brighter. come to the winter event and get the mercedes-benz you've always wished for, now for an exceptional price. [ho, ho, ho, ho]
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lipton asked mike nichols about those two sentences. >> what were your first two sentences in english? >> i can't speak english and please don't kiss me. >> mike nichols obviously became fluent in the language and in the culture of his new country. and went on to become one of the most accomplished and honored directors of our time. he is one of only about a dozen people who have won an oscar, a tony, an emmy and a grammy. he actually won one oscar, nine tony, four emmys and one grammy. he was nominated for an oscar five times. he began as a performer in college in chicago where he met elaine may with whom he would later triumph of on broadway. by then, they had become a popular sketch comedy team, nichols and may who were pioneering the kind of work that later "saturday night live"
would turn into a franchise. later he said he didn't realize it at the time but his work with may was his dictatorial training. he won a tony for "barefoot in the park." the first time he looked through a camera lens to direct actors was in 1966 when he found himself directing the biggest movie stars in the world. >> you really screwed up, george. >> oh, come on. >> i mean you really have. >> you humiliate me, you can tear me to pieces all night, that's perfectly okay, that's all right. >> you can't stand it. >> i cannot stand it. >> y >> you can stand it. you married me for it. >> that's a desperately sick lie. >> richard burton and elizabeth taylor. richard burton was not just a movie star, he was one of the greatest actors of that or any
other time. and this is what he had to say about his first time film director of "who's afraid of virginia wolf." a director's chief virtue should be to persuade you through a role. mike is the only one i know who can do it. richard burton had already worked with more than his share of the great directors by that time. and he did not expect to learn anything from this first-time film director, but he did. richard burton later said, he conspires with you to get your best. he would make me throw away a line where i had hit it hard. i have seen the film with an audience and he's right every time. i didn't think i could learn anything about comedy. i had done all of shakespeares, but from him, i learned. from mike nichols' second film "the graduate" he won the oscar for best director. >> i have to tell you something. >> what is it? >> that woman. that woman, that older woman i told you about. >> you mean that one?
>> the married wop. that wasn't just some woman. >> what are you telling me? will you just tell me what this is all about? >> oh, no. >> elaine. >> oh, my god. >> please. >> get out of here. >> don't cry. >> get out! get out! get out, get out! >> when the sad news of mike nichols death last night at the age of 83 became public, hollywood began to speak. steven spielberg said mike was a friend, a muse, a mentor, one of america's all-time greatest film and stage directors and one of the most generous people i have ever known. for me, "the graduate" was life alter, both as an experience at the movies as well as a master class about how to stage a
scene. mike had a brilliant cinematic eye and uncanny hearing for keeping scenes ironic and real. actors never gave him less than their personal best. and then mike would get from them even more. >> gus. going on the most important trip of our lives in the morning. so let's get plenty of sleep. i'm going home. >> mario, you still love me? >> yes, sir. >> he may be in trouble with the press, but he stayed out of jail. you don't see guys handier than this. >> reasonable people can disagree but i don't see god within miles of this. on the other hand, if you slept with me tonight, i bet i could change my mind. >> oh, you would. >> tom hanks released this statement today. forward we must also move forward, otherwise what will become of us said mike nichols who changed the lives of those who knew him, who loved him, who
will miss him so. >> i just wanted to come here to see, could i forgive you? for you, who i hated so terribly. i bore my hatred up into the heavens and made a needle sharp in the ska out of it. it's the star of ethel rosenburg's hatred and it burns every year for one night only. >> meryl streep said he was an inspiration and joy to know. a director who tried when he laughed. friend without whom we can't imagine our world. an indelible, irreplaceable man. >> what do you expect me to do?
>> understand. >> why didn't you lie to me? >> because we said we would always tell each other the truth. >> what's great about the truth. try lying for a change. it's the currency of the world. >> i did what he wanted and now he will leave us alone. i love you. >> today julia roberts said, his musings were like pearls, his jokes were timeless and perfectly placed. his stories detailed and wholly entertaining. his warm embrace was where you wanted to live forever. >> she tells me thoughts i didn't even know i had until she tells them to me. it's unbelievable. i can talk to her. >> you can talk to me, too. are you in love with me? >> i can say things to her i wouldn't dare say to you. >> what for instance? >> things you would laugh at. >> i'm laughing now.
>> she thinks i'm sensitive. >> today, art garfunkle said to ask dpr him on camera was to slide on a liquid film of intelligence. before each scene, mike gave each of his actors a brilliant and suburb mersive insight. as you were stirred he then got you with something really funny. in this state of tran sen dense he walked away and said roll camera. all successful show business careers involved luck. none more than mike nichols. he might not have lived long enough to have a career or go to high school if he had boarded a ship to the united states just two weeks later in 1939. two weeks after little michael nichols walked off that boat in new york harbor america closed its heart to another refugee ship from europe carrying jews fleeing nazi germany, like little michael. that ship was turned away from
american ports and forced to go back to europe. a tragedy told in the book and subsequent movie titled "voyage of the dammed." james lipton asked mike nichols if he thought about what had happened to him if he left europe just two weeks later. >> do you ever reflect on that? >> always. >> do you? >> yeah. i feel like this is all borrowed time. >> 75 years of borrowed time, and mike nichols left his audience wanting more. much more.
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and created programs that encourage people to take their medications regularly. introducing cvs health. a new purpose. a new promise... to help all those wishes come true. cvs health. because health is everything. >> the most unacknowledged factor in our work is down time. it's time not working on it. you'll find that over and over and over you can't solve something and you leave it alone and you go away and you come back and you can. all my working life i thought i really am very lazy. and indeed i am. in some ways. but we all feel lazy. there's always more work that we know we should be doing. and people say lazy, are you nuts? you made us work now 48 hours in a row and you say you're lazy? yes.
>> joining us now, of course, the host of inside the actors studio james lipton. just again, i mean, there's so many wonderful interviews you' done. but when something like this happens the first place we go, we go to what did he tell james. and i've been watching that today, and it's just a stunning and instructional and wonderful life story. i want to open it up to whatever you want to say about this. >> how long you got? i got a call from mike once in i think the second year of the show. he said he had watched one of the episodes and i said do you want to be on it? he said oh, i don't do that. i said mike, and he came on. and told us about the bremin i think so dent. the st. louis incident. and lii ingliving on borrowed t. what strikes me about mike
nichols most forcefully is that he may be the end of the line. he may be one of the last of the great actors, directors. >> oh, yes. >> in our lexicon, that's a very, very high compliment. >> did most of them start as actors? >> they started in the theatre. >> yes. >> kazan, arthur penn, these were people who focused on what? on the actor. they understood something from the theatre. they understood something from their training. most of them in the stanislovsky system. when they step back at the end of the day, the director, the writer, the producer, the ushers, what's left on the stage and in front of the camera? the actor. they were actors. they were putting the actor at the service of the play or the film. today, most of our directors, brilliant directors, great
directors they come out of film school where the emphasis is on technology and where the actor is at the service of the picture. it's a vast difference. meryl streep told me when she was on the show that he was the most dis-septemberive of counselors. he would take you aside to give you a direction and he would talk to you and at the end of that conversation you were under the impression that you had come up with the idea. now that's perfect. it was your idea all along. you forgot that he had told you to do it. and of course, it was always right. what he did was -- i mean, i think that the great i think thing that an actor or director or writer is do is bring you surprise. if you can't outguess them. if what they do seem ins credible then finally inevitable, then you know you're dealing with a genius. he was absolutely a genius, of course. >> people outside the business
might think oh, well, actors love directors. it's perfectly normal. it's unusual for them to love directors the way they loved mike nichols. and most of the time at best, they are co-workers. sometimes they hate them. but what we're seeing today from julia roberts to tom hanks to across the board is genuine love. >> without question. but he had many ways of achieving that. the end "the graduate" is one of the greatest film endings of all time. and you know how he got it? he told me. he said i was nice to them all day, the two of them shooting the wedding scene where he rescued her and they went and jumped on a bus. and so he said, we got to the point where they jumped on the bus and they said what do we do now. he said i don't know. he said why don't you laugh a lot. just laugh a lot. they said but where are we going? what's happening? he said get on the bus. i have no time, i'm running out of time. he put them on the bus, put the camera on them and what you see,
he trapped them, trapped them brilliantly and sweetly and forever into this extraordinary moment. they're looking at each other. what they're trying to figure out is what to do next. well, what are the characters doing? they're trying to figure out what to do next. so the picture ends and when he said when he looked at the dailies, he said oh, my god, that's the end of my movie. >> yeah. >> and it's that kind of extraordinary sensitive perception that he had at every moment when he was directing that made him one of the greatest directors ever. >> and dustin hoffman said today about "the graduate" lovingly, of course, that casting dustin hoffman in the graduate, mike nichols choice was the bravest casting choice that he, dustin hoffman is aware of. >> absolutely. everything that he did was right. >> and dustin hoffman was
unknown, was not a movie star. he was to carry this movie. >> he was too short, he was too -- >> not the classic american boy. o. >> they wanted redford. the studio wanted redford. so that was the archetype. and dustin told me that he said to mike, i'm wrong for it, i'm wrong for the part. and of course, mike said no, you're not. he was right. he was absolutely right. >> i met mike nichols when he was doing "charlie wilson's war" at a dinner table in l.a. and you would never know. this was in the middle of a shoot. and it's wednesday night or something. normally, that's -- they're not available to go to dinner. and if a director can go to dinner at that time, they tend to be not present and frantic and worried about tomorrow morning at 7:00 a.m. and all that. and it was as if, you know, he had just kind of walked in off the beach and have a nice dinner and chat. no pressure on him at all.
>> he said more wise things than almost anyone else. a few other people perhaps. i skid him what is the difference between theatre and film. he said film is an act of the unconscious. it is the unconscious speaking to all of the other unconsciouses. and that, i think, defines film as well as anything as i've ever heard. he said he was sitting alone in the dark and the dream begins. and you tap into your unconscious. he said that was the way he worked. it was his unconscious talking to all the other unconsciouses. you know what he said when i asked him an historic question. if heaven exists what would youk like god to see when you arrive at the pearly gates. and he said welcome. he said welcome mike and diane.
>> diane is still with us, very sorry for her loss. he was so generous. she is the same way. you know, he was an audience member of mine about five months into the show. and i get this e-mail from mike after a show with words like funny and beautiful. talking about what he had seen me do. i was just stunned. not only is he out there watching but he has all this time. he has all this generosity to let me know this. >> he was generous. >> he was generous with himself. he was generous to other people. he was generous to his actors. and most of all, he was generous to his audience. he trusted his audience. there are directors, thousands of them in the history of film who do not really trust the audience. they tell them too much, explain too much. they push them. they try to manipulate them. no, mike worked with his actors
in such a way that what happened was inevitable and the audience, instead of going to the audience, the audience came to him and will forever. >> we have to go. it's 11:00. on his last tony speech when he accepted it two years aek teves in the theater winning a pie-eating con tense when he was a kid. he said that was nice, but this is better. what a life, what a career. james lipton, thank you very much. we need you on a night like this to give us the perspective on this career. thank you very much. really, really appreciate you coming in. >> thank you. coming up, more of msnbc's special coverage tonight of the president's primetime address. >> good evening. i'm chris hayes alongside rachel maddow and this is msnbc's special coverage on president obama's speech to the nation. on immigration which as you can see will start any minute now. there are crowds outside the
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