Mikey and Nicky is a 1976 American film written and directed by Elaine May and starring Peter Falk and John Cassavetes. The supporting cast features Ned Beatty and noted acting teacher Sanford Meisner.
When Nicky (John Cassavetes) calls Mikey (Peter Falk) yet again to bail him out of trouble—this time a contract on his life for money he stole from his mob boss—Mikey, as always, shows up to help. Overcoming the obstacles of Nicky's paranoia and blind fear, Mikey gets him out of the hotel where he has holed up, and starts to help him plan his escape, but Nicky keeps changing the plan, and a hit man is hot on their trail. As they try to make their escape, the two friends have to confront issues of betrayal, regret, and the value of friendship versus self-preservation.
Peter Falk as Mikey
John Cassavetes as Nicky
Ned Beatty as Kinney
Rose Arrick as Annie
Carol Grace as Nellie
William Hickey as Sid Fine
Sanford Meisner as Dave Resnick
Joyce Van Patten as Jan
M. Emmet Walsh as bus driver
May originally cast Paramount president Frank Yablans as a gangster, but Charles Bluhdorn, the chairman of parent company Gulf+Western, was not amused, and demanded that she recast.
Production and release
Originally intended as a summer 1976 release, then delayed by editing problems, Mikey and Nicky was released in New York City on December 21, 1976. Because May missed the film's delivery date, litigation followed between her and Paramount, with the studio gaining possession of the film with final cut privilege. May didn't direct again for over a decade.
The film's original $1.8 million budget had grown to nearly $4.3 million ($16.6 million in contemporary dollars) by the time May turned the film over to Paramount. She shot 1.4 million feet of film, almost three times as much as was shot for Gone with the Wind. By using three cameras that she sometimes left running for hours, May captured spontaneous interaction between Falk and Cassavetes. At one point, Cassavetes and Falk had both left the set and the cameras remained rolling for several minutes. A new camera operator said "Cut!" only to be immediately rebuked by May for usurping what is traditionally a director's command. He protested that the two actors had left the set. "Yes", replied May, "but they might come back".
Angered by May's contentiousness during filming and editing, Paramount booked the completed film into theaters for a few days to satisfy contractual obligations, but did not give the film its full support. In 1978, Julian Schlossberg, who had previously worked in acquisitions for Paramount before starting his own company, Castle Hill Productions, purchased the rights from the studio with May and Falk.
A new version of the film, approved by May, was shown at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City for the Directors Guild of America Fiftieth Anniversary Tribute on November 17, 1986. The film was also shown in Park City, Utah, at the United States Film Festival's Tribute to John Cassavetes on January 25, 1989.