“The Graduate,” Starring … Miggs Burroughs?

For the second summer in a row, the Remarkable Theater has entertained Westporters by showing classic films, on the Imperial Avenue parking lot’s giant screen.

And films don’t get more classic than “The Graduate.”

Mike Nichols’ comedy is set for 7:30 p.m. on Monday, August 30. It’s a great chance to revisit — or see for the first time — the triangle involving  the older Mrs. Robinson, her daughter Elaine, and confused recent graduate Benjamin.

The movie famously stars Anne Bancroft, Katharine Ross and Dustin Hoffman.

Although, except for a twist of fate — or a casting change — the movie that launched Hoffman’s career might have done the same for Miggs Burroughs.

In 1967 — 4 years after graduating from Staples High School — he was a senior at Carnegie Mellon University.* A drama major, he spotted an announcement for auditions on a bulletin board.

Miggs mailed a t-shirt, with his image. His roommate had fortuitously silk screened it, as a test of marketing “personality t-shirts” — a great idea, but one the roommate never capitalized on.

The t-shirt, with Miggs’ mug.

Soon, Miggs was asked to audition for the role of Benjamin:

Miggs showed up at the appointed time. He took the elevator, walked to the front studio, handed over his photos, and auditioned.

Miggs went back to school. He waited. A month later, this letter arrived:

Miggs went on with his life. He graduated. He left acting behind, and became an artist.

In the 50-plus years since, he’s earned fame as a Time cover illustrator, postage stamp designer, and — in Westport — everything from his lenticular images in the downtown and train station tunnels, to Westport’s 150th-anniversary flag, and just about every non-profit logo imaginable.

Miggs is a founding member of the Westport Artists’ Collective. He is one of our town’s true treasures. He’s a great artist, and an even better guy.

Take that, Mike Nichols!

And it’s funny how life turns out, isn’t it, Dustin Hoffman?

Miggs Burroughs. wearing a t-shirt with the Westport flag he designed. (Photo/Pam Einarsen)

* In 1967, the school was called Carnegie Institute of Technology. At Miggs’ graduation, the Mellon family announced they had bought naming rights, for about $400 million.



18 responses to ““The Graduate,” Starring … Miggs Burroughs?

  1. Definitely one of the coolest stories ever to appear on “06880” (and perhaps that shouldn’t be so surprising since Miggs is unquestionably one of the coolest people ever to graduate from Staples).

    In another brush with fame, Miggs almost promoted/produced a concert way back in the day with a then unknown group featuring two male and two female singers that purportedly sang very nice harmonies. (Yes, it was the Mamas and the Papas.)

    Finally, Miggs, I wonder if your original letters from the casting director and Nichols’ assistant have some significant value in the collectibles market since they would seem to be rare items associated with such an iconic film.

  2. charles taylor

    Our daughter graduated from CMU in 1995 majoring in Graphic Design. She met her future husband there the first day of freshman year at a freshman mixer. Loved the story Dan. Tough Luck Mike Nichols!

  3. Michael Isaacs

    I recall in an interview when Dustin Hoffman was asked what he would have became if not an actor saying a lenticular artist.

  4. Fantastic story! I don’t know how Hollywood casting works, but I read that Robert Redford wanted the role, and was already a rising star, having played the lead in “Barefoot in the Park” on Broadway and film. Dustin Hoffman was not yet a star, but had numerous theatre roles. Wonder why Nichols was auditioning people off of college bulletin boards just a few months before shooting the film?

    • Peter, it was because it took Nichols a while to figure out what he really wanted. Here are relevant excerpts from a Vanity Fair article quite a while back. (It is a fascinating backstory):

      —-When it came to casting, the problems really began. It should have been easy. Charles Webb himself was a fair-haired, lanky, fresh-faced graduate of Williams College, in Williamstown, Massachusetts, and had grown up in a decidedly Wasp enclave in Pasadena. “I interviewed hundreds, maybe thousands, of men,” Nichols told an enthusiastic crowd at the Directors Guild of America Theatre in New York, in 2003, at a screening of The Graduate. He even discussed the role with his friend Robert Redford, who was eager for the part. “I said, ‘You can’t play it. You can never play a loser.’ And Redford said, ‘What do you mean? Of course I can play a loser.’ And I said, ‘O.K., have you ever struck out with a girl?’ and he said, ‘What do you mean?’ And he wasn’t joking.”
      … We looked and looked and looked,” recalls Nichols, “and when we saw Dustin Hoffman on film, we said, ‘That’s it.’ And I had come all the way from seeing the character as a super-goy to being John Marcher in ‘The Beast in the Jungle.’ He had to be the dark, ungainly artist. He couldn’t be a blond, blue-eyed person, because then why is he having trouble in the country of the blond, blue-eyed people? It took me a long time to figure that out—it’s not in the material at all. And once I figured that out, and found Dustin, it began to form itself around that idea.”

  5. Peter Saverine

    Miggs has such colorful stories that never cease to amaze! How fortunate we all are to have his talents and kind soul pervading our community. And the Oscar goes to….Miggs Burroughs

  6. Another landmark story about the multi-faceted Miggs. Wow!

  7. Roseann Spengler

    WOW…… Way too cool to be my friend, now.

  8. Celeste Champagne

    Miggs is indeed a Westport “treasure”, but one of Norwalk’s as well and every surrounding town. His contributions to the Lockwood-Mathews Mansion Museum in Norwalk and basic good works are well known. This backstory is new news and so unexpected. Thanks for covering it, Dan Woog.

  9. Dave Donnelly

    Dustin and Miggs. Miggs and Dustin. Both actors, both runners (at one point in their lives).

    You never see them together (acting or running).

    And depending on how they are photographed at any given time, there are some facial similarities.

    Dan Woog – this deserves further investigation !!

  10. Let’s start a GoFundMe page to re-name Carnegie Mellon University: “The Miggs Burroughs Place of Indefatigable Talent and Coolness”.

    Living treasures deserve to be recognized.

  11. Fun to read about Miggs! He certainly has been very important to the town of Westport. He is unique.

  12. Love this story! But confused. Miggs was primarily a member of the Staples Stage and Tech SSTS (final S for Students?) I thought he majored in theater design or graphic arts–not acting. It wasn’t quite the LEAP to the career that he made such a productive, generous, talented HOME. My main memory of early Carnegie MIGGS was that he helped plan and execute the BEAUX ARTS BALL for the entire ARTS COLLEGE. The costumes were magnificent; I still remember some, and my own too. AND THE HOT NUTS PLAYED!! Miggs made things happen–always.

  13. Who knew? That is a great story. Miggs just keeps amazing us!

  14. hanne jeppsen

    Just cannot imagine anyone, but Dustin Hoffman in the Graduate. Certainly not Robert Redford. Years later they starred together in “In all the President’s men”. Same could not imagine Dustin Hoffman in “They way we were”. Perfect for Redford.

  15. Always nice to learn yet another interesting thing about a very interesting guy!!

    Back in the day at the old downtown Y pool there was this really good distance runner artist who came to swim laps most mornings. He wasn’t a particularly fast swimmer in the beginning but he kept at it and was pretty good the last time I swam there!

    My grandkids (and I) love his Miggs Burroughs lenticular art- we never get tired of looking at them first from the right and then the left- checking out his great connections (particularly like the Hands series and his mom’s Face series)!

    Thanks Dan for writing about MIggs and thank you Miggs for being so talented and interesting to read about- again!!

  16. Jack Backiel

    I don’t think Dustin Hoffman was very good in The Graduate. Perhaps they picked the wrong guy?