Working Girl Came Close To Cutting Carly Simon From The Soundtrack

It is impossible to imagine Mike Nichols' "Working Girl" kicking off and concluding with anything less triumphal than Carly Simon's "Let the River Run." The opening helicopter shots of the Statue of Liberty and the Staten Island Ferry strike the perfect aspirational note, and the final exterior pull-back from Melanie Griffith's newly acquired office (which dissolves into a helicopter shot as well) would feel wrong with any other music cue.

Simon, having already collaborated with Nichols on "Heartburn," wrote the song specifically for the movie, but the film played much differently in its initial iteration. As a result, producer Douglas Wick and others felt Simon's music was all wrong for the film Nichols' wound up envisioning. This early cut must've had a totally different vibe, because you'll never guess what song they nearly placed over the opening credits.

The Eagles are rarely the right call

In a 30th anniversary oral history for The Hollywood Reporter, Wick recalls one version of the movie running a half-hour longer. "[I]t was problematic. Think about 'The Graduate' and how Mike held shots and lingered on each moment. That's what he did here, but it gave you too much time to think." Wick's instincts were spot on. "Working Girl" was, at heart, a fairy tale about a Staten Island secretary who dares to dream of being a major Wall Street player. The longer it played, the more likely the spell it cast would wear off.

Speaking of spells, as the film began to drift away from its inspirational tone, Nichols temporarily ditched "Let the River Run" and tried a tune that couldn't be further from Simon's song:

"[I] went to Europe to promote an album and Mike called and said, 'You know, we played the beginning over the Eagles' 'Witchy Woman' and everybody really likes it.' I broke out in tears. I said, 'Mike, you gotta do what you want but if 'River Run' works so well, why would you?' Those words, I think, echoed in his ears and he went back to his editor. I was a hair away from losing that opening to 'Witchy Woman.'"

Never doubt Carly Simon

Ultimately, Nichols made the right call. "Working Girl" was nominated for six Academy Awards, but took home only one – for Carly Simon's "Let the River Run." This was Simon's first Oscar, and though much of her music was eventually cut from the movie ("Those songs were too on the nose," she says), her theme wound up being the backbone of the movie. Winning the Oscar meant the world to her:

"It's one thing to have your children say, 'Oh, mommy, that's nice.' But to have your peers say you're worthy of an Oscar, a Golden Globe, a Grammy and a BAFTA? There have been some hard times in my life and working on Working Girl wasn't one of them. I miss Mike more than almost anyone in the world."