Mike Nichols

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Mike Nichols
Still portrait Mike Nichols.jpg
Nichols c.1960s
Michael Igor Peschkowsky

(1931-11-06)November 6, 1931
Berlin, Germany
DiedNovember 19, 2014(2014-11-19) (aged 83)
New York City, U.S.
Resting placeLos Angeles, California, U.S.
  • Germany (1931–1935)
  • United States (from 1944)
Alma mater University of Chicago
  • Film director
  • theatre director
  • film producer
  • actor
  • comedian
Years active1955–2014
    Patricia Scot
    (m. 1957;div. 1960)
Relatives Rachel Nichols (daughter-in-law)
Mike Nichols signature.svg

Mike Nichols (born Michael Igor Peschkowsky; November 6, 1931 – November 19, 2014) was an American film and theater director, producer, actor, and comedian. He was noted for his ability to work across a range of genres and for his aptitude for getting the best out of actors regardless of their experience. He is one of 17 people to have won all four of the major American entertainment awards: Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony (EGOT). His other honors included three BAFTA Awards, the Lincoln Center Gala Tribute in 1999, the National Medal of Arts in 2001, [1] the Kennedy Center Honors in 2003 and the AFI Life Achievement Award in 2010. His films received a total of 42 Academy Award nominations, and 7 wins.


Nichols began his career in the 1950s with the comedy improvisational troupe The Compass Players, predecessor of The Second City, in Chicago. He then teamed up with his improv partner, Elaine May, to form the comedy duo Nichols and May. Their live improv act was a hit on Broadway, and each of their three albums was nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Comedy Album; their second album, An Evening with Mike Nichols and Elaine May , won the award in 1962. After Nichols and May disbanded in 1961, he began directing plays, and quickly became known for his innovative productions and ability to elicit polished performances. His Broadway directing debut was Neil Simon's Barefoot in the Park in 1963, with Robert Redford and Elizabeth Ashley. He continued to direct plays on Broadway, including Luv (1964), and The Odd Couple (1965) for each of which he received Tony Awards. In 2012, he won his sixth Tony Award for Best Direction of a Play with a revival of Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman starring Philip Seymour Hoffman. Nichols directed and/or produced more than 25 Broadway plays throughout his prolific career.

In 1966, Warner Brothers invited Nichols to direct his first film, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? , starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. It won five Academy Awards and was the top-grossing film of 1966. His next film, The Graduate (1967), starred then unknown actor Dustin Hoffman and Anne Bancroft. It was another critical and financial success and received seven Academy Award nominations, winning Nichols the Academy Award for Best Director. Among the other films Nichols directed were Catch-22 (1970), Carnal Knowledge (1971), Silkwood (1983), Working Girl (1988), Postcards from the Edge (1990), The Birdcage (1996), Primary Colors (1998), Closer (2004), and Charlie Wilson's War (2007). Nichols also was known for work on television, directing HBO's Wit (2001) with Emma Thompson and Angels in America (2003) starring Meryl Streep.

Early life

Nichols was born Michael Igor Peschkowsky [2] on November 6, 1931, in Berlin, Germany. He was a son of Brigitte (née Landauer) and Pavel Peschkowsky, a physician. [2] His father was born in Vienna, Austria, to a Russian-Jewish immigrant family. Nichols's father's family had been wealthy and lived in Siberia, leaving after the Russian Revolution, and settling in Germany around 1920. [2] Nichols's mother's family were German Jews. [2] His maternal grandparents were Gustav Landauer, [3] [4] a leading theorist on anarchism, and author Hedwig Lachmann. Through his mother, Nichols was a third cousin twice removed of scientist Albert Einstein. [2]

In April 1939, when the Nazis were arresting Jews in Berlin, seven-year-old Michael and his three-year-old brother Robert were sent alone to the United States to join their father, who had fled months earlier. His mother joined the family by escaping through Italy in 1940. [5] The family moved to New York City on April 28, 1939. [2] [6] His father, whose original name was Pavel Nikolaevich Peschkowsky, changed his name to Paul Nichols, Nichols derived from his Russian patronymic. Before Paul Nichols had received his U.S. medical license, he was employed by a union on 42nd Street, X-raying union members. [7] [8] He later had a successful medical practice in Manhattan, enabling the family to live near Central Park. [9] [10]

Before he established his practice, he was a union doctor, and part of his job was X-raying union members. They didn't know about shielding X-ray machines, and he died of leukemia at 44. [in 1944 [11] ]

– Mike Nichols [7]

Nichols's youth was difficult because by age four, following an inoculation for whooping cough, he lost his hair, and consequently wore wigs and false eyebrows for the rest of his life. [3] [12] He became a naturalized citizen of the United States in 1944 and attended public elementary school in Manhattan (PS 87). [13] After graduating from the Walden School, a private progressive school on Central Park West, Nichols briefly attended New York University before dropping out. In 1950, he enrolled in the pre-med program at the University of Chicago. [10] He later described this college period as "paradise", recalling how "I never had a friend from the time I came to this country until I got to the University of Chicago." [3]

While in Chicago in 1953, Nichols joined the staff of struggling classical music station WFMT, 98.7 FM, as an announcer. Co-owner Rita Jacobs asked Nichols to create a folk music program on Saturday nights, which he named The Midnight Special . He hosted the program for two years before leaving for New York City. Nichols frequently invited musicians to perform live in the studio and eventually created a unique blend of "folk music and farce, showtunes and satire, odds and ends", along with his successor Norm Pellegrini. The program endures today in the same time slot. [14]

Comedy career

Nichols and May

Nichols and May, c. 1960 Elaine May and Mike Nichols 1960.JPG
Nichols and May, c. 1960

Nichols first saw Elaine May when she was sitting in the front row while he was playing the lead in a Chicago production of Miss Julie, and they made eye contact. [15] :39 Weeks later he ran into her in a train station where he started a conversation in an assumed accent, pretending to be a spy, and she played along, using another accent. [16] :325 They hit it off immediately, which led to a brief romance. Later in his career, he said "Elaine was very important to me from the moment I saw her." [16] :325

In 1953, Nichols left Chicago for New York City to study method acting under Lee Strasberg, but was unable to find stage work there. [17] He was invited back to join Chicago's Compass Players in 1955, the predecessor to Chicago's Second City, whose members included May, Shelley Berman, Del Close, and Nancy Ponder, [10] [15] directed by Paul Sills. In Chicago, he started doing improvisational routines with May, which eventually led to the formation of the comedy duo Nichols and May in 1958, first performing in New York City.

Theater program from 1961 Nichols and May - 1961.jpg
Theater program from 1961

They performed live satirical comedy acts and eventually released three records of their routines, which became best-sellers. They also appeared in nightclubs and were on radio and television. Jack Rollins, who later became Woody Allen's manager and producer, invited them to audition and was most impressed: "Their work was so startling, so new, as fresh as could be. I was stunned by how really good they were, actually as impressed by their acting technique as by their comedy ... I thought, My God, these are two people writing hilarious comedy on their feet!" [16] :340

In 1960, Nichols and May opened the Broadway show An Evening With Mike Nichols and Elaine May, directed by Arthur Penn. The LP album of the show won the 1962 Grammy Award for Best Comedy Album. Personal idiosyncrasies and tensions, such as on the unsuccessful A Matter of Position, a play written by May and starring Nichols, eventually drove the duo apart to pursue other projects in 1961. About their sudden breakup, director Arthur Penn said, "They set the standard and then they had to move on," [16] :351 while talk show host Dick Cavett said "they were one of the comic meteors in the sky." [16] :348 Comedy historian Gerald Nachman describes the effect of their break-up on American comedy:

Nichols and May are perhaps the most ardently missed of all the satirical comedians of their era. When Nichols and May split up, they left no imitators, no descendants, no blueprints or footprints to follow. No one could touch them. [16] :319

They later reconciled and worked together many times. They appeared together at President Jimmy Carter's inaugural gala, in 1977, and in a 1980 New Haven stage revival of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? with Swoosie Kurtz and James Naughton. [18] May scripted Nichols's films The Birdcage (1996) and Primary Colors (1998). In 2010, at the AFI's "Life Achievement Award" ceremony, May gave a humor-filled tribute to Nichols. [19]

Career as a director


Pre-film stage career

After the professional split with May, Nichols went to Vancouver, British Columbia, to work in the theater directing a production of Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest and acted in a revival of George Bernard Shaw's St. Joan . [10]

In 1963, Nichols was chosen to direct Neil Simon's play Barefoot in the Park . He realized at once that he was meant to be a director, saying in a 2003 interview: "On the first day of rehearsal, I thought, 'Well, look at this. Here is what I was meant to do.' I knew instantly that I was home". [17] Barefoot in the Park was a big hit, running for 1530 performances and earning Nichols a Tony Award for his direction. [10]

This began a series of highly successful plays on Broadway (often from works by Simon) that would establish his reputation. After directing an off-Broadway production of Ann Jellicoe's The Knack , Nichols directed Murray Schisgal's play Luv in 1964. Again the show was a hit and Nichols won a Tony Award (shared with The Odd Couple). In 1965 he directed another play by Neil Simon, The Odd Couple . The original production starred Art Carney as Felix Ungar and Walter Matthau as Oscar Madison. The play ran for 966 performances and won Tony Awards for Nichols, Simon and Matthau. [10] Overall, Nichols won nine Tony Awards: [20] [21] including six for Best Director of either a play or a musical, one for Best Play, and one for Best Musical.

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

In 1966, Nichols was a star stage director and Time magazine called him "the most in-demand director in the American theatre." [10] Although he had no experience in filmmaking, after befriending [22] Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, Warner Bros. invited Nichols to direct a screen adaptation of Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? starring Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, George Segal, and Sandy Dennis for which he received a fee of $400,000. [23] The film was critically acclaimed, with critics calling Nichols "the new Orson Welles", [10] and a financial success, [24] [25] the number 1 film of 1966. [26]

The film was considered groundbreaking for having a level of profanity and sexual innuendo unheard of at that time. [27] [28] [29] It won five Academy Awards and garnered thirteen nominations (including Nichols's first nomination for Best Director), earning the distinctions of being one of only two films nominated in every eligible category at the Oscars (the other being Cimarron ), and the first film to have its entire credited cast nominated for acting Oscars. It also won three BAFTA Awards and was later ranked No. 67 in AFI's 100 Years ... 100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition) .

The Graduate

His next film was The Graduate (1967), starring Dustin Hoffman, Anne Bancroft and Katharine Ross for which he was paid $150,000, a deal he had made four years earlier with producer Joseph E. Levine. [23] It became the highest-grossing film of 1967 and one of the highest-grossing films in history up to that date, [30] with Nichols receiving 16⅔% of the profits, making him a millionaire. [23] It was nominated for seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture, with Nichols winning as Best Director. In 2007, it was ranked #17 in AFI's 100 Years ... 100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition) .

However, getting the film made was difficult for Nichols, who, while noted for being a successful Broadway director, was still an unknown in Hollywood. Producer Lawrence Turman, who wanted only Nichols to direct it, was continually turned down for financing. He then contacted Levine, who said he would finance the film because he had associated with Nichols on The Knack, [23] and because he heard that Elizabeth Taylor specifically wanted Nichols to direct her and Richard Burton in Virginia Woolf. [31] With financing assured, Nichols suggested Buck Henry for screenwriter, although Henry's experience had also been mostly in improvised comedy, and had no writing background. Nichols said to Henry, "I think you could do it; I think you should do it." [31]

Nichols also took a chance on using Dustin Hoffman, who had no film experience, for the lead, when others had suggested using known star Robert Redford. Hoffman credits Nichols for having taken a great risk in giving him, a relative unknown, the starring role: "I don't know of another instance of a director at the height of his powers who would take a chance and cast someone like me in that part. It took tremendous courage." [31]

The quality of the cinematography was also influenced by Nichols, who chose Oscar winner Robert Surtees to do the photography. Surtees, who had photographed major films since the 1920s, including Ben-Hur , said later, "It took everything I had learned over 30 years to be able to do the job. I knew that Mike Nichols was a young director who went in for a lot of camera. We did more things in this picture than I ever did in one film." [31]

Nichols also chose the music by Simon and Garfunkel. When Paul Simon was taking too long to write new songs for the film, he used existing songs, originally planning to replace them with newly written ones. In the end only one new song was available, and Nichols used the existing previously released songs. At one point, when Nichols heard Paul Simon's song, "Mrs. Roosevelt", he suggested to Simon that he change it to "Mrs. Robinson". The song won a Grammy after the film was released and became America's number 1 pop song. Nichols selected all the numerous songs for the film and chose which scenes they would be used in. The placement and selection of songs would affect the way audiences understood the film. Even actor William Daniels, who played Hoffman's father, remembers that after first hearing the songs, especially "The Sound of Silence", he thought, "Oh, wait a minute. That changed the whole idea of the picture for me," suddenly realizing the film would not be a typical comedy. [31]

Nichols had previously returned to Broadway to direct The Apple Tree , starring Second City alumna, Barbara Harris. After doing The Graduate, he again returned to the Broadway stage with a revival of Lillian Hellman's The Little Foxes in 1967, which ran for 100 performances. [32] He then directed Neil Simon's Plaza Suite in 1968, earning him another Tony Award for Best Director. He also directed the short film Teach Me! (1968), which starred actress Sandy Dennis.

In 1969 his film production company, Friwaftt, was acquired by Avco Embassy, the distributor of The Graduate, who also appointed him to the board of directors. [33] Friwaftt stood for "Fools rush in where angels fear to tread." [34]


Nichols's next film was a big-budget adaptation of Joseph Heller's novel Catch-22 (1970), followed by Carnal Knowledge (1971) starring Jack Nicholson, Ann-Margret, Art Garfunkel and Candice Bergen. The latter film was highly controversial upon release because of the casual and blunt depiction of sexual intercourse. [35] In Georgia, a theatre manager was convicted in 1972 of violating the state's obscenity statutes by showing the film, a conviction later overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court in Jenkins v. Georgia . [36]

Nichols returned to Broadway to direct Neil Simon's The Prisoner of Second Avenue in 1971. The play won Nichols another Tony Award for Best Director. In 1973, Nichols directed a revival of Anton Chekhov's Uncle Vanya on Broadway starring George C. Scott and with a new translation by himself and Albert Todd. [10] In 1973 Nichols directed the film The Day of the Dolphin starring George C. Scott, based on the French novel Un animal doué de raison (lit. A Sentient Animal) by Robert Merle and adapted by Buck Henry. The film was not successful financially and received mixed reviews from critics. [10]

Nichols next directed The Fortune (1975), starring Warren Beatty, Jack Nicholson and Stockard Channing. Again, the film was a financial failure and received mostly negative reviews. In 1975, Nichols began filming Bogart Slept Here, an original screenplay by Neil Simon. The film starred Robert De Niro and Simon's wife, Marsha Mason. After one week of filming, displeased with the results, Nichols and the studio fired De Niro and shut the production down. Simon would retool the script two years later as The Goodbye Girl . [37] Nichols would not direct another narrative feature film for eight years. [10]

Nichols returned to the stage with two moderately successful productions in 1976; David Rabe's Streamers opened in April and ran for 478 performances. [38] Trevor Griffiths's Comedians ran for 145 performances. [39] In 1976 Nichols also worked as Executive Producer to create the television drama Family for ABC. The series ran until 1980.

In 1977, Nichols produced the original Broadway production of the hugely successful musical Annie , which ran for 2,377 performances until 1983. Nichols won the Tony Award for Best Musical. [40] Later in 1977, Nichols directed D.L. Coburn's The Gin Game . The play ran for 517 performances and won a Tony Award for Best Actress for Jessica Tandy. [41]


In 1980, Nichols directed the documentary Gilda Live , a filmed performance of comedian Gilda Radner's one-woman show Gilda Radner Live on Broadway. It was released at the same time as the album of the show, both of which were successful. Nichols was then involved with two unsuccessful shows: he produced Billy Bishop Goes to War , which opened in 1980 and closed after only twelve performances, [42] and directed Neil Simon's Fools , in 1981, which closed after forty performances. [43]

Returning to Hollywood, Nichols's career rebounded in 1983 with the film Silkwood , starring Meryl Streep, Cher and Kurt Russell, based on the life of whistleblower Karen Silkwood. The film was a financial and critical success, with film critic Vincent Canby calling it "the most serious work Mike Nichols has yet done." [10] The film received five Academy Award nominations, including a Best Director nomination for Nichols.

That same year, Nichols and Peter Stone helped to fix up and rewrite the musical My One and Only just days before its Boston premiere. [44] The show eventually went to Broadway and ran for 767 performances, winning Tony Awards for Best Actor, Best Choreography (both for Tommy Tune) and Best Supporting Actor (Charles "Honi" Coles).

In 1984, Nichols directed the Broadway premiere of Tom Stoppard's The Real Thing . The New York Times critic Frank Rich wrote that "The Broadway version of The Real Thing—a substantial revision of the original London production—is not only Mr. Stoppard's most moving play, but also the most bracing play that anyone has written about love and marriage in years." [45] The play was nominated for seven Tony Awards and won five, including a Best Director Tony for Nichols.

Nichols followed the success with the Broadway premiere of David Rabe's Hurlyburly , also in 1984. It was performed just two blocks away from the theater showing The Real Thing. It was nominated for three Tony Awards and won Best Actress for Judith Ivey. [10]

In 1983, Nichols had seen comedian Whoopi Goldberg's one woman show, The Spook Show, at Dance Theater Workshop and wanted to help her expand it. Goldberg's self-titled Broadway show opened in October 1984 and ran for 156 performances. Rosie O'Donnell later said that Nichols had discovered Goldberg while she was struggling as a downtown artist: "He gave her the entire beginning of her career and recognized her brilliance before anyone else." [46] In 1986 Nichols directed the Broadway premiere of Andrew Bergman's Social Security and in 1988 directed Waiting for Godot , starring Robin Williams and Steve Martin. [47] Williams cited Nichols and May as among his early influences for performing intelligent comedy. [48]

In 1986, Nichols directed the film Heartburn , which received mixed reviews, and starred Meryl Streep and Jack Nicholson. In 1988, Nichols completed two feature films. The first was an adaptation of Neil Simon's autobiographical stage play Biloxi Blues starring Matthew Broderick, also receiving mixed critical reviews. Nichols directed one of his most successful films, Working Girl , which starred Melanie Griffith, Harrison Ford and Sigourney Weaver. The film was a huge hit upon its release. It also received mostly positive reviews from critics with an 84% rating at Rotten Tomatoes and a 73 metascore at Metacritic. It was nominated for six Academy Awards (including Best Director for Nichols) and won the Academy Award for Best Song for Carly Simon's "Let the River Run".

At one point in the 1980s, Nichols—who was prone to bouts of depression—reported that he had considered suicide, a feeling apparently brought on by a psychotic episode he experienced after taking the drug Halcion. [3]


In the 1990s, Nichols directed several more successful, well-received films including Postcards from the Edge (1990) starring Meryl Streep and Shirley MacLaine; Primary Colors (1998) starring John Travolta and Emma Thompson; and The Birdcage (1996), an American remake of the 1978 French film La Cage aux Folles starring Robin Williams, Nathan Lane, Gene Hackman and Dianne Wiest. Both The Birdcage and Primary Colors were written by Elaine May, Nichols's comedy partner earlier in his career. Other films directed by Nichols include Regarding Henry (1991) starring Harrison Ford and Wolf (1994) starring Jack Nicholson and Michelle Pfeiffer. When he was honored by Lincoln Center in 1999 for his life's work, Elaine May—speaking once again as his friend—served up the essence of Nichols with the following:

So he's witty, he's brilliant, he's articulate, he's on time, he's prepared and he writes. But is he perfect? He knows you can't really be liked or loved if you're perfect. You have to have just enough flaws. And he does. Just the right, perfect flaws to be absolutely endearing. [49]


In the 2000s, Nichols directed the films What Planet Are You From? (2000), Closer (2004) and Charlie Wilson's War (2007), a political drama that was ultimately his final feature film. What Planet Are You From? received mixed reviews from critics, [50] while Closer and Charlie Wilson's War received generally positive reviews [51] [52] and were both nominated for Academy Awards, BAFTA and Golden Globe awards. [53] [54]

Nichols also directed widely acclaimed adaptations of Wit (2001) and Angels in America (2003) for television, winning Emmy Awards for both of them. [55] For his direction of the Broadway musical Spamalot , he won the Tony Award for Best Direction of a Musical in 2005.


Nichols in 2010 Mike Nichols Funny Face.jpg
Nichols in 2010

In 2012, Nichols won the Best Direction of a Play Tony Award for a revival of Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman . In 2013, he directed Daniel Craig and Rachel Weisz in a Broadway revival of Harold Pinter's Betrayal . [56] The play began previews of its limited run on October 1, 2013 [57] at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre, opened on October 27, [58] and closed on January 4, 2014. [59]

Among projects that remained uncompleted when he died, in April 2013 it was announced that Nichols was in talks to direct a film adaptation of Jonathan Tropper's novel One Last Thing Before I Go. The film was to be produced by J. J. Abrams, who previously wrote the Nichols-directed film Regarding Henry (1991). [60] In July 2014, it was announced that Nichols and Streep would reunite for an HBO film of Terrence McNally's 1985 play Master Class , with Nichols directing Streep in the starring role of opera singer Maria Callas. [61]

Nichols was a contributing blogger at The Huffington Post . He was also a co-founder of The New Actors Workshop in New York City, where he occasionally taught. [62] In addition, he remained active in the Directors Guild of America, interviewing fellow film director Bennett Miller on stage in October 2011 after the Guild's screening of Miller's Moneyball .

In January 2016, PBS aired Mike Nichols: American Masters , an American Masters documentary about Nichols directed by his former improv partner, Elaine May. [63] [64] [65] On February 22, 2016, HBO aired the documentary Becoming Mike Nichols . [66]

Directing style

After his early successes as a stage and film director, Nichols had developed a reputation as an auteur who likes to work intimately with his actors and writers, often using them repeatedly in different films. Writer Peter Applebome noted that "few directors have such a gift for getting performances out of actors." [67] During a half-year period in 1967 he had four hit plays running simultaneously on Broadway, during which time his first Hollywood feature, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? , had also become a popular and critical success. Combined with his second film, The Graduate, in 1967, the two films had already earned a total of 20 Oscar nominations, including two for Best Director, and winning it for The Graduate.

Nichols was able to get the best out of actors regardless of their acting experience, whether an unknown such as Dustin Hoffman or a major star like Richard Burton. For his first film, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? , each of the four actors was nominated for an Oscar, with Elizabeth Taylor and Sandy Dennis winning. Burton later said, "I didn't think I could learn anything about comedy—I'd done all of Shakespeare's. But from him I learned," adding, "He conspires with you to get your best." [49]

However, it was Taylor who chose Nichols to be their director, because, writes biographer David Bret, "she particularly admired him because he had done a number of ad-hoc jobs to pay for his education after arriving in America as a seven-year-old Jewish refugee." [68] Producer Ernest Lehman agreed with her choice: "He was the only one who could handle them," he said. "The Burtons were quite intimidating, and we needed a genius like Mike Nichols to combat them." [69] Biographer Kitty Kelley says that neither Taylor nor Burton would ever again reach the heights of acting performance they did in that film. [69]

The same style of directing was used for The Graduate, where, notes film historian Peter Biskind, Nichols took Dustin Hoffman, with no movie acting experience, along with Anne Bancroft, Katharine Ross and others, and managed to get some of their finest acting on screen. This ability to work closely with actors would remain consistent throughout his career. Hoffman credits Nichols for permitting the realistic acting needed for the satirical roles in that film:

It's Nichols's style—he walks that edge of really going as far as he can without falling over the cliff, into disbelief. It's not caricature. That's the highest compliment for satire. [67]

In a similar way, Jeremy Irons, who acted in the play The Real Thing , said that Nichols creates a very "protective environment: he makes you feel he's only there for you," [17] while Ann-Margret, for her role in Carnal Knowledge , felt the same: "What's wonderful about Mike is that he makes you feel like you're the one that's come up with the idea, when it's actually his." [70]

Personal life

Nichols was married four times; the first three ended in divorce, the last upon his death. [71]

Nichols's first marriage was to Patricia Scot; they were married from 1957 to 1960. His second was to Margot Callas, a former "muse" of the poet Robert Graves, from 1963 to 1974. [72] [73] The couple had a daughter together, Daisy Nichols. His third marriage, in 1975, to Annabel Davis-Goff, produced two children, Max Nichols and Jenny Nichols; it ended in divorce in 1986. [74] His fourth was to former Good Morning America and ABC World News anchor Diane Sawyer, whom he married on April 29, 1988. [75] None of his wives were Jewish and his children were not brought up according to a religion, but they identify as Jewish. [76] His son Max married former ESPN journalist Rachel Nichols.

Nichols had a lifelong interest in Arabian horses. From 1968 to 2004, he owned a farm in Connecticut and was a noted horse breeder. He also imported quality Arabian horses from Poland, some of which sold for record-setting prices. [77]

In 2009, Nichols signed a petition in support of releasing director Roman Polanski, who had been detained while traveling to a film festival in relation to his 1977 sexual abuse charges, which the petition argued would undermine the tradition of film festivals as a place for works to be shown "freely and safely", and that arresting filmmakers traveling to neutral countries could open the door "for actions of which no-one can know the effects." [78] [79]

Death and legacy

Nichols died of a heart attack on November 19, 2014, at his apartment in Manhattan, thirteen days after his 83rd birthday. [80] [81] During the 87th annual Academy Awards on 22 February 2015, Nichols was featured in the In Memoriam segment, in anchor position. [82] [83] [84] [85] Nichols left John Frederick Herring Sr.'s painting "Horse with Groom" to his son Max. [86] [87]

When Nichols died, many celebrities paid tribute to him, including Whoopi Goldberg, Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks, Meryl Streep, Kevin Spacey and Tom Stoppard. [88] On November 8, 2015, stars and artists gathered at New York's IAC Building [89] to pay tribute to Nichols. Hosts for the private event included Elaine May and Lorne Michaels. Eric Idle and John Cleese performed. Guests included Streep, Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Natalie Portman, Carly Simon, Nathan Lane and Christine Baranski. [90]

In 2017, during an Oscars Actress Roundtable with The Hollywood Reporter , Amy Adams, Natalie Portman, and Annette Bening spoke about the impact Nichols had on their lives. [91] In 2020 Woody Allen described Nichols as "maybe the best comedy director ever on the stage." [92]

Filmography and theatre credits

Directed features
1966 Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Warner Bros.
1967 The Graduate Embassy Pictures
1970 Catch-22 Paramount Pictures
1971 Carnal Knowledge Embassy Pictures
1973 The Day of the Dolphin
1975 The Fortune Columbia Pictures
1980 Gilda Live Warner Bros.
1983 Silkwood 20th Century Fox
1986 Heartburn Paramount Pictures
1988 Biloxi Blues Universal Pictures
Working Girl 20th Century Fox
1990 Postcards from the Edge Columbia Pictures
1991 Regarding Henry Paramount Pictures
1994 Wolf Columbia Pictures
1996 The Birdcage Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
1998 Primary Colors Universal Pictures
2000 What Planet Are You From? Sony Pictures Releasing
2004 Closer
2007 Charlie Wilson's War Universal Pictures


Awards and honors

Nichols is one of the few entertainers to have won the EGOT, the Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony. [94]

Nichols received five Academy Award nominations, winning Best Director for The Graduate (1967). He was also nominated for his work on Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966), Silkwood (1983), Working Girl (1988) and for producing The Remains of the Day (1993). For his collaborations with Elaine May, Nichols was nominated for three Grammy Awards winning for Best Comedy Album in 1962. Nichols also known for his extensive work on Broadway and received 16 Tony Award nominations, winning eight times for Barefoot in the Park (1964), Luv / The Odd Couple (1965), Plaza Suite (1968), The Prisoner of Second Avenue (1972), Annie (1977), The Real Thing (1984), Monty Python's Spamalot (2005), and Death of a Salesman (2012). Nichols also received Primetime Emmy Awards for directing and producing the HBO television film Wit (2001) and miniseries Angels in America (2003).

In 1989 Nichols was presented the Golden Plate Award of the American Academy of Achievement by Awards Council member Diane Sawyer. [95] [96] He also received a Gala tribute from Film Society of Lincoln Center in 1999. In 2001, he received the Peabody Award for his HBO television film Wit which starred Emma Thompson. In 2003 he was awarded with the Kennedy Center Honors where he was honored by Elaine May, Meryl Streep, Candice Bergen and Tom Stoppard. In 2010 he was honored with the American Film Institute Lifetime Achievement Award where he was honored by Elaine May, Nora Ephron, Meryl Streep, Emma Thompson, Julia Roberts, Candice Bergen, Jack Nicholson, Dustin Hoffman, Tom Hanks, Robin Williams, Harrison Ford, and Shirley MacLaine.

Awards and nominations received by Nichols' films
YearTitleAcademy AwardsBAFTA AwardsGolden Globe Awards
1966 Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? 135337
1967 The Graduate 717575
1970 Catch-22 2
1971 Carnal Knowledge 131
1973 The Day of the Dolphin 21
1975 The Fortune 1
1983 Silkwood 5251
1988 Working Girl 61364
1990 Postcards from the Edge 233
1996 The Birdcage 12
1998 Primary Colors 2312
2001 Wit 2
2003 Angels in America 75
2004 Closer 23152
2007 Charlie Wilson's War 115

See also

Related Research Articles

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The Graduate is a 1967 American romantic comedy-drama film directed by Mike Nichols and written by Buck Henry and Calder Willingham, based on the 1963 novel of the same name by Charles Webb, who wrote it shortly after graduating from Williams College. The film tells the story of 21-year-old Benjamin Braddock, a recent college graduate with no well-defined aim in life, who is seduced by an older married woman, Mrs. Robinson, but then falls for her daughter Elaine.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Dustin Hoffman</span> American actor and filmmaker

Dustin Lee Hoffman is an American actor and filmmaker. He is known for his versatile portrayals of antiheroes and emotionally vulnerable characters. He is the recipient of numerous accolades including two Academy Awards, five Golden Globe Awards, four British Academy Film Awards, three Drama Desk Awards, and two Primetime Emmy Awards. Hoffman has received numerous honors including the Cecil B. DeMille Award in 1997, the AFI Life Achievement Award in 1999, and the Kennedy Center Honors Award in 2012. Actor Robert De Niro described him as "an actor with the everyman's face who embodied the heartbreakingly human".

<i>Whos Afraid of Virginia Woolf?</i> 1962 play by Edward Albee

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? is a play by Edward Albee first staged in October 1962. It examines the complexities of the marriage of a middle-aged couple, Martha and George. Late one evening, after a university faculty party, they receive an unwitting younger couple, Nick and Honey, as guests, and draw them into their bitter and frustrated relationship.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Meryl Streep</span> American actress (born 1949)

Mary Louise "Meryl" Streep is an American actress. Often described as "the best actress of her generation", Streep is particularly known for her versatility and accent adaptability. She has received numerous accolades throughout her career spanning over five decades, including a record 21 Academy Award nominations, winning three, and a record 32 Golden Globe Award nominations, winning eight. She has also received two British Academy Film Awards, two Screen Actors Guild Awards, and three Primetime Emmy Awards, in addition to nominations for a Tony Award and six Grammy Awards.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">George C. Scott</span> American actor, director, and producer

George Campbell Scott was an American actor, director, and producer who had a celebrated career on both stage and screen. With a gruff demeanor and commanding presence, Scott became known for his portrayal of stern, but complex, authority figures such as prosecutor Claude Dancer in Anatomy of a Murder, General Buck Turgidson in Stanley Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove, Herbert Bock in The Hospital, Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol, Lt. Kinderman in The Exorcist III, and General George S. Patton in the biopic Patton, which won him the Academy Award for Best Actor. Described by The Guardian as "a battler and an actor of rare courage", his performances won him widespread recognition and numerous other accolades, including a Golden Globe, a Genie Award, and two Primetime Emmys.

<i>The Goodbye Girl</i> 1977 film directed by Herbert Ross

The Goodbye Girl is a 1977 American romantic comedy-drama film directed by Herbert Ross, written by Neil Simon and starring Richard Dreyfuss, Marsha Mason, Quinn Cummings and Paul Benedict. The film, produced by Ray Stark, centers on an odd trio of characters: a struggling actor who has sublet a Manhattan apartment from a friend, the current occupant, and her precocious young daughter.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Alan Arkin</span> American actor, director, and screenwriter

Alan Wolf Arkin is an American actor, director and screenwriter known for his performances on stage and screen. Throughout his career spanning over six decades, he has received various accolades, including an Academy Award, two Screen Actors Guild Awards, a British Academy Film Award, a Golden Globe Award, and a Tony Award.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Kevin Kline</span> American actor

Kevin Delaney Kline is an American actor. He is the recipient of an Academy Award and three Tony Awards. In addition, he has received nominations for two British Academy Film Awards, two Primetime Emmy Awards, and five Golden Globe Awards. In 2003, Kline was inducted into the American Theatre Hall of Fame.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Nathan Lane</span> American actor (born 1956)

Nathan Lane is an American actor. In a career spanning over 40 years he has been seen on stage and screen in roles both comedic and dramatic. Lane has received numerous awards including three Tony Awards, an Olivier Award, a Primetime Emmy Award, two Daytime Emmy Awards and a Screen Actors Guild Award. In 2006, Lane received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and was inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame in 2008. In 2010, The New York Times hailed Lane as "the greatest stage entertainer of the decade".

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Laurie Metcalf</span> American actress

Laura Elizabeth Metcalf is an American actress. She has received various accolades throughout her career spanning over four decades, including two Tony Awards and four Primetime Emmy Awards, in addition to nominations for an Academy Award, a British Academy Film Award, and three Golden Globe Awards.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Elaine May</span> American screenwriter, film director, actress, and comedian

Elaine Iva May is an American comedian, filmmaker, playwright, and actress. She has received numerous awards including an Academy Award, a BAFTA Award, a Grammy Award, and a Tony Award. She made her initial impact in the 1950s with her improvisational comedy routines with Mike Nichols, before transitioning as a groundbreaking film director starting in the 1970s onward.

Herbert David Ross was an American actor, choreographer, director and producer who worked predominantly in theater and film. He was nominated for two Academy Awards and a Tony Award.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Barbara Harris (actress)</span> American actress (1935–2018)

Barbara Densmoor Harris was an American actress. She appeared in such movies as A Thousand Clowns, Plaza Suite, Nashville, Family Plot, Freaky Friday, Peggy Sue Got Married, and Grosse Pointe Blank. Harris won a Tony Award and was nominated for an Academy Award. She also received four Golden Globe Award nominations.

Michael Howell Blakemore OBE, AO is an Australian actor, writer and theatre director who has also made a handful of films. A former Associate Director of the National Theatre, in 2000 he became the only individual to win Tony Awards for best Director of a Play and Musical in the same year for Copenhagen and Kiss Me, Kate.

Luv is a play by Murray Schisgal. The production originated on Broadway in 1964. The production was directed by Mike Nichols and featured performances from Alan Arkin, Eli Wallach, and Anne Jackson.

Douglas Geoffrey McGrath was an American screenwriter, film director, and actor. He received various accolades, including nominations for an Academy Award, BAFTA Award, Tony Award, and Primetime Emmy Award.

Julian Schlossberg is an American motion pictures, theatre and television producer. He has been a college lecturer and television host regarding films, as well.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Nichols and May</span> American comedy duo

Nichols and May was an American improvisational comedy duo act developed by Mike Nichols (1931–2014) and Elaine May. Their three comedy albums reached the Billboard Top 40 between 1959 and 1962. Many comedians have cited them as key influences in modern comedy. Woody Allen declared, “the two of them came along and elevated comedy to a brand-new level".

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Mike Nichols on screen and stage</span>

Mike Nichols was an American comedian, director, producer, and actor of the stage and screen. He began his career in the 1950s as a comedian alongside Elaine May doing improvisational comedy. Together they formed the comedy duo Nichols and May. Their live improv act was a hit sensation on Broadway, and the first of their three albums won a Grammy Award for Best Comedy Album in 1962. Nichols also became known as a director of plays on the Broadway stage including Neil Simon's Barefoot in the Park (1963), The Odd Couple (1965), and Plaza Suite (1968). He also directed acclaimed revival productions of Anton Chekov's The Seagull (2002), Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman (2012) and Harold Pinter's Betrayal (2013).


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Further reading