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Mike Nichols: An Entertainment Renaissance Man Dies at 83

P.T. Philben ‘17 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer

Mike Nichols directing Charlie Wilson's War.
Mike Nichols directing Charlie Wilson’s War. Photo Credit: Universal Pictures.

Mike Nichols, entertainment pioneer, died surrounded by his family in New York City at the age of 83 on Thursday, November 20th. Best known as the director of The Graduate (1967), for which he won his Oscar, Nichols was a pioneering director and entertainer, legendary for his intelligent, heartfelt and innovative work on the stage as well as the big and small screen. He was one of 12 people to win the coveted EGOT; winning the Emmy (4), Grammy, Oscar and Tony (9). The entertainment industries grand slam.  Nichols was loved by the industry’s brightest stars. The lights on Broadway went dark last night for a legend.

He was brought to America when his family fled from Nazi Germany when he was 7 years old and barely spoke a word of English, his enthusiasm for his new home shined through. He was attending medical school when he discovered that his true calling was in the entertainment industry. He met Elaine May and together they started the improv comedy duo “Nichols and May”. They became a hit and eventually won a Grammy for the recording of their Broadway debut Evening with Mike Nichols and Elaine May.

Mike Nichols directing Julia Roberts in Closer.
Mike Nichols directing Julia Roberts in Closer. Photo Credit: Sony Pictures.

Nichols went on after college to direct his first Hollywood movie at the young age of 35, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. The film was nominated in every eligible category at that years Academy Awards. Nichols continued directing with The Graduate, picking then unknown Dustin Hoffman as the lead. The Graduate won Nichols his Oscar and both of these films are universally considered to be among the best in history. The rest of his filmography includes Carnal Knowledge, Silkwood, Working Girl, Postcards From The Edge, The Birdcage, Charlie Wilson’s War and Closer to name a few.

In the theater world he was just as influential. He was responsible for the successful debuts of such Broadway classics as The Odd Couple, The Prisoner of Second Avenue, Annie and Monty Python’s Spamalot. He won his last Tony for the Broadway revival of Death of a Salesman, which featured Andrew Garfield and the late Philip Seymour Hoffman.

Mike Nichols directing Philip Seymour Hoffman in Charlie Wilson's War. Photo Credit: Universal Pictures.
Mike Nichols directing Philip Seymour Hoffman in Charlie Wilson’s War. Photo Credit: Universal Pictures.

On the small screen, he adapted successful Broadway plays for HBO. These included Wit, which featured Emma Thompson who also co-wrote the adaptation with Nichols. As well as Angels in America miniseries, which was written by Tony Kushner. It starred the likes of Al Pacino, Emma Thompson, Meryl Streep, Jeffrey Wright, and Mary-Louise Parker. Both are considered staples in television history. Nichols never stopped working. He was in the process working on an HBO adaptation of Master Class with Meryl Streep, one of the many artists eager to work with this great master.

Our thoughts are with Nichols wife Diane Sawyer and the rest of his family. Nichols will be dearly missed as a great artist and by reputation a great human being. Emertainment Monthly and the whole entertainment industry mourns the loss of Mike Nichols and celebrates the life of a great artist.

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