Mike Nichols (born November 6, 1931 as Michael Igor Peschkowsky in Berlin, Germany) is an Academy Award-winning film and stage director who is perhaps best known for having directed The Graduate and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?.
Nichols was born to a Russian Jewish family in 1931. In 1939, his father fled the Nazis by moving the family to the U.S. While attending the University of Chicago in the 1950s, he began work in improvisational comedy with the Compass Players troupe (a precursor to The Second City) and later started the long-running Midnight Special folk music program on radio station WFMT. He teamed up to form a comedy team with Elaine May, with whom he appeared in nightclubs, on radio, released best-selling records, guested on several television programs and had their own show on Broadway (directed by Arthur Penn).
Personal idiosyncrasies and tensions (the latter culminating in the out-of-town closing of A Matter of Position, a new play written by May and starring Nichols) eventually drove this great comic duo apart to pursue other pursuits in 1961. Happily, they later reconciled and worked together many times, including May's doctoring of more than one script of a Nichols film (such as Wolf; "she saved my ass on that one," he has said) and, eventually, her providing the wonderful scripts for his movies The Birdcage and Primary Colors. (There was also talk of their collaborating on a new version of Kind Hearts and Coronets, starring Robin Williams.) They also appeared together at President Carter's inaugural gala and in a 1980 New Haven stage revival of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (with the ideal supporting cast of Swoosie Kurtz and James Naughton).
Nichols' solo career ultimately became that of director. His Broadway credits include a remarkable string of plays by Neil Simon. They had five successive megahits with Barefoot in the Park (the 1963 comedy that launched the career of Robert Redford), The Odd Couple (1965), The Prisoner of Second Avenue (1971) and Plaza Suite (1968). (Curiously, though Nichols won the Best Director Tony for each of the five, he did not direct the film versions of any of them. His only screen direction of a Simon script came much later, with Biloxi Blues. That play was directed on Broadway by Gene Saks, who had helmed the film versions of Barefoot and The Odd Couple!) Nichols and Simon's only other Broadway collaboration to date was their last -- 1981's Fools, a quick failure.
Nichols directed many other plays on Broadway, some in their original New York productions (1964's Luv, 1976's Streamers and Comedians, 1977's The Gin Game, 1980's Lunch Hour, 1984's The Real Thing and Hurlyburly, 1986's Social Security and 1992's Death and the Maiden), some revivals of established classics (1967's The Little Foxes and 1973's Uncle Vanya, both with glittering all-star casts). He's twice directed a Broadway musical, one a fascinating failure (1966's The Apple Tree, which nonetheless won his fellow Second City performer Barbara Harris a Best Actress Tony) and the other a megahit (2005's Spamalot). Moreover, he produced the original Broadway productions of Annie (1977), Billy Bishop Goes to War (1980), Grown Ups (1981), Whoopi Goldberg (the 1984 one-woman show that made her a star; Nichols also "supervised" this production and produced the 2004 revival) and The Play What I Wrote (2003).
His first major film direction was the adaptation of another play, Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? in 1966, for which he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Director. His next film, The Graduate, spoke to a disaffected generation, made Dustin Hoffman a star, and gave Nichols his Oscar. He followed that up with more successes in Catch-22 and Carnal Knowledge, but two failures in the 1970s, The Day of the Dolphin and The Fortune, tarnished his reputation. Since then, he has moved on to more Broadway productions, and executive producing of television programs, including Family. He recently (2005) directed the movie Closer.
Nichols has been married to TV journalist Diane Sawyer since April 29, 1988. Since May 2005 he's been a contributing blogger at The Huffington Post. He is also a teacher and founder of The New Actor's Workshop in New York City.
Nichols is one of the few people who have won an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar and a Tony Award.
Nichols was a recipient of Kennedy Center Honors in 2003. He has also received the following Academy Awards and nominations:
1994 Nominated Best Picture The Remains of the Day (with John Calley and Ismail Merchant)
1989 Nominated Best Director Working Girl
1984 Nominated Best Director Silkwood
1968 Won Best Director The Graduate
1967 Nominated Best Director Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
He has also received the following Emmy Awards and nominations:
2004 Won Outstanding Directing For A Miniseries, Movie Or A Dramatic Special Angels in America
2004 Won Outstanding Miniseries Angels in America
2001 Won Outstanding Directing for a Miniseries, Movie or a Special Wit
2001 Won Outstanding Made for Television Movie Wit
2001 Nominated Outstanding Writing for a Miniseries or a Movie Wit
1977 Nominated Outstanding Drama Series Family
He won a Tony for best director for the broadway play Spamalot in 2005. He has won nine Tony Awards.