Mike Nichols, an award-winning director known for his versatility and genre-blending productions for film, TV and stage, died on Wednesday evening.
Over the course of a more than five decades long career, Nichols, known for such hits as “The Graduate,” “Angels in America” and “Monty Python’s Spamalot,” won an Academy Award, a Grammy and multiple Tony and Emmy Awards. He is one of the rare few to garner such awards.
Nichols was born Michael Igor Peschkowsky on Nov. 6, 1931 in Berlin, where he lived until the age of seven before fleeing with his family from Nazi Germany for America. He fell in love with the theater at age 15, when he saw Marlon Brando in “A Streetcar Named Desire” with his then-girlfriend.
His own career began as part of a celebrated improvisational comedy duo with Elaine May. They shocked audiences in the late 1950s and early 1960s by openly tackling subjects such as sex, marriage and family. They earned a Grammy in 1960 for best comedy recording for their Broadway show “An Evening with Mike Nichols and Elaine May.” The two split up shortly after, but came back together in ‘90s to collaborate on “Primary Colors” and “The Birdcage.”
In 1966, Nichols made his directorial film debut with “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” starring Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor. A year later, Nichols directed “The Graduate,” which launched the career of Dustin Hoffman, who starred alongside Anne Bancroft. That film — which included the famous line, “Mrs. Robinson, you’re trying to seduce me” — won him an Oscar for best director.
Nichols went on to work with such famed actors as Meryl Streep, Jack Nicholson, Emma Thompson, Al Pacino, Gene Hackman, Robin Williams and Julia Roberts. The list goes on.
On stage, Nichols moved effortlessly between comedy, classics and musicals. He won nine Tonys for his direction of Broadway productions, including his 1964 “Barefoot in the Park,” “Luv” and “The Odd Couple” in 1965, “The Real Thing” in 1984” and “Death of a Salesman” in 2012. He also won a Tony for musical direction with the 2005 “Monty Python’s Spamalot,” and for producing the 1977 “Annie” and the 1984 “The Real Thing”.
In the early 2000s, Nichols directed two TV adaptations: the HBO production of Tony Kushner’s “Angels in America” in 2003 and the 2001 adaptation of Margaret Edson’s “Wit.” Both won Nichols an Emmy.
His 50-year career, filled with creativity and daring humor, was marked by his skillful ability to jump from the stage to the screen, blurring the lines between genres as he moved.
“I have never understood people dividing things into dramas and comedies,” Nichols said during an interview with the Associated Press in 2004. “There are more laughs in `Hamlet’ than many Broadway comedies.”
His death was confirmed in a statement by ABC News president James Goldston on Thursday.
“He was a true visionary,” Goldston said. “No one was more passionate about his craft than Mike.”