UPDATED: Legendary film and theater director, writer and producer Mike Nichols has passed away. An Oscar winner for 1967’s seminal The Graduate, he also was nominated for such films as Working Girl, Silkwood and Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf? For his stage work, he amassed 10 Tony Awards including as director for such plays as Barefoot In The Park, The Odd Couple, The Prisoner Of Second Avenue and Death Of A Salesman; and as producer of Annie and The Real Thing.
“William Goldman said there were two great American film directors—Elia Kazan and Mike Nichols,” said Broadway producer Emanuel Azenberg, who co-produced Tom Stoppard’s The Real Thing with Nichols, who also staged ythe play’s Tony-winning Broadway edition with Glenn Close and Jeremy Irons. “I think that’s true. He was a giant who could convince people to be better than they were.”
Nichols died suddenly late Wednesday night at 83 and his passing was announced on Thursday morning by ABC News President James Goldston. Nichols was married to ABC News Anchor Diane Sawyer. Goldston said this morning, “He was a true visionary, winning the highest honors in the arts for his work as a director, writer, producer and comic and was one of a tiny few to win the EGOT — an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar and a Tony in his lifetime. No one was more passionate about his craft than Mike… Mike and Diane were married for 26 years. He leaves behind three children — Daisy, Max and Jenny — and four wonderful grandchildren… The family will hold a small, private service this week, and a memorial will be held at a later date.”
Broadway will dim its lights tomorrow at 7:45 PM ET for one minute in honor of Nichols’ life and contributions.
Nichols’ last film as director was 2007’s Charlie Wilson’s War with Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts and Philip Seymour Hoffman. In 2012, he staged a Tony-winning revival of Death Of A Salesman with Hoffman as Willy Loman. At the time of his death, he was working on an adaptation of Terrence McNally’s Tony-winning play about Maria Callas, Master Class, for HBO.
Steven Spielberg weighed in on Nichols’ passing this morning with the following statement to Deadline:
“Mike was a friend, a muse, a mentor, one of America’s all time greatest film and stage directors, and one of the most generous people I have ever known. For me, The Graduate was life altering — both as an experience at the movies as well as a master class about how to stage a scene. Mike had a brilliant cinematic eye and uncanny hearing for keeping scenes ironic and real. Actors never gave him less than their personal best — and then Mike would get from them even more. And in a room full of people, Mike was always the center of gravity. This is a seismic loss.”
Nichols was born in Germany in 1931 and moved to the U.S. with his family at age seven. He pursued theater while attending the University of Chicago in the early 1950s. Although he was studying medicine, his true calling was comedy. He met Elaine May in Chicago and the pair formed a legendary comedy duo, winning a Grammy in 1962 for Best Comedy Album.
In 1964, he directed Barefoot In The Park on Broadway, and followed that up with The Odd Couple in 1965. His first film as director was Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf? in 1966 which won five Oscars including Best Actress for Elizabeth Taylor. He followed that up the next year with The Graduate, putting Dustin Hoffman on the map and earning seven Oscar nominations. Nichols won his first Oscar for directing the film. In the early 70s, he helmed Carnal Knowledge and in the 80s made a string of now classic movies that includes Silkwood, Heartburn and Working Girl. He produced 1993’s Best Picture nominee The Remains Of The Day, and in 1996 transferred The Birdcage to film with Robin Williams and Nathan Lane starring. His 1998 Primary Colors opened the Cannes Film Festival that year.
His TV credits include exec producing classic 1970s drama series Family and directing and exec producing HBO drama Angels In America.
The list of actors with whom Nichols worked on stage and screen is a who’s who of Hollywood, past and present. They include (in no particular order) Julie Christie, Lillian Gish, George C Scott, Richard Dreyfuss, Morgan Freeman, Steve Martin, Robin Williams, Meryl Streep, Dustin Hoffman, Jack Nicholson, Emma Thompson, John Travolta, Kathy Bates, Natalie Portman, Christopher Walken, John Goodman, Kevin Kline, Harrison Ford, Julia Roberts, Ron Silver, Anne Bancroft, Candice Bergen, Gene Hackman, Robert Redford, Tom Hanks, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor.