Director Mike Nichols at the H.F.P.A. Press Conference for “Closer” on Sunday, November 14, 2004 at the Regency Hotel, in New York City. Photo: Yoram Kahana_Shooting Star™ NOTE: NO TABLOID SALES! NO USA SALES UNTIL FEBRUARY 14, 2005!
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Mike Nichols 1931-2014

A giant of American theater and cinema passed away today. Mike Nichols put his name to such classics as Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and The Graduate as well as beloved works like Catch 22, Working Girl and True Colors. His directing work on Broadway included plays like Uncle Vanya, The Prisoner of Second Avenue and Death of a Salesman. He was nominated for Golden Globe Awards for Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1967), Silkwood (1984), Working Girl (1989) and Closer (2005). He was also nominated as producer of the Best Comedy/Musical nominee The Birdcage in 1997. His television adaptation of Tony Kushner’s Angels in America alone garnered seven nominations. He won the award in 1968. The HFPA’s Yoram Kahana has this remembrance. Master director and former comedy writer-performer Mike Nichols, who passed away at 83, was nominated for a Golden Globe six times, and won once, for The Graduate [1968]. Other masters of comedy were jovial and funny in person. Think Alfred Hitchcock. But Nichols, who gave the Hollywood Foreign Press Association several interviews, came across as rather serious, matter of fact, even dour at times. But once I made him laugh. When talking to us about his mock documentary-comedy True Colors, a movie a-clef about Bill Clinton’s run for the presidential nomination, Nichols was asked about his interest in politics. ” I became interested in politics when Roosevelt was our president” he started. I was sitting in the first row, and muttered under my breath “which one?” Nichols cracked up. Nichols, a quintessential interpreter and sharp commentator of American life and psyche, was born  Michael Igor Peschkowsky in Berlin, Germany in 1931, and came to the United States when his family immigrated to New York. It was said that when he arrived he knew only two phrases: “I don’t speak English” and “please, don’t kiss me”. Yet the young immigrant, having studied acting with Lee Strasberg in New York, went on to co-found and lead the seminal stage comedy ensemble Second City in Chicago.  Second City shaped American humor in the 1960s and launched a who’s who of American comedy performers, foremost among them were Nichols himself and his writing-performing partner, Elaine May. The young duo quickly rose to national fame and popularity, winning the Best Comedy Grammy in 1961, and then took Broadway by storm, perhaps the most popular act in a decade when entertainment was dominated by stand up stars. At the peak of their popularity the duo quit. According to Nichols, he wanted to continue, but May wanted to stop. Left without his comedy alter ego and partner, Nichols launched a second career as a director of stage, television and screen. Nichols first turned to Broadway theater, where in 1964 he directed Robert Redford and Elizabeth Ashley in Neil Simon’s Barefoot in the Park. This directing debut ran for 1,530 performances, won him his first Tony, and launched his life long career as a stage director, winning him seven more Tonys, [the last one in 2012 for Death of a Salesman]. It also opened the doors to Hollywood. When Time Magazine in 1966 called him “the most in demand director in the American theater”, Warner Bros. hired Nichols to direct his first movie, a screen adaptation of Edward Albee’s play Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?  Nichols screen version, with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton in the leading roles, garnered the newly minted movie director 13 Academy nominations, five  Oscar wins, and also a Golden Globe nomination. After Virginia Woolf Nichols would go on to receive five more Golden Globes nominations, and to win the golden statuette in 1968, for directing his sophomore movie and cult classic, The Graduate. That made Mike Nichols one of the very few winners of the so-called EGOT: Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony. Make that the EGOT-GG: The Golden Globe, too. Nichols never stopped working. His last project, which he left unfinished, was for HBO, an adaptation of Terrence McNally’s Tony Award-winning play Master Class, about opera legend Maria Callas. The project  would have reunited Nichols with Meryl Streep, one of his most frequent collaborators.  A giant of American entertainment has passed we will sorely miss him.