Died when: 83 years 13 days
Star Sign: Scorpio
Mike Nichols (born Mikhail Igor Peschkowsky; November 6, 1931 – November 19, 2014) was an American film and theater director, producer, actor, and comedian. He was noted for his ability to work across a range of genres and for his aptitude for getting the best out of actors regardless of their experience. Nichols began his career in the 1950s with the comedy improvisational troupe The Compass Players, predecessor of The Second City, in Chicago. He then teamed up with his improv partner, Elaine May, to form the comedy duo Nichols and May. Their live improv act was a hit on Broadway, and the first of their three albums won a Grammy Award. After Nichols and May disbanded in 1961, he began directing plays, and quickly became known for his innovative productions and ability to elicit polished performances. His Broadway directing debut was Neil Simon's Barefoot in the Park in 1963, with Robert Redford and Elizabeth Ashley. He next directed Luv in 1964, and in 1965 directed another Simon play, The Odd Couple. He received a Tony Award for each of those plays. In 2012, he won his sixth Tony Award for Best Direction of a Play with a revival of Death of a Salesman. Nichols directed and/or produced more than 25 Broadway plays. In 1966, Warner Brothers invited Nichols to direct his first film, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. The groundbreaking film inspired some critics to declare Nichols the "new Orson Welles". It won five Academy Awards (out of 13 nominations) and was the top-grossing film of 1966. His next film, The Graduate (1967), starred then unknown actor Dustin Hoffman, alongside Anne Bancroft and Katharine Ross. It was another critical and financial success, became the highest-grossing film of the year, and received seven Academy Award nominations, winning Nichols the Academy Award for Best Director. Among the other films Nichols directed were Catch-22 (1970), Carnal Knowledge (1971), Silkwood (1983), Working Girl (1988), Wolf (1994), The Birdcage (1996), Closer (2004) and Charlie Wilson's War (2007). Along with an Academy Award, Nichols won a Grammy Award (the first for a comedian born outside the United States), four Emmy Awards, nine Tony Awards, and three BAFTA Awards. His other honors included the Lincoln Center Gala Tribute in 1999, the National Medal of Arts in 2001, the Kennedy Center Honors in 2003 and the AFI Life Achievement Award in 2010. His films received a total of 42 Academy Award nominations, and seven wins. He is one of the few people to have won Academy, Emmy, Grammy and Tony Awards.