Mike Nichols (above, with wife of 26 years, Dianne Sawyer), director of The Graduate, Closer, The Birdcage, Charlie Wilson’s War, Primary Colors, etc, has died at the age of 83. In addition to directing some of the most memorable films in history (“One word, kid, ‘plastics'”), Nichols was a member of the EGOT club, having won an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony.
“This is a seismic loss,” director and producer Steven Spielberg said in a statement. “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.” […]
Nichols was born in Germany in 1931. He arrived in the United States at the age of 7, after his parents fled the Nazis in Germany. He graduated from the Walden School in New York City, and immersed himself in theater while attending University of Chicago in the early 1950s. He initially studied medicine, but joined a comedy group in Chicago and struck an alliance with Elaine May. The pair released three comedy albums between 1959 and 1962. The 1960 album “An Evening with Mike Nichols and Elaine May,” won a Grammy for Best Comedy Performance. [Variety]
The other day on my podcast, we were arguing about Gone Girl, and our guest, Jane Harrison said, “Ben, you’re the kind of person that thinks the ending of The Graduate is happy.” Jane’s 23 and The Graduate came out in 1967, and everyone in the room knew the reference. For a movie to have that kind of cross-generational, evergreen quality in 2014 is incredibly rare. Working Girl, Regarding Henry, Postcards From The Edge, Biloxi Blues – Nichols made almost nothing but huge movies, and was versatile enough that you don’t necessarily remember them as “Mike Nichols movies.” There may not have been a better actor’s director around. When people were trying to find iconic performances in Philip Seymour Hoffman’s or Robin Williams’ careers, they didn’t have to look much further than Mike Nichols movies.
And on top of being an EGOT director and legendary theater director, Nichols directed a film with possibly the greatest tagline in the history of film: “Unwittingly He Trained a Dolphin to Kill the President of the United States.”