Oscar Directors: Nichols, Mike–Background, Career, Awards, Filmography (Cum Advantage)

September 23, 2020

Mike Nichols Career Summation

Occupational Inheritance:

Nationality: German born

Social Class: upper-middle; father physician (born in Vienna)

Race/Ethnicity/ Religion: Jewish


Formal Education: NYU dropout


First Film:


First Oscar Nomination: Virginia Woolf, 1966; aged 35

Gap between First Film and First Nom:

Other Oscars:

Other Oscar Nominations:

Oscar Awards: The Graduate, 1967; aged 36

Nominations Span: 1966-2007; 41 years

Genre (specialties): comedy, satire

Collaborators: Elaine May; Meryl Streep and Jack Nicholson

Last Film: Cahrlie’s War


Career Length:

Career Output: 21 features in 41 years

Marriage: 4 wives, none Jewish; 3 divorces; 4th wife Diane Sawyer


Death: 83

Mike Nichols (born Mikhail Igor Peschkowsky; November 6, 1931–November 19, 2014), an American film and theater director, producer, actor, and comedian, 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 the Oscar 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.

Nichols films received a total of 42 Oscar nominations, and 7 Oscar Awards.

Nichols was born Mikhail Igor Peschkowsky on November 6, 1931, in Berlin, Germany, the son of Brigitte (née Landauer) and Pavel Peschkowsky, a physician.

His father was born in Vienna, Austria, to a Russian-Jewish immigrant family. Nichols’ father’s family had been wealthy and lived in Siberia, leaving after the Russian Revolution, and settling in Germany around 1920. Nichols’ mother’s family were German Jews. His maternal grandparents were Gustav Landauer,[3][4] a leading theorist on anarchism, and author Hedwig Lachmann. Nichols was a third cousin twice removed of scientist Albert Einstein, through Nichols’ mother.

In April 1939, when the Nazis were arresting Jews in Berlin, Mikhail, 7, and Robert, 3, were sent alone to the US to join their father, who had fled months earlier. His mother joined the family by escaping through Italy in 1940.[5] The family moved to New York City on April 28, 1939.[2][6] His father, whose original name was Pavel Nikolaevich Peschkowsky, changed his name to Paul Nichols, Nichols derived from his Russian patronymic. Before Paul Nichols had received his U.S. medical license, he was employed by a union on 42nd Street, X-raying union members.[7][8] He later had a successful medical practice in Manhattan, enabling the family to live near Central Park.[9][10]

Before he established his practice, he was a union doctor, and part of his job was X-raying union members. They didn’t know about shielding X-ray machines, and he died of leukemia at 44, in 1944–Mike Nichols

Nichols’ youth was difficult because by age 4, after inoculation for whooping cough, he had lost his hair, and consequently wore wigs for the rest of his life.

He became a naturalized citizen of the US in 1944 and attended public elementary school in Manhattan (PS 87). After graduating from the Walden School, a private progressive school on Central Park West, Nichols briefly attended New York University before dropping out.

In 1950, he enrolled in the pre-med program at the University of Chicago.[10] He later described this college period as “paradise,” recalling how “I never had a friend from the time I came to this country until I got to the University of Chicago.”[3]

While in Chicago in 1953, Nichols joined the staff of struggling classical music station WFMT, 98.7 FM, as an announcer. Co-owner Rita Jacobs asked Nichols to create a folk music program on Saturday nights, which he named The Midnight Special. He hosted the program for two years before leaving for New York City. Nichols frequently invited musicians to perform live in the studio and eventually created a unique blend of “folk music and farce, showtunes and satire, odds and ends,” along with his successor Norm Pellegrini. The program endures today in the same time slot.[13]

Nichols first saw Elaine May when she was sitting in the front row while he was playing the lead in a Chicago production of Miss Julie, and they made eye contact.[14] :39 Weeks later he ran into her in a train station where he started a conversation in an assumed accent, pretending to be a spy, and she played along, using another accent.[15] :325 They hit it off immediately, which led to a brief romance. Later in his career, he said “Elaine was very important to me from the moment I saw her.”[15]:325

In 1953, Nichols left Chicago for New York City to study method acting under Lee Strasberg, but was unable to find stage work there. He was invited back to join Chicago’s Compass Players in 1955, the predecessor to Chicago’s Second City, whose members included May, Shelley Berman, Del Close, and Nancy Ponder, directed by Paul Sills. In Chicago, he started doing improvisational routines with May, which eventually led to the formation of the comedy duo Nichols and May in 1958, first performing in New York City.

They performed live satirical comedy acts and eventually released three records of their routines, which became best-sellers. They also appeared in nightclubs and were on radio and television. Jack Rollins, who later became Woody Allen’s manager and producer, invited them to audition and was most impressed: “Their work was so startling, so new, as fresh as could be. I was stunned by how really good they were, actually as impressed by their acting technique as by their comedy … I thought, My God, these are two people writing hilarious comedy on their feet![15]:340

In 1960, Nichols and May opened the Broadway show An Evening With Mike Nichols and Elaine May, directed by Arthur Penn. The LP album of the show won the 1962 Grammy Award for Best Comedy Album. Personal idiosyncrasies and tensions eventually drove the duo apart to pursue other projects in 1961. About their sudden breakup, director Arthur Penn said, “They set the standard and then they had to move on,”[15]:351 while talk show host Dick Cavett said “they were one of the comic meteors in the sky.”[15]:348 Comedy historian Gerald Nachman describes the effect of their break-up on American comedy:

Nichols and May are perhaps the most ardently missed of all the satirical comedians of their era. When Nichols and May split up, they left no imitators, no descendants, no blueprints or footprints to follow. No one could touch them.[15] :319

They later reconciled and worked together many times, such as on the unsuccessful A Matter of Position, a play written by May and starring Nichols. They appeared together at President Jimmy Carter’s inaugural gala, in 1977, and in a 1980 New Haven stage revival of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? with Swoosie Kurtz and James Naughton.[17] May scripted Nichols’ films The Birdcage (1996) and Primary Colors (1998). In 2010, at the AFIs “Life Achievement Award” ceremony, May gave a humor-filled tribute to Nichols.[18]

After the professional split with May, Nichols went to Vancouver, B.C. to work in the theater directing a production of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest and acted in a revival of George Bernard Shaw’s St. Joan.[10]

In 1963, Nichols was chosen to direct Neil Simon’s play Barefoot In The Park. He realized at once that he was meant to be a director, saying in a 2003 interview: “On the first day of rehearsal, I thought, ‘Well, look at this. Here is what I was meant to do.’ I knew instantly that I was home”.[16] Barefoot in the Park was a big hit, running for 1530 performances and earning Nichols a Tony Award for his direction.[10]

This began a series of highly successful plays on Broadway (often from works by Simon) that would establish his reputation. After directing an off-Broadway production of Ann Jellicoe’s The Knack, Nichols directed Murray Schisgal’s play Luv in 1964. Again the show was a hit and Nichols won a Tony Award (shared with The Odd Couple). In 1965 he directed another play by Neil Simon, The Odd Couple. The original production starred Art Carney as Felix Ungar and Walter Matthau as Oscar Madison. The play ran for 966 performances and won Tony Awards for Nichols, Simon and Matthau.[10] Overall, Nichols won nine Tony Awards:[19][20] including six for Best Director of either a play or a musical, one for Best Play, and one for Best Musical.

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

In 1966, Nichols was a star stage director and Time magazine called him “the most in-demand director in the American theatre.”[10] Although he had no experience in filmmaking, after befriending[21] Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, Warner Bros. invited Nichols to direct a screen adaptation of Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? starring Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, George Segal, and Sandy Dennis for which he received a fee of $400,000.[22] The film was critically acclaimed, with critics calling Nichols “the new Orson Welles”,[10] and a financial success,[23][24] the number 1 film of 1966.[25]

The film was considered groundbreaking for having a level of profanity and sexual innuendo unheard of at that time.[26][27][28] It won five Academy Awards and garnered thirteen nominations (including Nichols’ first nomination for Best Director), earning the distinctions of being one of only two films nominated in every eligible category at the Oscars (the other being Cimarron), and the first film to have its entire credited cast nominated for acting Oscars. It also won three BAFTA Awards and was ranked #67 in AFI’s 100 Years … 100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition).

His next film was The Graduate (1967), starring Dustin Hoffman, Anne Bancroft and Katharine Ross for which he was paid $150,000, a deal he had made with four years earlier with producer Joseph E. Levine.[22] It became the highest-grossing film of 1967 and one of the highest-grossing films in history up to that date,[29] with Nichols receiving 16⅔% of the profits, making him a millionaire.[22] It was nominated for seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture, with Nichols winning as Best Director. In 2007, it was ranked #17 in AFI’s 100 Years … 100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition).

However, getting the film made was difficult for Nichols, who, while noted for being a successful Broadway director, was still an unknown in Hollywood. Producer Lawrence Turman, who wanted only Nichols to direct it, was continually turned down for financing. He then contacted Levine, who said he would finance the film because he had associated with Nichols on The Knack,[22] and because he heard that Elizabeth Taylor specifically wanted Nichols to direct her and Richard Burton in Virginia Woolf.[30] With financing assured, Nichols suggested Buck Henry for screenwriter, although Henry’s experience had also been mostly in improvised comedy, and had no writing background. Nichols said to Henry, “I think you could do it; I think you should do it.”

Nichols also took a chance on using Dustin Hoffman, who had no film experience, for the lead, when others had suggested using known star Robert Redford. Hoffman credits Nichols for having taken a great risk in giving him, a relative unknown, the starring role: “I don’t know of another instance of a director at the height of his powers who would take a chance and cast someone like me in that part. It took tremendous courage.”

Nichols chose Oscar winner Robert Surtees to do the photography. Surtees, who had photographed major films since the 1920s, including Ben-Hur, said later, “It took everything I had learned over 30 years to be able to do the job. I knew that Mike Nichols was a young director who went in for a lot of camera. We did more things in this picture than I ever did in one film.”

Nichols also chose the music by Simon and Garfunkel. When Paul Simon was taking too long to write new songs for the film, he used existing songs, originally planning to replace them with newly written ones. In the end only one new song was available, and Nichols used the existing previously released songs. At one point, when Nichols heard Paul Simon’s song, “Mrs. Roosevelt,” he suggested to Simon that he change it to “Mrs. Robinson.” The song won a Grammy after the film was released and became America’s number 1 pop song. Nichols selected all the numerous songs for the film and chose which scenes they would be used in. The placement and selection of songs would affect the way audiences understood the film. Even actor William Daniels, who played Hoffman’s father, remembers that after first hearing the songs, especially “The Sound of Silence,” he thought, “Oh, wait a minute. That changed the whole idea of the picture for me,” suddenly realizing the film would not be a typical comedy.[30]

Nichols had previously returned to Broadway to direct The Apple Tree, starring Second City alumna, Barbara Harris. After doing The Graduate, he again returned to the Broadway stage with a revival of Lillian Hellman’s The Little Foxes in 1967, which ran for 100 performances.[31] He then directed Neil Simon’s Plaza Suite in 1968, earning him another Tony Award for Best Director. He also directed the short film Teach Me! (1968), which starred actress Sandy Dennis.

Nichols’ big-budget adaptation of Joseph Heller’s novel Catch-22 (1970), followed by Carnal Knowledge (1971) starring Jack Nicholson, Ann-Margret, Art Garfunkel and Candice Bergen. The film was highly controversial upon release because of the casual and blunt depiction of sexual intercourse.[32] In Georgia, a theatre manager was convicted in 1972 of violating the state’s obscenity statutes by showing the film, a conviction later overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court in Jenkins v. Georgia.[33]

Nichols returned to Broadway to direct Neil Simon’s The Prisoner of Second Avenue in 1971. The play won Nichols another Tony Award for Best Director. In 1973, Nichols directed a revival of Anton Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya on Broadway starring George C. Scott and with a new translation by himself and Albert Todd.[10] In 1973 Nichols directed the film The Day of the Dolphin starring George C. Scott, based on the French novel Un animal doué de raison (lit. A Sentient Animal) by Robert Merle and adapted by Buck Henry. The film was not successful financially and received mixed reviews from critics.[10] Nichols next directed The Fortune (1975), starring Warren Beatty, Jack Nicholson and Stockard Channing. The film was financial failure and received negative reviews, and became Nichols’ last feature film for 8 years.

Nichols returned to the stage with two moderately successful productions in 1976; David Rabe’s Streamers opened in April and ran for 478 performances.[34] Trevor Griffiths’s Comedians ran for 145 performances.[35]

In 1976 Nichols worked as Exe-Producer to create the TV drama Family for ABC. The series ran until 1980.

In 1977, Nichols produced the original Broadway production of the hugely successful musical Annie, which ran for 2,377 performances until 1983. Nichols won the Tony Award for Best Musical.[36] Later in 1977, Nichols directed D.L. Coburn’s The Gin Game. The play ran for 517 performances and won a Tony Award for Best Actress for Jessica Tandy.

In 1980, Nichols directed the documentary Gilda Live, a filmed performance of comedian Gilda Radner’s one-woman show Gilda Radner Live on Broadway. It was released at the same time as the album of the show, both of which were successful. Nichols then directed two unsuccessful shows: Billy Bishop Goes to War, which opened in 1980 and closed after only twelve performances,[38] and Neil Simon’s Fools, in 1981, which closed after forty performances.[39]

Returning to Hollywood, Nichols’ career rebounded in 1983 with the film Silkwood, starring Meryl Streep, Cher and Kurt Russell, based on the life of whistleblower Karen Silkwood. The film was a financial and critical success, with film critic Vincent Canby calling it “the most serious work Mike Nichols has yet done.”[10] The film received five Academy Award nominations, including a Best Director nomination for Nichols.

Nichols and Peter Stone helped to fix up and rewrite the musical My One and Only just days before its Boston premiere.[40] The show eventually went to Broadway and ran for 767 performances, winning Tony Awards for Best Actor, Best Choreography (both for Tommy Tune) and best Supporting Actor (Charles “Honi” Coles).

In 1984, Nichols directed the Broadway premiere of Tom Stoppard’s The Real Thing. New York Times critic Frank Rich wrote “a substantial revision of the original London production—is not only Mr. Stoppard’s most moving play, but also the most bracing play that anyone has written about love and marriage in years.” The play was nominated for 7 Tony Awards and won 5, including a Best Director Tony for Nichols.

Nichols followed the success with the Broadway premiere of David Rabe’s Hurlyburly, also in 1984. It was performed just two blocks away from the theater showing The Real Thing. It was nominated for 3 Tony Awards and won Best Actress for Judith Ivey.[10]

In 1983, Nichols had seen comedian Whoopi Goldberg’s one woman show, The Spook Show and wanted to help her expand it. Goldberg’s self-titled Broadway show opened in October 1984 and ran for 156 performances. Rosie O’Donnell said that Nichols had discovered Goldberg while she was struggling as a downtown street artist: “He gave her the entire beginning of her career and recognized her brilliance before anyone else.”[42] In 1986 Nichols directed the Broadway premiere of Andrew Bergman’s Social Security and in 1988 directed Waiting for Godot, starring Robin Williams and Steve Martin. Williams cited Nichols and May as his early influences for performing intelligent comedy.

In 1986, Nichols directed the film Heartburn, which received mixed reviews, and starred Meryl Streep and Jack Nicholson. In 1988, Nichols completed two feature films. The first was an adaptation of Neil Simon’s autobiographical stage play Biloxi Blues starring Matthew Broderick, also receiving mixed critical reviews. Nichols directed one of his most successful films, Working Girl, which starred Melanie Griffith, Harrison Ford and Sigourney Weaver. The film was a huge hit upon its release. It also received mostly positive reviews from critics. It was nominated for 6 Oscars (including Best Director for Nichols) and won Best Song Oscar for Carly Simon’s “Let the River Run”.

At one point in the 1980s, Nichols—who was prone to bouts of depression—reported that he had considered suicide, a feeling apparently brought on by a psychotic episode he experienced after taking the drug Halcion.[3]

In the 1990s, Nichols directed several more successful, well-received films including Postcards from the Edge (1990) starring Meryl Streep and Shirley MacLaine; Primary Colors (1998) starring John Travolta and Emma Thompson; and The Birdcage (1996), an American remake of the 1978 French film La Cage aux Folles starring Robin Williams, Nathan Lane, Gene Hackman and Dianne Wiest. Both The Birdcage and Primary Colors were written by Elaine May, Nichols’ comedy partner earlier in his career. Other films directed by Nichols include Regarding Henry (1991) starring Harrison Ford and Wolf (1994) starring Jack Nicholson and Michelle Pfeiffer. When he was honored by Lincoln Center in 1999 for his life’s work, Elaine May—speaking once again as his friend—served up the essence of Nichols with the following:

So he’s witty, he’s brilliant, he’s articulate, he’s on time, he’s prepared and he writes. But is he perfect? He knows you can’t really be liked or loved if you’re perfect. You have to have just enough flaws. And he does. Just the right, perfect flaws to be absolutely endearing.[45]

In the 2000s, Nichols directed the films What Planet Are You From? (2000), Closer (2004) and Charlie Wilson’s War (2007), a political drama that was ultimately his final feature film. What Planet Are You From? received mixed reviews from critics,[46] while Closer and Charlie Wilson’s War received generally positive reviews[47][48] and were both nominated for Academy Awards, BAFTA and Golden Globe awards.[49][50] Nichols also directed widely acclaimed adaptations of Wit (2001) and Angels in America (2003) for television, winning Emmy Awards for both of them.[51]

In 2012, Nichols won the Best Direction Tony Award for Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman. In April 2013, it was announced that he would direct Daniel Craig and Rachel Weisz in a Broadway revival of Harold Pinter’s Betrayal. The play began its limited run on October 1 at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre, opening on November 3 through January 5, 2014.[52] Nichols was also in talks to direct a film adaptation of Jonathan Tropper’s novel One Last Thing Before I Go. The film was to be produced by J.J. Abrams, who previously wrote the Nichols-directed film Regarding Henry (1991).

Nichols was a contributing blogger at The Huffington Post. He was also a co-founder of The New Actors Workshop in New York City, where he occasionally taught.[54] In addition, he remained active in the Directors Guild of America, interviewing fellow film director Bennett Miller on stage in October 2011 after the Guild’s screening of Miller’s Moneyball.

In January 2016, PBS aired Mike Nichols: American Masters, an American Masters documentary about Nichols directed by his former improv partner, Elaine May. On February 22, 2016, HBO aired the documentary Becoming Mike Nichols.

Directing style
After his early successes as a stage and film director, Nichols had developed a reputation as an auteur who likes to work intimately with his actors and writers, often using them repeatedly in different films. Writer Peter Applebome noted that “few directors have such a gift for getting performances out of actors.”[59] During a half-year period in 1967 he had four hit plays running simultaneously on Broadway, during which time his first Hollywood feature, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, had also become a popular and critical success. Combined with his second film, The Graduate, in 1967, the two films had already earned a total of 20 Oscar nominations, including two for Best Director, and winning it for The Graduate.

Nichols was able to get the best out of actors regardless of their acting experience, whether an unknown such as Dustin Hoffman or a major star like Richard Burton. For his first film, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, each of the four actors was nominated for an Oscar, with Elizabeth Taylor and Sandy Dennis winning. Burton later said, “I didn’t think I could learn anything about comedy—I’d done all of Shakespeare’s. But from him I learned,” adding, “He conspires with you to get your best.”[45]

However, it was Taylor who chose Nichols to be their director, because, writes biographer David Bret, “she particularly admired him because he had done a number of ad-hoc jobs to pay for his education after arriving in America as a seven-year-old Jewish refugee.”[60] Producer Ernest Lehman agreed with her choice: “He was the only one who could handle them,” he said. “The Burtons were quite intimidating, and we needed a genius like Mike Nichols to combat them.”[61] Biographer Kitty Kelley says that neither Taylor nor Burton would ever again reach the heights of acting performance they did in that film.

The same style of directing was used for The Graduate, where historian Peter Biskind, Nichols took Dustin Hoffman, with no movie acting experience, along with Anne Bancroft, Katharine Ross and others, and managed to get some of their finest acting on screen. This ability to work closely with actors would remain consistent throughout his career. Hoffman credits Nichols for permitting the realistic acting needed for the satirical roles in that film:

It’s Nichols’s style—he walks that edge of really going as far as he can without falling over the cliff, into disbelief. It’s not caricature. That’s the highest compliment for satire.

In a similar way, Jeremy Irons, who acted in the play The Real Thing, said that Nichols creates a very “protective environment: he makes you feel he’s only there for you,”[16] while Ann-Margret, for her role in Carnal Knowledge, felt the same: “What’s wonderful about Mike is that he makes you feel like you’re the one that’s come up with the idea, when it’s actually his.”[62]

Personal life
Nichols was married four times; the first three ended in divorce, the last upon his death. He also had a discreet decade-long affair with photographer Richard Avedon, according to Avedon’s studio director and business manager.[64][65]

Nichols’ first marriage was to Patricia Scot; they were married from 1957 to 1960. His second was to Margot Callas, a former “muse” of the poet Robert Graves, from 1963 to 1974. The couple had a daughter together, Daisy Nichols. His third marriage, to Annabel Davis-Goff, produced two children, Max Nichols and Jenny Nichols; they married in 1975 and divorced in 1986.[68] His fourth was to former ABC World News anchor Diane Sawyer, whom he married on April 29, 1988. None of his wives was Jewish and his children were not brought up according to a religion, but they identify as Jewish. His son Max married ESPN journalist Rachel Nichols.

Nichols had lifelong interest in Arabian horses. From 1968 to 2004 he owned a farm in Connecticut and was a noted horse breeder. He also imported quality Arabian horses from Poland, some of which sold for record-setting prices.

Nichols died of a heart attack on November 19, 2014, at his apartment in Manhattan, nearly two weeks after his 83rd birthday.

During the 87th annual Academy Awards on 22 February 2015, Nichols was featured in the In Memoriam segment, in anchor position.

Nichols left John Frederick Herring Sr.’s painting “Horse with Groom” to his son Max.

When Nichols died, many artists in film spoke and paid tribute to him, including Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks, Meryl Streep, Kevin Spacey and Tom Stoppard.[80] On November 8, 2014, at an undisclosed location, stars and artists paid tribute to Nichols. Hosts for the private event included Elaine May and Lorne Michaels. Eric Idle and John Cleese performed. Guests included Streep, Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Natalie Portman, Carly Simon, Nathan Lane and Christine Baranski.

In 2017, during an Oscars Actress Roundtable, Amy Adams, Natalie Portman, and Annette Bening spoke about the impact Nichols had on their lives.


1960 An Evening with Mike Nichols and Elaine May Performer – Writer John Golden Theatre [83]
1963 Barefoot in the Park Director The Biltmore Theatre [83]
1964 Luv Director Helen Hayes Theatre [84]
1965 The Odd Couple Director Plymouth Theatre [85]
1966 The Apple Tree Director Shubert Theatre [86]
1967 The Little Foxes Director Ethel Barrymore Theatre [85]
1968 Plaza Suite Director Plymouth Theatre [85]
1971 The Prisoner of Second Avenue Director Eugene O’Neill Theatre [85]
1973 Uncle Vanya Director Circle in the Square Theatre [87]
1976 Streamers Director Mitzi E. Newhouse Theatre [87]
Comedians Director Music Box Theatre [87]
1977 Annie Producer Eugene O’Neill Theatre [87]
The Gin Game Director – Producer John Golden Theatre [87]
1980 Billy Bishop Goes to War Director Morosco Theatre [87]
Lunch Hour Director Ethel Barrymore Theatre [87]
1981 Fools Director Eugene O’Neill Theatre [87]
Grown Ups Producer Lyceum Theatre [87]
1984 The Real Thing Director Plymouth Theatre [87]
Hurlyburly Director Ethel Barrymore Theatre [87]
Whoopi Goldberg Producer Lyceum Theatre [87]
1986 Social Security Director Ethel Barrymore Theatre [87]
1992 Death and the Maiden Director Brooks Atkinson Theatre [87]
2001 The Seagull Director The Public Theater, Off-Broadway [87]
2003 The Play What I Wrote Producer Lyceum Theatre [87]
2004 Whoopi: The 25th Anniversary Show Producer [87]
2005 Spamalot Director Shubert Theatre [87]
2008 The Country Girl Director Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre [87]
2012 Death of a Salesman Director Ethel Barrymore Theatre [87]
2013 Betrayal Director [87]


1966 Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Yes No
1967 The Graduate Yes No
1968 Teach Me! Yes No Short film
1970 Catch-22 Yes No
1971 Carnal Knowledge Yes Yes
1973 The Day of the Dolphin Yes No
1975 The Fortune Yes Yes
1980 Gilda Live Yes No Documentary
1983 Silkwood Yes Yes
1986 Heartburn Yes Yes
1988 Biloxi Blues Yes No
Working Girl Yes No
1990 Postcards from the Edge Yes Yes
1991 Regarding Henry Yes Yes
1993 The Remains of the Day No Yes
1994 Wolf Yes No
1996 The Birdcage Yes Yes
1998 Primary Colors Yes Yes
2000 What Planet Are You From? Yes Yes
2004 Closer Yes Yes
2007 Charlie Wilson’s War Yes No Final film

Executive Producer

The Longshot (1986)
Friends with Kids (2011)
Crescendo! The Power of Music (2014) (Documentary)
Year Title Role Notes Ref.
1957–1958 The Steve Allen Show Performer — Himself 2 episodes [88]
1958 Omnibus Performer Episode: The Suburban Review
1958 The DuPont Show of the Month Rod Carter Episode: The Red Mill
1959–1960 The Jack Paar Tonight Show Performer — Himself 5 Episodes
1960 Playhouse 90 Performer — Arthur Millman Episode: Journey to the Day
1960 What’s My Line? Performer — Himself Episode: Elaine May & Mike Nichols
1962 President Kennedy’s Birthday Salute Performer — Himself Television Special
1964–1965 The Jack Paar Program Himself — Guest 6 episodes
1976 Family Producer Television Series
1986 Looney Tunes 50th Anniversary Special Himself (cameo) Television Special
1997 The Designated Mourner Performer — Jack Feature Film
1998–2011 Charlie Rose Himself — Guest 3 episodes
2001 Wit Director — Executive Producer Television movie
2003 Angels in America Director — Producer Miniseries — 6 episodes
Improvisations to Music (1958) Mercury[89] ASIN B000W0V9BW
An Evening with Mike Nichols and Elaine May (1960) Mercury ASIN B000W06CCS
Mike Nichols & Elaine May Examine Doctors (1961) Mercury MG 20680/SR 60680 ASIN B000W0AGDY
In Retrospect (1962) Polygram, compilation, re-released as compact disc in 1996 ASIN B000001EKT
Awards and nominations
Nichols is one of the few entertainers to have won the EGOT, the Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony.[90]

Year Award Category Title Results Ref.
1966 Academy Award Best Director Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Nominated [91]
1967 The Graduate Won
1983 Silkwood Nominated
1988 Working Girl Nominated
1993 Best Picture The Remains of the Day Nominated
1967 British Academy Film Awards Best Film Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Won [91]
1968 The Graduate Won
Best Director Won
1994 Best Film The Remains of the Day Nominated
1966 Golden Globe Awards Best Director Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Nominated [92]
1967 The Graduate Won
1983 Silkwood Nominated
1988 Working Girl Nominated
2004 Closer Nominated
1959 Grammy Awards Best Documentary or Spoken Word[93] Improvisations to Music Nominated [94]
Best Comedy Album Nominated
1962 An Evening with Mike Nichols and Elaine May Won
1963 Mike Nichols & Elaine May Examine Doctors Nominated
1977 Primetime Emmy Award Outstanding Drama Series Family Nominated [95]
2001 Outstanding Writing for a Miniseries or a Movie Wit Nominated
Outstanding Directing for a Miniseries or Movie Won
Outstanding Made for Television Movie Won
2004 Outstanding Directing for a Miniseries or Movie Angels in America Won
Outstanding Miniseries Won
1964 Tony Award Best Direction of a Play Barefoot in the Park Won [96]
1965 Luv and The Odd Couple Won
1967 Best Direction of a Musical The Apple Tree Nominated
1968 Best Direction of a Play Plaza Suite Won
1972 The Prisoner of Second Avenue Won
1974 Uncle Vanya Nominated
1977 Best Musical Annie Won
Best Direction of a Play Comedians Nominated
Streamers Nominated
1978 The Gin Game Nominated
Best Play Nominated
1984 Best Direction of a Play The Real Thing Won
2003 Best Special Theatrical Event The Play What I Wrote Nominated
2005 Best Direction of a Musical Monty Python’s Spamalot Won
Best Special Theatrical Event Whoopi the 25th Anniversary Show Nominated
2012 Best Direction of a Play Death of a Salesman Won
1976 Drama Desk Award Outstanding Director of a Play Streamers Nominated [97]
1977 Comedians Won
1978 The Gin Game Nominated
1984 The Real Thing Nominated
2005 Outstanding Director of a Musical Spamalot Nominated
2012 Death of a Salesman Won
Honorary Awards

1999 – Film Society of Lincoln Center Gala tribute
2001 – Peabody Award – Wit
2003 – Kennedy Center Honors
2010 – American Film Institute Lifetime Achievement Award
Year Film Academy Awards BAFTA Awards Golden Globe Awards
Nominations Wins Nominations Wins Nominations Wins
1966 Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? 13 5 3 3 7
1967 The Graduate 7 1 7 5 7 5
1970 Catch-22 2
1971 Carnal Knowledge 1 3 1
1973 The Day of the Dolphin 2 1
1975 The Fortune 1
1983 Silkwood 5 2 5 1
1988 Working Girl 6 1 3 6 4
1990 Postcards from the Edge 2 3 3
1996 The Birdcage 1 2
1998 Primary Colors 2 3 1 2
2001 Wit 2
2003 Angels in America 7 5
2004 Closer 2 3 1 5 2
2007 Charlie Wilson’s War 1 1 5
Total 43 7 27 10 56 17

Mike Nichols has received four Oscar nominations as Best Director, winning one, in 1967, for The Graduate,” his second film.

Born Michael Igor Peschkowsky on November 6, 1931, in Berlin, Germany, Nichols and his German-Russian Jewish family moved to the US in 1939. He became a naturalized citizen of the US in 1944.

While attending the University of Chicago in the 1950s, he began work in improvisational comedy with the Compass Players, a precursor to The Second City.

Nichols formed a comedy team with Elaine May, with whom he appeared in nightclubs, on radio, released records, and had appeared on Broadway. Personal differences and artistic tensions eventually drove the duo apart to pursue other projects in 1961.

They later reconciled, and Elaine May scripted Nichols’ films The Birdcage and Primary Colors. They appeared together at President Jimmy Carter’s inaugural gala and in a 1980 New Haven stage revival of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf with Swoosie Kurtz and James Naughton.

Nichols has been married four times. He wed TV journalist Diane Sawyer April 29, 1988. He has three children, Daisy, Max, and Jenny.

Selected Broadway Credits

Barefoot in the Park (1963)
Luv (1964)
The Odd Couple (1965)
The Apple Tree (1966)
The Little Foxes (1967)
Plaza Suite (1968)
The Prisoner of Second Avenue (1971)
Uncle Vanya (1973)
Streamers (1976)
Comedians (1976)
The Real Thing (1984)
Hurlyburly (1984)
Whoopi Goldberg (1984)
Social Security (1986)
Death and the Maiden (1992)
Spamalot (2005)


1966: Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf (director)
1967: The Graduate (director)
1970: Catch-22 (director)
1971: Carnal Knowledge (director, producer)
1973: The Day of the Dolphin (director)
1983: Silkwood (director, producer)
1986: Heartburn (director, producer)
1988: Working Girl; Biloxi Blues (director)
1990: Postcards from the Edge (director, producer)
1991: Regarding Henry (director, producer)
1993: The Remains of the Day (producer)
1994: Wolf (director)
1996: The Birdcage (director, producer)
1998: Primary Colors (director, producer)
2001: Wit (writer, director, producer)
2003: Angels in America (director, producer)
2004: Closer (director, producer)
2007: Charlie Wilson’s War (director)

Oscar Nominations and Awards

1966: Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf
1967: The Graduate
1983: Silkwood
1988: Working Girl

Oscar Context

In 1966, the winner of the Best Director Oscar was Fred Zinnemann for “Man for All Seasons.” In 1983, James L. Brooks won the Best Director for “Terms of Endearment,” which also received Best Picture. In 1988, Nichols lost the Director Oscar to Barry Levinson, who won for “Rain Man.”