Mike Nichols, director & actor, died at 83

  Dead Famous

Mike Nichols was an American theatre and film director best known for his 1967 classic, The Graduate.

Nichols died of cardiac arrest on November 19, 2014 at the age of 83.

The son of Jewish parents, he immigrated to the United States in 1938 to escape from Nazi Germany.

He was only 7 years old when he left Germany with his younger brother, Robert.

The brothers met up with their father, Paul, in America, and their mother, Brigitte, was able to reunite with them two years later.

Nichols made his Broadway debut in 1964 with Barefoot in the Park, which earned him his first Tony Award.

His early films include who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966) and The Graduate (1967), for which he received an Academy Award for best director.

In June 2012, Nichols accepted his sixth Tony Award (best director of a play) for his work on the revival of Death of a Salesman, a play originally written by Arthur Miller.

After his father’s death, Nichols and his family struggled financially.

He worked to support himself through his college years at the University of Chicago, after which time he studied acting under Lee Strasberg in New York City.

Nichols then made his way back to Chicago, where he started up a comedy troupe, through which he met future performance partner Elaine May.

The pair became a successful duo in the late 1950s.

Nichols continued to find success on both the stage and screen in the 1970s and ’80s, picking up a Tony for directing in 1972 for Neil Simon’s Prisoner of Second Avenue, and receiving the same honour five years later for the popular musical Annie.

He also earned Oscar nominations for directing the Meryl Streep drama Silkwood (1983) and the Harrison Ford-Melanie Griffith comedy Working Girl.

Nichols was born Mikhail Igor Peschkowsky 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. Nichols became a naturalized citizen of the United States in 1944 and attended public elementary school in Manhattan.

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.

Nichols’ next film was a 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 latter film was highly controversial upon release because of the casual and blunt depiction of sexual intercourse.

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, and Neil Simon’s Fools, in 1981, which closed after forty performances.

In 2012, Nichols won the Best Direction of a Play 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. Nichols was married four times.

The first three ended in divorce; the last ended upon his death. His first marriage was to Patricia Scott; 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 produced a daughter, Daisy Nichols. His third marriage, to Annabel Davis-Goff, produced two children, Max Nichols and Jenny Nichols; they were divorced in 1986.