Actor, director and producer Mike Nichols was one of the most decorated figures in show business. Nichols won at least one of every major award, including the Emmy, the Oscar, the Grammy, the Tony, the Golden Globe and the BAFTA. His other accolades included a Kennedy Center honor and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Film Institute.
The son of immigrants, he was born Mikhail Igor Peschkowsky in Berlin, Germany, in 1931. He moved to New York City with his family in 1939 and became an American citizen in 1944.
As a pre-med student at the University of Chicago, Nichols began skipping classes to work in theaters around Chicago. Eventually he dropped out of school to return to New York to attend the Actors Studio, where he studied under renowed teacher Lee Strasberg.
In 1955, Nichols was invited to return to Chicago to join the Compass Players, the precursor to Second City, where he worked with performers such as Del Close, Shelley Berman, Paul Sills and Elaine May, who became his comedy partner.
Nichols and May performed in nightclubs, on television and eventually mounted a Broadway show, An Evening with Mike Nichols and Elaine May. A recording of the show won a Grammy for Best Comedy Album.
In the 1960s, Nichols turned to directing, and in 1963 he won a Tony for his first Broadway play, the comedic romance Barefoot in the Park, written by Neil Simon. He continued to work in the theater for the next 50 years, and won nine more Tonys. His long list of other stage credits included Luv, The Odd Couple, The Prisoner of Second Avenue, Plaza Suite, Annie, Streamers, The Real Thing, Hurlyburly, Spamalot and Death of a Salesman.
His theater success quickly sparked movie offers, and he garnered an Oscar nomination for his first film, the 1966 release Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, an adaptation of the corrosive play by Edward Albee. He won an Oscar for his second film, The Graduate. Regarded as a classic, it starred Dustin Hoffman as a recent college graduate who becomes involved in an affair with an older woman played by Anne Bancroft. In the years that folowed, he also scored Oscar nominations for Silkwood, Working Girl and The Remains of the Day (which he produced but did not direct).
He also directed many other films, including Catch-22, Carnal Knowledge, Postcards from the Edge, Heartburn, The Birdgcage, Primary Colors, Closer and Charlie Wilson's War.
Nichols also worked widely in television — first as a performer, and later as a director and producer. With May, he made many appearances on talk shows, game shows and variety shows such as The Steve Allen Plymouth Show, The Tonight Show, What's My Line?, That Was the Week That Was and Perry Como's Kraft Music Hall.
As a producer, he was nominated for an Emmy for the ABC drama Family in 1977, and won Emmys for the 2001 HBO telefilm Wit and the 2003 HBO miniseries Angels in America. He also won Emmys for directing Wit and Angels in America.
Nichols, husband of ABC news anchor Diane Sawyer, died November 19, 2014, in New York. He was 83.