Name at birth: Michael Igor Peschkowsky
Mike Nichols was a celebrated director of Broadway plays and Hollywood movies and was the Oscar-winning director of The Graduate. He arrived in New York in 1939 when he was a kid, his Russian-Jewish family having escaped Adolf Hitler's Germany. While Nichols was a student at the University of Chicago, he joined a group of improvisational actors called the Compass Players, one of whom, Elaine May, became his on-stage partner in 1957. Nichols and May had a comedy act that relied on social satire and improv, and in the four years they were together they were a smashing success on Broadway, radio and television. They had three top-selling comedy albums and won a Grammy in 1961 for An Evening with Mike Nichols and Elaine May. Nichols was the toast of Broadway in the 1960s, directing successful plays such as Barefoot in the Park (1964), The Odd Couple (1965) and Plaza Suite (1968). He had the magic touch in Hollywood as well, directing Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf (1966, starring Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor) and The Graduate (1967, starring Dustin Hoffman) to box office success and heaps of Oscar nominations. Nichols wasn't known for his personal cinematic style as much as for getting along famously with actors. Over years he worked with top stars in films such as Silkwood (1983, starring Meryl Streep), Heartburn (1986, starring Jack Nicholson), Working Girl (1988, starring Sigourney Weaver), Postcards From the Edge (1990, starring Shirley MacLaine), Regarding Henry (1994, starring Harrison Ford) and The Birdcage (1996, starring Robin Williams). On Broadway he won seven Tony awards for directing, and on television Nichols won an Emmy for directing the movie Wit (2001) and the miniseries Angels in America (2003, starring Al Pacino).
Mike Nichols married Diane Sawyer, his fourth wife, in 1988.