Mike Nichols, Award-winning director and writer
Michael Igor Peschkowsky was born November 6, 1931 in Berlin, Germany. His family was one of the lucky Jewish families in Nazi Germany, fleeing the country in January of 1939 for America. They settled in Chicago, and in 1950 Mike entered school at the University of Chicago. It was there that he met Elaine May, a budding theater major and improvisational comedienne.
Working together, the two reinvented modern theatrical comedy, and joined the Compass Players in 1953. The group became known for its satirical skits of modern American life, unafraid to touch on taboo subjects such as adultery, drugs, and disillusionment with the American Dream. In 1955, the troupe was renamed the Second City Theater, with Elaine and Mike leading the way as head writers.
The duo were successful that they took their show to Broadway in 1960. The show lasted a year, and the duo won a Grammy for their recorded performance of the live act. In 1961, Mike decided to venture out on his own in New York City. From 1961 to 1965, Mike became the hottest Broadway director in America, putting on such productions as Neil Simon's The Odd Couple, Plaza Suite, and Barefoot in the Park, all of which won him Tony Awards for Best Director. He also won a Tony in 1971 for producing the smash hit Annie.
Mike was given his first cinematic directing job in 1966 with Who's Afraid of Virgina Woolf?, an adaptation of the modern Edward Albee dark comedy play starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. Nichols' unflinching camerawork and modest silences gave the film's scathing marital undertones a classic look, and he was nominated for an Oscar for his direction. One year later he would take home the golden trophy with another modern dark comedic classic, The Graduate.
From there, Nichols took a number of directorial jobs, and rarely found failure in them. His catchy adaptation of Joseph Heller's Catch-22 was massively acclaimed, while his first independent film, 1971's Carnal Knowledge, formed a lasting friendship with fellow Hollywood firebrand Jack Nicholson.
In 1983, Mike received another Best Director nomination for his camerawork on Silkwood. Throughout the 1980s Mike became known as a solid director of comedies, tragedies, and melodramas, with a number of notable films under his belt: Biloxi Blues, Working Girl, and Postcards from the Edge. In 1993 Mike served as executive producer to the Oscar-nominated Remains of the Day. Mike, an avowed lifelong Democrat, also threw his hat into the political comedy ring with Primary Colors in 1998, a rollicking semi-biographical fiction about Bill Clinton's run for the Presidency. He also directed the 1996 remake The Birdcage, and in 2003 took part in the seminal HBO miniseries "Angels in America." He also won two Emmys for his TV movie Wit with Emma Thompson, thus becoming one of only eight performers to win an Oscar, Grammy, Tony, and Emmy.
Mike's current project is a film entitled Closer, starring Julia Roberts and Jude Law and set for release in December 2004. He has been married for 16 years to newswoman Diane Sawyer. The two live in Chicago.
Mike Nichols died suddenly from cardiac arrest on November 19, 2014. He was 83 years old.