Stars mourn ‘inspirational, irreplaceable’ Mike Nichols


Mike Nichols, the Oscar-winning film director of The Graduate and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, has died aged 83.

Mr Nichols was one of only 12 people to have won all four major annual American entertainment awards - the coveted ‘EGOT’, standing for Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony.

He died after suffering a cardiac arrest, leaving behind his wife of 26 years, ABC News presenter Diane Sawyer.

Born Mikhail Pavlovich Peschkowsky in Berlin, he escaped from Nazi Germany in 1939 at the age of seven, taking his three-year-old brother with him to New York. Upon arrival, the only English phrases he knew were “I do not speak English” and “Please, do not kiss me.”

Mr Nichols started his career as a radio host, moving into comedy as part of a duo with Elaine May, with whom he won the Grammy for best comedy album in 1961.

His breakthrough hit came in 1966 with Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, which won five Oscars and led its star Richard Burton to admit: “I didn't think I could learn anything about comedy - I'd done all of Shakespeare's. But from him I learned.”

For Mr Nichols’s next film, The Graduate, he chose the little-known Dustin Hoffman to play protagonist Benjamin Braddock. The actor has since said there was “no piece of casting more outrageous,” but it paid off with an Oscar.

As well as going on to direct award-winning films including Working Girl and Closer, he also took his talents to the stage with original productions of Annie, Spamalot and Neil Simon’s The Odd Couple.

Mr Nichols won nine Tony awards across six decades. Meryl Streep, who worked with him on film, television and theatre, said he was “an inspiration and joy to know, a director who cried when he laughed, a friend without whom we can't imagine our world, an indelible, irreplaceable man.”

When Ms Streep presented the director with an American Film Institute Life Achievement Award in 2010, he joked: “I got to see my own memorial and I’m still alive…sort of.”

He added: “Movies - making them, seeing them - is not something that could ever lose its pleasure for me. That puts them on a shortlist of things for me that eternally give me joy.”

Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive