Mike Nichols was a well-known German-American actor and film director. He began his career in the 1950s with an improvisational cabaret revue called ‘The Compass Players’ and later formed the improv comedy duo ‘Nichols and May’ with Elaine May. Nichols became the first non-American comedian to win a Grammy when the comedy duo won the ‘Grammy Award’ for Best Comedy Album. Three of their comedy albums charted in the Top 40 of the Billboard 200. Following the duo’s disbandment, Nichols concentrated on directing plays and quickly earned a reputation as a master at eliciting the best performances from his cast members, whether seasoned or new. Beginning with Neil Simon’s ‘Barefoot in the Park,’ he directed over 25 ‘Broadway’ plays during his career, many of which he produced. His directorial debut came with Warner Bros.’ ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?’ Over the years, he has created a number of visually stunning and commercially successful films that demonstrate his versatility and insight. Among them were ‘The Graduate,’ for which he received his sole ‘Academy Award’ for Best Director; ‘Silkwood,’ ‘Working Girl,’ ‘Carnal Knowledge,’ ‘The Day of the Dolphin,’ ‘Closer,’ and ‘The Birdcage.’ His films garnered 42 ‘Oscar’ nominations and won seven. He is one of only two individuals to have earned a ‘PEGOT’ by winning ‘Peabody Awards’, ‘Emmy Awards’ (Four), ‘Grammy Awards’, ‘Oscar Awards’, and ‘Tony Awards’ (nine). Additionally, he was the recipient of three ‘BAFTA’ awards. Among other honors, he received the ‘National Medal of Arts’ in 2001 and the ‘AFI Life Achievement Award’ in 2010.
Childhood & Adolescence
Mikhail Igor Peschkowsky was born in Berlin, Germany, on November 6, 1931, to Pavel Peschkowsky and Brigitte (née Landauer). His father, a physician, was born in Siberia, while his mother was German. From his mother’s side, he was distantly related to scientist Albert Einstein.
He had a variolation for cough when he was four years old, which resulted in him losing his hair and having to wear wigs for the remainder of his life.
As Nazi atrocities increased in Berlin, his mother sent him and his three-year-old brother Robert to the United States, where his father had already fled. Later that year, 1940, his mother was reunited with the family.
On April 28, 1939, his family relocated to New York City, where his father established a medical practice and quickly established himself as a successful Manhattan physician. His father took the name Paul Nichols while he was there.
He became a naturalized citizen of the United States in 1944. He attended a public elementary school in Manhattan and then transferred to the ‘Walden School,’ where he earned his diploma.
After a brief stint at ‘New York University,’ he dropped out and worked for a year. In 1950, he enrolled in a pre-medicine program at the ‘University of Chicago’ and supported himself by working as a truck driver, hotel desk clerk, busboy, and janitor. He remained a student at the university until 1953.
Career of Mike
He began his career as an announcer in 1953 with classical music station WFMT, 98.7 FM. As directed by Rita Jacobs, co-owner of the music station, Nichols established a Saturday night folk music program dubbed ‘The Midnight Special’. The program he hosted for two years continues to air in the same time slot to this day.
His interest in theatres drew him back to New York City, where he spent a couple of years studying method acting under Lee Strasberg.
Having struggled to find stage work in New York City, he returned to Chicago in 1955 and accepted an invitation to join the ‘Compass Players,’ which included Paul Sills, Del Close, Shelley Berman, Elaine May, and Barbara Harris. He began performing improvisational routines with May there.
In 1958, he and May formed their own comedy duo, dubbed ‘Nichols and May,’ and began performing live satirical comedy acts in New York City. The duo quickly gained popularity. Additionally, the duo performed on television, radio, and in nightclubs, and released three records of their routines that became best-sellers.
‘An Evening With Mike Nichols and Elaine May’, a Broadway production directed by Arthur Penn, premiered in 1960 and earned a 1962 Grammy Award for ‘Best Comedy Album’. This successful comedy duo split in 1961 but reconciled later in life, with May writing scripts for several of Nichols’ films, including ‘The Birdcage’ (1996) and ‘Primary Colors’ (1998). (1998).
Following the dissolution of ‘Nichols and May,’ he concentrated on theatre, directing Oscar Wilde’s ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’. and performed in George Bernard Shaw’s ‘St. Joan’ before directing Neil Simon’s romantic comedy play ‘Barefoot In The Park’ in Vancouver, British Columbia.
This ‘Broadway’ play, which opened at the ‘Biltmore Theatre’ on October 23, 1963, and ran for 1,530 performances before closing on June 25, 1967, was not only Simon’s longest-running hit, but also the tenth longest-running non-musical play in ‘Broadway’ history.
He directed a number of notable and successful plays over the next nearly five decades, including ‘Luv’ (1964), ‘The Odd Couple’ (1965), ‘Plaza Suite’ (1968), ‘The Prisoner of Second Avenue’ (1971), ‘Annie’ (1977), ‘The Real Thing’ (1984), and ‘Spamalot’ (2005). He also produced several of these.
He made his directorial debut on June 21, 1966, with Warner Bros.’s black comedy-drama ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?’ Based on Edward Albee’s play of the same name, and starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, this ground-breaking film became a smash hit, achieving enormous commercial success and critical acclaim, and eventually becoming the year’s top film. It received 13 ‘Academy Award’ nominations, including one for Nichols as Best Director, and won five.
His subsequent project, the comedy-drama film ‘The Graduate,’ which was released on December 21, 1967, and starred Anne Bancroft, Dustin Hoffman, and Katharine Ross, was an even bigger blockbuster hit. It was 1967’s highest-grossing film and currently ranks 22nd on the all-time list of the highest-grossing films in the United States and Canada. This critically acclaimed film was nominated for numerous prestigious awards, including Nichols’ sole ‘Oscar’ for Best Director.
Following the enormous success of both of these films, Nichols continued to direct notable films one after the other, cementing his position as one of the industry’s leading directors. ‘Catch-22’ (1970), ‘The Day of the Dolphin’ (1973), ‘Silkwood’ (1983), ‘Working Girl’ (1988), ‘Primary Colors’ (1998), and ‘Closer’ (1998) were among his other notable big-screen spectacles (2004).
Personal History and Endowment
He first married Patricia Scott in 1957 and had a daughter Daisy with her (born in 1964). He married Margo Callas shortly afterwards (1963- 1974).
His third marriage (1975–1986) to Annabel Davis-Goff produced two children, Max (born in 1974) and Jenny (born in 1986). (born in 1977).
On April 29, 1988, he married Diane Sawyer, whom he remained married to until his death. He was a well-known horse breeder with a long-standing interest in Arabian horses. From 1968 to 2004, he owned a farm in Connecticut. He died of a heart attack in his Manhattan residence on November 19, 2014.
Estimated Net Worth
Mike Nichols was a German-born American director, writer, producer, and comedian who amassed a $100 million net worth. Mike Nichols was born into a Jewish family in Berlin, Germany in 1931. Mike and his younger brother were sent alone to the United States in 1938, as Nazi aggression increased in Berlin. Their father had fled months earlier.