Sad news this morning: Director Mike Nichols, whose long career spanned Hollywood and Broadway, died of cardiac arrest yesterday at the age of 83. Although he only won one Academy Award (for best director, for “The Graduate” in 1968), he helmed a string of interesting and often great movies, starting in 1966 with “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” and later including “Carnal Knowledge,” “Silkwood,” “Working Girl,” “Closer,” “Charlie Wilson’s War,” and his marvelous HBO version of Tony Kushner’s “Angels in America.” Born in Berlin to a Russian Jewish family (his birth name was Mikhail Igor Peschkowsky, but the family later took an anglicized version of the father’s middle name, Nicholaiyevitch, as their last name), Nichols immigrated to America as a child. His early career featured a long partnership with the comedian Elaine May. Today’s New York Times obituary retells a nice moment, as Nichols accepted the last of his many Tony awards:
In June 2012 at age 80, he accepted the Tony for directing “Death of a Salesman.” When his name was announced at the Beacon Theater on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, the neighborhood where he grew up, he kissed [his wife Diane] Sawyer, stepped to the stage and recalled that he once won a pie-eating contest in that very theater.
“It was nice but this is nicer,” he said. “You see before you a happy man.”