'The Graduate' & 'The Birdcage' Director Mike Nichols is Dead at 83
Following the tragic passing of Robin Williams earlier this year, one of the filmmakers who directed the iconic comedian has left us as well. In a statement from ABC News President James Goldston, we've learned that director Mike Nichols has died at the age of 83, though no cause of death was revealed. Nichols was one of the most iconic directors to ever get behind the camera from his early work on classics like Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and The Graduate to recent provocative and acclaimed films like Charlie Wilson's War and Closer. Goldston added, "No one was more passionate about his craft than Mike."
Nichols was born in Germany in 1931 and came to the United States when he was 7 years old, because his family was fleeing Nazi Germany. His career began with a pursuit in theater at the University of Chicago (an influence you could feel in each and every film) in the 1950s, and he would go on to join a comedy troupe in Chicago and even toured the country with fellow performer Elaine May. But he ended up leaving the world of performing behind to direct plays on Broadway like Barefoot in the Park and The Odd Couple. But it was his big screen work that landed him the biggest acclaim.
Here's Mike Nichols receiving the Kennedy Center Honors for impressive body of work:
The first two films that Nichols directed were Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and The Graduate, and not many directors can claim that their first two films are certified cinematic classics. The Graduate even won Nichols the Oscar for Best Director and the film won Best Picture and remains one of the most influential films in cinema's history, taught in film schools around the world and known for the iconic line "Plastics." and "Mrs. Robinson, you're trying to seduce me." Here's what Steven Spielberg told EW:
“For me, 'The Graduate' was life altering—both as an experience at the movies as well as a master class about how to stage a scene. Mike had a brilliant cinematic eye and uncanny hearing for keeping scenes ironic and real. Actors never gave him less than their personal best—and then Mike would get from them even more.”
Nichols would go on to direct a wide variety of films like Catch-22, Silkwood, Working Girl, Postcards from the Edge, Regarding Henry, Primary Colors and Wit. His last film was Charlie Wilson's War in 2007, though he was in the midst of working on an adaptation of "Master Class," Terrence McNally's Tony Award-winning play about opera legend Maria Callas, starring Meryl Streep. At this time, the fate of that project isn't clear.
But personally, as much as I love Nichols' classics and even Charlie Wilson's War, my favorite film of his is The Birdcage. Nicholas had an amazing talent for seamlessly blending comedy and drama, and there's plenty of both in the film starring Robin Williams, a hysterical Nathan Lane and a perfect Gene Hackman performance. The relationships are real and genuine, and the film was shot masterfully with director of photography Emmanuel Lubezki to craft a film that is hilarious, memorable, gorgeous and just brilliant. Nichols, one of the few people to EGOT (earn an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony), is an amazing filmmaking talent who will be sorely missed. Rest in peace.