Mike Nicols created a huge mark on film and theater in a career that spanned five decades. (Photo: Getty)

Mike Nicols created a huge mark on film and theater in a career that spanned five decades. (Photo: Getty)

Mike Nichols, a celebrated director and producer who helmed such classics as “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” and “The Graduate” and Broadway hits like The Odd Couple, died suddenly yesterday (Nov. 19). He was 83.

Nichols was a visionary during his career who started out as an comedian and later made his mark as a director and producer.

He is one of the few entertainment figures to win an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar and a Tony for his work, demonstrating his versatility, creativity and understanding of his craft, according to a statement by ABC News president James Goldston.

“He was a true visionary, winning the highest honors in the arts for his work as a director, writer, producer and comic,” said Goldston. “No one was more passionate about his craft than Mike.”

Mike Nichols’ Prolific Stage Career
Barefoot in the Park (1963)
Luv (1964)
The Odd Couple (1965)
The Apple Tree (1966)
The Little Foxes (1967)
Plaza Suite (1968)
The Prisoner of Second Avenue (1971)
Uncle Vanya (1973)
Streamers (1976)
Comedians (1976)
Annie (1977)
Billy Bishop Goes to War (1980)
Fools (1981)
The Real Thing (1984)
Hurlyburly (1984)
Whoopi Goldberg (1984)
Social Security (1986)
Death and the Maiden (1992)
The Seagull (2001)
Spamalot (2005)
The Country Girl (2008)
Death of a Salesman (2012)
Betrayal (2013)

Year Film Oscar
1966 Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? 13 5
1967 The Graduate 7 1
1968 Teach Me!
1970 Catch-22
1971 Carnal Knowledge 1
1973 The Day of the Dolphin 2
1975 The Fortune
1980 Gilda Live
1983 Silkwood 5
1986 Heartburn
1988 Biloxi Blues
Working Girl 6 1
1990 Postcards from the Edge 2
1991 Regarding Henry
1994 Wolf
1996 The Birdcage 1
1998 Primary Colors 2
2000 What Planet Are You From?
2001 Wit
2003 Angels in America
2004 Closer 2
2007 Charlie Wilson’s War 1

Source: Wikipedia

Nicols came of age in the 1960s, a time when the nation was torn by the Vietnam war and everything was under question by the counter-culture movement.

His 1967 comedy-drama, “The Graduate, starring Dustin Hoffman, Anne Bancroft, Katherine Ross and William Daniels, captured the so called generation-gap and the pervasive social anomie of the era.

Subsequent Nichols’ films like “Carnal Knowledge,” “Silkwood,” “Catch-22,” “Heartburn,” “Postcards from the Edge” and “The Birdcage” were smart, sophisticated films that dealt with cutting edge social and political issues.

On Broadway, he directed such notable works as Annie, Spamalot, The Real Thing and Neil Simon’s The Odd Couple and Plaza Suite.

His personal life was almost as large as the movies he made. He’s parents, Russian Jews, fled the Bolshevik revolution and landed in Germany in 1920, where his father worked as a physician.

His mother was German and related to well-known German intellectuals Gustav Landauer, a political anarchist and Hedwig Lachmann, an author. His mother’s family was also distantly related to physicist Albert Einstein.

The family was forced to flee Germany when Hitler came to power in the 1930s, escaping through Italy. Nichols, then 7, and his brother, 3, were forced to travel alone to America, where the met up with their father. They arrived in New York City in 1939. His father set up a medical practice, but died when Nichols was 12-years-old.

Although he graduated from a top private school in Manhattan, Nichols was a disinterested college student. He attended New York University and the University of Chicago, but never graduated.

Instead he was drawn to the theater. He staged several productions in college and met Elaine May, with whom he would form a comedy team in the mid-50s. After dropping out, he returned to New York and was accepted into the Actors Studio. He studied under Lee Strasberg.

Nichols never stopped working and the list of his films and theater productions is extensive as is his list of awards.

He also lived large. He was married four times and had three children. His last marriage was to former ABC news anchor Diane Sawyer, 68. He is survived by Sawyer, as well as three adult children Daisy, Max and Jenny and four grandchildren.