On April 29, 1988, renowned television journalist Diane Sawyer married award-winning director, producer, and actor Mike Nichols, whose talents have put him in the rare group of artists to win all four of the entertainment world’s greatest honors– an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony.
An innovative and critically-acclaimed director, Nichols’ films garnered a total of 42 Academy Award nominations and seven wins over the course of his illustrious career. Read on to learn more about the German-American theater and film director.
1. His First Film Was Nominated for 13 Academy Awards
In 1966, Warner Brothers asked Nichols to direct his first film, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. The movie was a hit, and was nominated for 13 Academy Awards, winning five. (Its Oscar wins include: Elizabeth Taylor for Best Actress, Sandy Dennis for Best Actress in a Supporting Role, Haskell Wexler for Best Cinematography, and Richard Sylbert and George Hopkins for Best Art Direction-Interior Decoration.)
In 2013, the Library of Congress announced that the film would be preserved in the US National Film registry because of its cultural, historic or aesthetic significance.
2. He Directed or Produced Over 25 Broadway Plays
After splitting from his comedy duo partner, Elaine May, in 1961, Nichols made his foray into directing, starting with a production of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest in Vancouver. Two years later, he made his directorial Broadway debut with Neil Simon’s Barefoot in the Park, which earned him a Tony nomination. Discussing his work on the show, The LA Times reports Nichols as saying, “On the first day of rehearsal, I thought, ‘Well, look at this. Here is what I was meant to do.’ I knew instantly that I was home.”
3. He Was Married Four Times
Nichols was married four times: first to Patricia Scott from 1957-1960, then to Margo Callas from 1963-1974, then to Annabel Davis-Goff from 1975-1986, and finally to Diane Sawyer, from 1988 until his death in 2014.
Nichols’ first wife, Patricia Scott, was a singer who sometimes opened for Nichols and his sketch-comedy partner, May.
His second wife, Margo Callas, was a muse of the poet Robert Graves. Together, Callas and Nichols had one daughter, Daisy.
Annabel Davis-Goff, who Nichols was married to for eleven years, was an Irish writer and academic, perhaps best known for her family memoir Walled Gardens. She also published books like The Dower House (1997), This Cold Country (2002), and The Fox’s Walk. With Davis-Goff, the director had two children, Max and Jenny.
4. He Directed ‘the Graduate’ in 1967
In 1967, Nichols directed The Graduate, starring Dustin Hoffman, Anne Bancroft, and Katherine Ross. The movie was the highest-grossing film of 1967, and was nominated for seven Academy Awards– Nichols won the Oscar for Best Director.
In a 2012 interview with Time Out, Nichols was asked what it was about Dustin Hoffman that stood out. “I remember having seen Dustin in a play about a year earlier, where he played a transvestite Russian housewife. He was compelling and I thought, Here’s an actor who’s got something going on. He tested okay in front of us, but when we watched the actual screen test, he was great! I’m convinced Dustin had a secret deal with the film labs, where his performance got better in the developing bath overnight.”
The film follows Hoffman’s character, Benjamin Broddock, who is seduced by Bancroft’s Mrs. Robinson after graduating college, only to fall in love with her daughter, Elaine. A Vanity Fair article from 2008 states that Nichols new from the start that Bancroft should play Mrs. Robinson. In 1966, The Graduate joined Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? in the US National Film Registry, where it was selected for preservation.
5. He Is One of Only 12 People to Have Won an E.G.O.T.
Nichols is one of only 12 people to have ever won an EGOT (an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony award). The 11 others include Richard Rodgers, Helen Hayes, Rita Moreno, John Gielgud, Audrey Hepburn, Marvin Hamlisch, Jonathan Tunick, Mel Brooks, Mike Nichols, Whoopi Goldberg, Scott Rudin, and Robert Lopez. Read on for the list of awards Nichols received:
1967: Best Director – The Graduate
2001: Outstanding Directing for a Miniseries, Movie or a Special – Wit (Emmy)
2001: Outstanding Made for Television Movie – Wit (as Executive Producer)
2004: Outstanding Directing for a Miniseries, Movie or a Special – Angels in America
2004: Outstanding Miniseries – Angels in America (as Executive Producer)
1961: Best Comedy Performance – An Evening With Mike Nichols And Elaine May
1994: Best Musical – Passion
2000: Best Play – Copenhagen
2005: Best Play – Doubt
2006: Best Play – The History Boys
2009: Best Play – God of Carnage
2010: Best Revival of a Play – Fences
2011: Best Musical – The Book of Mormon
2012: Best Revival of a Play – Death of a Salesman
2015: Best Play – The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
2015: Best Revival of a Play – Skylight
2016: Best Play – The Humans
2016: Best Revival of a Play – A View From the Bridge