Nichols, Mike

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.
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Nichols, Mike

Mike Nichols, 1931–, American actor and director, b. Berlin, Germany, as Michael Igor Peschkowsky. He and his family emigrated to the United States in 1939, and he studied (1950–53) at the Univ. of Chicago. A founder of The Second City, the comedic and improvisational group, he and fellow member Elaine May formed a satiric duo (1957–61) and scored a Broadway hit in 1960. Nichols debuted as a director with the Broadway production of Barefoot in the Park (1963) and since then he has been a successful stage and screen director, noted for his intelligence and his ability to draw the best from his actors. His early work concentrated on light comedies, often written by Neil Simon. Nichols won Tony awards for Barefoot and for Luv (1964), The Odd Couple (1965), Plaza Suite (1968), The Prisoner of Second Avenue (1971), and The Real Thing (1984). Later Broadway directorial credits include Hurlyburly (1984), Death and the Maiden (1992), and the musical Spamalot (2005). His films frequently portray dramatic human relationships and often cast a wry or sardonic cinematic eye on the tensions of modern American society. He began his movie career directing Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966) and won an Academy Award for his next film, The Graduate (1967). Subsequent films include Catch-22 (1970), Carnal Knowledge (1971), Silkwood (1983), Working Girl (1988), The Birdcage (1996), Primary Colors (1998), Closer (2004), and Charlie Wilson's War (2007). Nichols, who has had occasional acting roles, is also an Emmy-winning television director and a successful screenwriter and producer.

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