Mike Nichols, the Director Behind Broadway's Spamalot and The Odd Couple, Has Died

Nichols picked up eight Tony Awards for Best Director throughout his career.

Mike Nichols, seen here at Roundabout Theatre Company's revival of The Real Thing on October 30, 2014, has died at the age of 83.
Mike Nichols, seen here at Roundabout Theatre Company's revival of The Real Thing on October 30, 2014, has died at the age of 83.
(© David Gordon)

Mike Nichols, the visionary director of stage and screen behind the original Broadway productions of The Odd Couple and Monty Python's Spamalot, died suddenly on Wednesday, November 19, at the age of 83, according to a statement from ABC News.

Born Mikhail Igor Peschkowsky on November 6, 1931, in Berlin, seven-year-old Michael and his three-year-old brother Robert were sent to the United States in 1938 to escape the Nazis, meeting up with their physician father, Pavel Nikolaevich Peschkowsky, who had similarly fled. Changing the family name to Nichols, their father set up a medical practice in Manhattan, and their mother, Brigitte, escaped to the United States in 1940.

Becoming a naturalized American citizen in 1944, Nichols enrolled in a pre-med program at the University of Chicago in 1950. He dropped out in 1954 and moved back to New York, where he enrolled in the Actors Studio. His time in Chicago wasn't a total loss; there, he first met Elaine May, who in 1958 would become his comedy partner. Their collaboration, which netted three best-selling records and a Grammy for Best Comedy Album, continued through 1961.

Nichols' five-decade career on Broadway began in 1960 with the Great White Way premiere of An Evening With Mike Nichols and Elaine May, which ran for over 300 performances at the John Golden Theatre. For his stage work, Nichols was given Best Director Tony Awards for Neil Simon's plays Barefoot in the Park (1964), The Odd Couple (1965), Plaza Suite (1968), and The Prisoner of Second Avenue (1972); Murray Schisgal's Luv (1965); Tom Stoppard's The Real Thing (1984); Eric Idle and John Du Prez's musical Monty Python's Spamalot (2005), and Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman (2012). As a producer, he also collected the Best Musical Tony for the original production of Annie, and the Best Play Tony for The Real Thing.

Elaine May and Mike Nichols circa 1960.
Elaine May and Mike Nichols circa 1960.

His other notable theatrical directing credits included the original productions of The Apple Tree, Streamers, and Hurlyburly, among many others. His final Broadway show was his 2013 revival of Harold Pinter's Betrayal, starring Daniel Craig and Rachel Weisz. Nichols received Emmy Awards for his HBO film adaptations of Margaret Edson's Wit and Tony Kushner's Angels in America. At the time of his death, he was working on an HBO adaptation of Terrence McNally's Master Class, which was to reunite him with his Angels in America star Meryl Streep. In 2001, Nichols also directed a now-legendary production of The Seagull for the Public Theater's Shakespeare in the Park that starred Streep, Kevin Kline, Christopher Walken, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Marcia Gay Harden, and Natalie Portman.

Also a visionary director for the silver screen, Nichols won the Academy Award for his 1968 film classic The Graduate, starring Anne Bancroft and Dustin Hoffman. He made his debut directing the 1966 cinema adaptation of Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, and also helmed the films Silkwood, Biloxi Blues, Working Girl, Postcards From the Edge, The Birdcage, Primary Colors, and Charlie Wilson's War.

Nichols is one of a select few to be counted among lauded "EGOT" (Emmy-Grammy-Oscar-Tony) winners.

Married for 26 years to news anchor Diane Sawyer, Nichols is also survived by his children, Daisy, Max, and Jenny, and four grandchildren.