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Mike Nichols, legendary director, dies at 83

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Posted at 8:47 AM, Nov 20, 2014
and last updated 2014-11-20 09:05:56-05

When the American Film Institute gave Mike Nichols its coveted Life Achievement Award in 2010, Robin Williams went onstage and described the great director as "a mensch." Four years later, both of those entertainment icons would sadly be gone.

Nichols passed away Wednesday night at the age of 83.

One of only 12 people to have won an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony award in their career, Nichols was one of the most gifted directors in history.

Whether or not you realize it, you've probably seen — and loved — at least one of his films.

His 1966 debut picture "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" was nominated for 13 Academy Awards and was selected for preservation by the Library of Congress last year. His 1967 follow-up "The Graduate" remains one of Hollywood's most influential comedies. Later pictures "The Birdcage," and "Charlie Wilson's War" made modern audiences howl, while "Primary Colors" and "Angels in America" showed his knack for handling topical material.

Nichols with wife Diane Sawyer, in 2011. (Photo: Getty Images)

Before becoming a director, Nichols was part of a comedy duo with Elaine May, leading to his 1961 Grammy win for Best Comedy Album. As CNN reported, "The pair would go on to form a partnership that would later take Broadway by storm."

Nichols didn't only appear on stage, he proved a master director there as well. The winner of six Tony Awards for Best Direction of a Play and one for Best Direction of a Musical, it was behind the scenes of his 1963 production of Neil Simon's "Barefoot in the Park" where he found his true calling.

Other movies directed by Nichols in his 41 year career in cinema include 1988's "Working Girl," 1970's "Catch-22" and 2001's touching "Wit."

In 1988, at the age of 57, Nichols married former ABC News anchor Diane Sawyer. The pair were wed until his death, reportedly of cardiac arrest.

Nichols was born Mikhail Igor Peschkowsky in Berlin, Germany in 1931.

 

Clint Davis is a writer for the E.W. Scripps National Desk. Follow him on Twitter @MrClintDavis.