Hollywood legend and rare EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony) winner Mike Nichols died suddenly of cardiac arrest on Wednesday evening. He was 83.
Nichols directed “The Birdcage,” “Working Girl” and “The Graduate,” among other notable films. He won his Academy Award in 1968 for that last one.
Nichols also compiled two Primetime Emmys, a Golden Globe, nine Tony Awards and, of course, his 1961 Grammy for comedy album “An Evening with Mike Nichols and Elaine May.” There were plenty more nominations in the big four categories, and lots of other trophies lining Nichols’ mantle.
Nichols fled Nazi Germany for America when he was seven-years-old, speaking little English. He found his path in comedy while a medical student at the University of Chicago, forming the comedy duo of Nichols and May, with the aforementioned Elaine May. Together with May and several others, Nichols helped form the famed “Second City” improv comedy company in Chicago.
In 1964, Nichols directed his first Broadway play, “Barefoot in the Park,” winning his first Tony Award. Two years later, he directed his first feature film, the Elizabeth Taylor-Richard Burton-starring “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” The movie earned Nichols an Oscar nomination for Best Director; Taylor took home the Academy Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role.
Nichols leaves behind his wife, Diane Sawyer, with who he was married to for 26 years, three children — Daisy, Max and Jenny — and four grandchildren. Also of note, CNN anchor Rachel Nichols is Mike’s daughter-in-law, married to Max.
At the time of his sudden passing, Nichols was working with HBO and Meryl Streep to adapt “Master Class,” Terrence McNally’s play about opera legend Maria Callas, for the premium cable channel. Streep once hailed Nichols as one of the essential artists of a generation, saying, “no explanation of our world could be complete and no account or image of it so rich, if we didn’t have you.”
World-renowned playwright Tom Stoppard once summed Nichols up by saying: “He is a giver. He’s good at comfort and joy. He’s good at improving the shining hour and brightening the dark one, and, of course, he’s superlative fun … To me he is the best of America.”
ABC News President James Goldston wrote in an internal memo to his staff: “No one was more passionate about his craft than Mike … Mike had a sparkling wit and a brilliant mind.”
A small, private service will be held this week for Nichols, with a memorial to come at a later date.
Sawyer’s mother, Jean, passed away last month. She was 94.