Mike Nichols, Director of 'The Graduate,' Dies at 83

Mike Nichols, Director of 'The Graduate,' Dies at 83

Nov 20, 2014

One of the finest directors of the last half century, Mike Nichols, has left and gone away. The end of that sentence should hopefully remind you of his best known movie, The Graduate, for which he won the Oscar for Best Director in 1968. He had previously been nominated for helming Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf and was later recognized for SilkwoodWorking Girl and The Remains of the Day, the last a Best Picture nomination for a James Ivory movie he produced.

Nichols began in the theater, and his specialty there was comedy. He and Elaine May, who would later write the scripts to the Nichols movies The Birdcage and Primary Colors, were an award-winning improvisational duo in the early '60s.

That background is surely part of the reason he was such a great actors' director. But while he aided in getting Oscar nominations for his players, including three from The Graduate, one from Carnal Knowledge, two from Silkwood, three from Working Girl, one from Postcards from the Edge, one from Primary Colors, two from Closer, one from Charlie Wilson's War and four from Virginia Woolf, two of them winners, he must be remembered for all the funny performances he managed that weren't honored: like the late Robin Williams in The Birdcage.

Also, let's not forget, he gave us the first real proof that Cher could act -- and get attention from the Academy working next to Meryl Streep.

There are many reasons that we should remember Nichols, especially for things not always considered while he was still alive. He delivered some certain classics, but he also made some really underrated gems such as Carnal KnowledgeHeartburn, the hilarious Catch-22 and another, relatively small World War II movie, Biloxi Blues, adapted from the play by Neil Simon, whose work Nichols regularly directed for the stage.

That last movie was one of our first and remains one of our favorite performances from Christopher Walken. His drill sergeant shouldn't be so obscured in the shadow of R. Lee Ermey in Full Metal Jacket.

No Nichols obituary or tribute is complete, of course, without a clip from Virginia Woolf, though. The only movie of his where at least half of the nominated actors won their much-deserved Oscars, the adaptation of Edward Albee's stage drama is one heck of a powerhouse of showmanship from behind and in front of the camera. Watch not only Elizabeth Taylor but also how perfectly blocked and framed she is in the scene below.

RIP, Mike Nichols (1931-2014).

 

 

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