Mike Nichols, best remembered as Oscar-winning director of The Graduate has sadly died of a heart attack yesterday – November 20, 2014 – he was aged 83.
The prolific filmmaker had a long and varied career as a director who made his first film, Who’s afraid of Virginia Wolf? starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, in 1966. The film cemented the starring couple’s place as silver screen starlets and made Nichols hot Hollywood property. The film was also notable for the MPAA giving its first ever “No one under 18 will be admitted unless accompanied by his parent.” Added to this MPAAA rating, the film became the first motion picture in Academy Awards and cinema history to be nominated for every Academy Award category in which it was eligible.
Mike’s next film was, however, the one he will be most remembered for: a story featuring the taboo subject of an older lady, Mrs Robinson, famously seducing a young college student, Ben Braddock. The Graduate blazed across cinemas world wide and made stars out of Dustin Hoffman and Anne Bancroft , not to mention an incredible soundtrack with songs provided by Simon and Garfunkel.
In 1970, with the Vietnam war dominating the daily news, Mike made a big screen adaption of Joseph Heller’s Catch-22. An anti-war film which to this day has split fans and critics who love either the novel or the film.
Carnal Knowledge, The Day of the Dolphin and The Fortune were films that, whilst not rolling of the tongue in the 1970s, proved that Nichols knew how to craft interesting and challenging stories. In 1983 he directed Meryl Streep in Silkwood, the true story of Karen Silkwood; the nuclear power plant worker who blew the whistle on dangerous practices and who died in mysterious circumstances. This was one of the most thought-provoking movies of the 1980s and one that is considered a must see for its acting merits and truthfulness to its subject matter.
Mike continued to work steadily in the 1980s, directing films such as Biloxi Blues – a boot camp set in WW2 with Matthew Broderick, Working Girl – the business “fish out of water” story starring Melanie Griffith, Harrison Ford and Sigourney Weaver and Postcards from the Edge (based on the book by Carrie Fisher).
With no sign of slowing his workload down, Nichols continued to direct challenging movies such as Wolf, Starring Jack Nicholson, Regarding Henry starring Harrison Ford and the comedy The Birdcage starring Robin Williams which still has audiences laughing today. Mike’s last film was Charlie Wilson’s War in 2007, the true story starring Tom Hanks as Senator Charlie Wilson.
Mike Nichols made films that challenged his audience whilst still being entertaining. A filmmaker who will be greatly missed.