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Hollywood woke up Thursday morning to the sad news that director Mike Nichols had died. The Graduate helmer was one of only a dozen people to have the coveted EGOT, winning an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar and a Tony. He was married to ABC News’ veteran anchor Diane Sawyer, and the network’s news president, James Goldston, shared the news of Nichols’ death.
“In a triumphant career that spanned over six decades, Mike created some of the most iconic works of American film, television and theater — an astonishing canon ranging from The Graduate, Working Girl and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? to Closer, Charlie Wilson’s War, Annie, Spamalot, The Birdcage and Angels in America,” Goldston wrote. “He was a true visionary, winning the highest honors in the arts for his work as a director, writer, producer and comic and was one of a tiny few to win the EGOT — an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar and a Tony.”
See more Hollywood’s Notable Deaths of 2014
Julia Roberts called Nichols, with whom she worked on Charlie Wilson’s War and Closer, a hero and her “most cherished” friend: “There are so few heroes in our world. So few impeccable craftsmen, so few people who personify unconditional love and friendship. Mike Nichols was like no other. In every way he was remarkable and amazing. His musing were like pearls, his jokes were timeless and perfectly placed, his stories — detailed and wholly entertaining, his warm embrace was where you wanted to live forever. He savored life and friends and French macaroons. He always, always told the truth. He loved Diane utterly, immeasurably, magically. He was my most cherished friend.”
Steven Spielberg remembered Nichols in a statement, writing, “Mike was a friend, a muse, a mentor, one of America’s all-time greatest film and stage directors, and one of the most generous people I have ever known. For me, The Graduate was life altering — both as an experience at the movies as well as a master class about how to stage a scene. Mike had a brilliant cinematic eye and uncanny hearing for keeping scenes ironic and real. Actors never gave him less than their personal best — and then Mike would get from them even more. And in a room full of people, Mike was always the center of gravity. This is a seismic loss.”
Meryl Streep, who starred in several of Nichols’ productions, including Silkwood and Angels in America, called him “an inspiration and joy to know, a director who cried when he laughed, a friend without whom, well, we can’t imagine our world, an indelible irreplaceable man.”
Tom Hanks, who played the lead role in Charlie Wilson’s War, said in a statement, “’Forward. We must always move forward. Otherwise what will become of us?’ Said Mike Nichols, who changed the lives of those who knew him, who loved him, who will miss him so.”
Nathan Lane, who starred in Nichols’ film The Birdcage, added: “Along with Elaine May, Mike Nichols changed the face of comedy. He was an irreplaceable and loving genius who also changed my life. My heartfelt condolences to Diane and his family.”
Natalie Portman, who starred in Nichols’ 2004 Oscar contender Closer, said of the director in a statement, “There’s nothing good enough I can write that would do Mike justice. He was the one who had the best words, the right hug for hard times, the funny comment to diffuse your pain. He saved me again and again. He was the best way to be a person and an artist. And the most, most fun. I send my deepest love to Diane, Jenny, Max, Daisy and their children, who filled his days with light.”
HBO CEO Richard Plepler said of Nichols in a statement, “Everyone overuses the word legend, particularly in our business. But Mike was in a class by himself. Brilliant, wise and a remarkable artist whose body of work for theater, film and television is simply unrivaled. But more importantly, he was also a consummate gentleman. The combination of all that talent and menchness won’t be found again anytime soon.”
DGA president Paris Barclay also paid tribute to and shared his memories of Nichols. “Mike Nichols was a cinematic legend and a one-of-a-kind storyteller. He was funny and honest and a tremendous observer of human behavior, qualities that informed his working life as a director. Actors loved working with him; his loyal crew spent decades with him; and audiences thrilled at the prickle of recognition they felt when they watched his movies,” Barclay said in a statement. “There will never be another director quite like Mike Nichols — few have crossed the genres and styles from classic dramas like The Graduate, to broad comedies like The Birdcage, to the dark night of the soul that was Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Mike believed that filmmaking is a collaborative art, and he worked long and hard to put together a team that shared his sensibilities, even candidly telling us in his DGA Quarterly cover interview in 2006 that his prime rule for casting and putting together a crew was, ‘No assholes. It’s an amazing thing what a difference it makes.’ We have lost a chameleon, an icon and a hero to us. Our deepest condolences to his family and friends, and the many people who loved him.”
Said John Goodman, who was directed by Nichols in What Planet Are You From? and the off-Broadway production of The Seagull: “He made me feel as though I were a full partner or co-conspirator in finding clues to solve the puzzle; like a really slow Dr. Watson. It’s hard to imagine a world without him.”
Cynthia Nixon, who was directed on the stage by Nichols in productions including The Real Thing in 1984 (she currently stars in the revival) and Hurlyburly: “As an actor there was no greater joy, opportunity, or imprimatur than being hired by Mike Nichols. Except being hired by him again.”
Bob Newhart also remembered the director: “I was shocked to learn of Mike’s passing. He had so much more to give. One of the great honors of my career was being chosen by Mike to play Major Major Major in Catch-22.”
Al Pacino remembered his Angels in America director while at an NYC luncheon for The Humbling, held just hours after he heard the news. “I loved Mike. I worked with him, and he was a friend,” he told The Hollywood Reporter. Director Barry Levinson added, “His work is exceptional, and he’s one of those guys that has an impact as a director in this business. He was a man that could handle comedy and drama in an effortless fashion, and he took some risks.”
At the luncheon, Celia Weston also recalled nearly working with Nichols multiple times, including starring in Jean Kerr’s Broadway play Lunch Hour and joining the cast of his 1983 film Silkwood. “In our meeting about [Silkwood], he said, ‘Would you be willing to go dark in it?’ meaning, would I dye my hair. And I joked back, ‘You mean, not play on Mondays?’ of the theater ritual. … He was very enthusiastic and was dangling carrots for several other wonderful projects that I never got to do, so when I heard that he had died, I thought, oh my gosh, the opportunities are gone for us to work together. He was just so prolific, and such a gentleman.”
Art Garfunkel — who appeared in Catch-22 and Carnal Knowledge and contributed to The Graduate soundtrack as half of Simon & Garfunkel — told Billboard, “He was the most sparkling man among us. Life will be different for us now. Earth will be a little duller. Mike Nichols is not alive. … To act for him on camera was to glide on a liquid film of intelligence.”
Sam Mendes also took the time to remember Nichols as a friend and someone he looked up to. “Mike’s genius on stage and on screen — with actors, writers, collaborators — was beyond question. He was a giant. But as many others like myself can testify, he also had a genius for friendship,” Mendes said in a statement. “He went out of his way to guide and mentor many young directors, who offered little in return except idolatry. I was one of those lucky enough to be counted amongst his friends. And, of course, he was my idol.”
Tony Kushner, who wrote Angels of America the HBO adaptation of which Nichols directed, said: “Mike brought a consummate understanding of theatricality to his films, a great filmmaker’s grasp of narrative to his stage work, and to both he brought his rigorous intelligence, emotional courage, discipline, taste, and infinite wit – a classicist, an engaged and protean artist, a truly original, utterly remarkable mensch of a man. Mike inspired me, challenged me, brought me much joy and, when I needed it, real comfort; he was a magnificent friend. I loved him very much.”
John Slattery, who starred in Nichols’ Charlie Wilson’s War, told The Hollywood Reporter at the Nov. 22 Michael J. Fox Foundation gala that Nichols would be missed but the Mad Men star said he was glad to have been able to work with him. “He was the greatest. He was the nicest, funniest, just the greatest,” Slattery said. “I’m so glad I had a chance to work with him and to know him. He was just the smartest, kindest person. It’s so sad. Thinking about this city with Mike Nichols in it is weird. He’ll be missed.”
Others took to social media to remember the man who also directed the films Working Girl, Catch-22, Primary Colors, Closer, The Birdcage, Charlie Wilson’s War and the Angels in America miniseries. Nichols also recently helmed a Broadway production of Death of a Salesman, starring Philip Seymour Hoffman and Andrew Garfield.
See what Hollywood is saying about Nichols on social media.
The last track on “Nichols and May Examine Doctors” “Nichols and May at Work.” The best comedy moment on tape. RIP Mike Nichols.
— John Mulaney (@mulaney) November 20, 2014
It’s very sad news but I hope I can lead a life as long and as interesting as Mike Nichols
— John Hodgman (@hodgman) November 20, 2014
COME ON, Mike Nichols, really? On my BIRTHDAY? Huge influence, amazing artist, already mourning the new work we’ll never get to see.
— Elan Mastai (@elanmastai) November 20, 2014
My heart goes out to @DianeSawyer who lost her husband. The amazing Mike Nichols passed away last night. RIP
— Campbell Brown (@campbell_brown) November 20, 2014
Sad to hear of the passing of the great director Mike Nichols. And heartfelt condolences to @DianeSawyer
— HowardKurtz (@HowardKurtz) November 20, 2014
Mike Nichols wasn’t just brilliant, funny, and insanely creative. He was one of the sweetest, kindest gentlest human beings on the planet.
— Bob Balaban (@BobBalaban) November 20, 2014
R.I.P. Mike Nichols – one of the greats.
— Joshua Malina (@JoshMalina) November 20, 2014
Sad to hear of Mike Nichols passing – eternal in his gifts to American culture: “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolfe?” to “Angels.” Dues paid.
— Jeffrey Wright (@jfreewright) November 20, 2014
So very sad to hear of Mike Nichols death. A great talent, a wonderful, bright, charming human being.
— Julianne Moore (@_juliannemoore) November 20, 2014
Terrible news. #MikeNichols was a legend. RIP. I will sincerely miss his story telling.
— Lyndsy Fonseca (@LyndsyMFonseca) November 20, 2014
we’ve lost a tremendous artist. an arbiter of exquisite taste. a kind and generous man. a mind beyond compare. a heart full of unmitigated joy for life and art. you will be deeply missed sir. rest in peace.
A photo posted by Zachary Quinto (@zacharyquinto) on
The great Mike Nichols is gone, he gave us so much brilliant work it’s staggering. We were so lucky to have him, his legacy will live on..
— Jeremy Piven (@jeremypiven) November 20, 2014
We lost one of the greats. http://t.co/guYeIPPgRP
— Chris Rock (@chrisrock) November 20, 2014
Mike Nichols gave me my start. A mentor, friend, colleague. One of the best observers of life. My thoughts are with Diane & his children.
— Kevin Spacey (@KevinSpacey) November 20, 2014
RIP #MikeNichols Legend in real time.
— Taylor Schilling (@TaySchilling) November 20, 2014
Mike Nichols had no wheelhouse, he invented the wheel. RIP.
— Michael Urie (@michaelurie) November 20, 2014
— Sam Champion (@SamChampion) November 20, 2014
Everyone who knew Mike Nichols at all had this in common. (And this is hard truth.) We felt blessed for every moment we spent with him. God.
— james l. brooks (@canyonjim) November 20, 2014
A photo posted by Anna Kendrick (@annakendrick47) on
A photo posted by Mindy Kaling (@mindykaling) on
A photo posted by theandrewrannells (@theandrewrannells) on
The 1st time I saw Who’s Afraid of Virgina Woolf it was a game changer for me.thnk you Mike Nichols for such a haunting,beautiful,dark tale
— christina applegate (@1capplegate) November 20, 2014
So sad to hear of Mike Nichols’ passing. Such a talented man. My heart goes out to @DianeSawyer and the Nichols family.
— Meredith Vieira (@meredithvieira) November 20, 2014
Mike Nichols was a brilliant director, actor, and husband. Sending love to my friend @DianeSawyer.
— Ellen DeGeneres (@TheEllenShow) November 20, 2014
Mike Nichols is at the back of Death’s bus, smiling wryly, wondering what’s next as he rides into the ether. #RIPMikeNichols
— Patton Oswalt (@pattonoswalt) November 20, 2014
Rip Mike Nichols, renowned director. The Day Of The Dolphin and Silkwood helped shape my world view. #ButFaLovePa
— Tom Morello (@tmorello) November 20, 2014
RIP Mike Nichols #Irreplaceable
— Michael McKean (@MJMcKean) November 20, 2014
So sad to hear about the death of Mike Nichols. He was a creative giant.
— Steve Carell (@SteveCarell) November 20, 2014
Dammit… Mike Nichols died. I loved him & Elaine May but I was a big fan of his film work. Will watch THE GRADUATE today to honor a Master.
— KevinSmith (@ThatKevinSmith) November 20, 2014
We lost the legendary Mike Nichols today. A pioneer of stage and film. A true visionary and a friend.
— Hugh Jackman (@RealHughJackman) November 20, 2014
Mike Nichols was equally talented, generous, smart and kind. It was an honor to know him.
— Craig Zadan (@craigzadan) November 20, 2014
Mike Nichols leaves behind a staggering body of work. He’s one of the best filmmakers and stage directors ever. Influenced everyone. #GENIUS
— Ben Stiller (@RedHourBen) November 20, 2014
So sad to learn of the death of Mike Nichols. My heart goes out to Diane, their families & everyone who marveled at his brilliance.
— Katie Couric (@katiecouric) November 20, 2014
Thank you Mike Nichols. You lived many creative lives, all of them perfect. You gave us the best things because you are the best of them all
— Lena Dunham (@lenadunham) November 20, 2014
R.I.P. Mike Nichols. Few directors could get the kind of revelatory performances he did. One of the absolute best.
— James Ponsoldt (@jamesponsoldt) November 20, 2014
Mike Nichols invented what most of us are doing. Sad day.
— Alex Baze (@bazecraze) November 20, 2014
RIP, the truly ground breaking Mike Nichols: EGOT winner, comedy legend, one of the best directors of all time, an amazing 60 year career.
— edgarwright (@edgarwright) November 20, 2014
I just met him Monday for the first time, yet he instantly made me feel like I’d known him forever. What a talent.What a man.#RIPMikeNichols
— Josh Charles (@MrJoshCharles) November 20, 2014
RIP Mike Nichols. A true comedy directing legend. His movies are a masterclass in how to make an audience laugh and think at the same time.
— Paul Feig (@paulfeig) November 20, 2014
Mike Nichols-you are one of the all time greats. A deeply kind soul, and an incredible artist. You will be greatly missed. RIP sir.
— Matt Bomer (@MattBomer) November 20, 2014
Mike Nichols – Never heard him sing opera but he had the rest of show biz conquered. Writer, performer, director extraordinaire. A sweetie.
— Harvey Fierstein (@HarveyFierstein) November 20, 2014
— shonda rhimes (@shondarhimes) November 20, 2014
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