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AFI 2012 Shirley MacLaine

Mike Nichols

Born in Berlin in 1931, Mike Nichols fled Nazi Germany at age eight. He was certified a genius at 12, became half of the hit comedy act "Nichols and May" in his 20s, was an acclaimed director of stage and screen, in his 30s conquered TV, and now, in his late seventies remains a force equally at ease in all mediums. He is one of the few artists to have received an Oscar, Emmy, Tony and Grammy.

After growing up in New York, Nichols attended the University of Chicago, where he met Elaine May. The two writers developed the premiere comedy act of the late '50s, performing in clubs, on TV and eventually Broadway, where their 1960 show "An Evening with Nichols and May" led to a Grammy-winning recording. After they split, Nichols found a new collaborator in playwright Neil Simon, directing four hit Broadway shows: "Barefoot in the Park," "The Odd Couple," "Plaza Suite" and "The Prisoner of Second Avenue" -- all Tony Award winners.

Having honed his craft on stage, Nichols moved to the big screen in 1966, when Elizabeth Taylor handpicked him to direct Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Despite studio objections, Nichols shot the film in stark black and white, occasionally using handheld shots to intensify the dramatic tension. Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? was a box-office and critical success, earning 13 Academy Award nominations, including one each for the four actors as well as one for Best Director.

Nichols' second film The Graduate (1967) won him the Best Directing Oscar. He went on to direct an adaptation of Joseph Heller's Catch-22 (1970), Carnal Knowledge (1971), The Day of the Dolphins (1973) and period comedy The Fortune (1975). He returned to Broadway in 1977 with two very different hits: producing the musical "Annie" and directing drama "The Gin Game" with Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy. In 1983, Nichols returned to features with the biopic Silkwood. Reuniting with both Streep and Nicholson in 1986, he helmed Heartburn, an adaptation of Nora Ephron's bestselling novel, followed by 1988's Working Girl, an adaptation of Carrie Fisher's semi-autobiographical novel Postcards From The Edge. In 1996 he helmed The Birdcage and followed it with 1998's Primary Colors.

In 2001, Nichols returned to television by directing Emma Thompson in an adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize-winning drama Wit for HBO, earning Emmy Awards for directing and producing. He followed up in 2003, producing and directing the six-part miniseries adaptation of Tony Kushner's Angels in America for HBO, which received 11 Emmy Awards. Then, in a triumphant return to Broadway in 2005, Nicholes won his sixth Tony as Best Director for the musical "Spamalot," based on the 1975 movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail. And in 2007, well into his seventies, Nichols returned to features to direct Charlie Wilson's War, which received a Best Supporting Actor nod for Philip Seymour Hoffman.