He was was married to ABC News veteran Diane Sawyer and was successful in Hollywood and on Broadway alike. Notably, he was one of only a dozen people to have won at least one Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony award each.
James Goldston, president of ABC News, shared the news of his death with ABC News staff in a note on Thursday morning. The U.S. director, who was born in Germany under the name Michael Igor Peschkowsky, died of cardiac arrest, according to an ABC News representative.
“I am writing with the very sad news that Diane’s husband, the incomparable Mike Nichols, passed away suddenly on Wednesday evening,” Goldston’s note said.
“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.”
The family will hold a small, private service this week, with a memorial set to be held at a later date.
Nichols and his parents fled Nazi Germany and came to the U.S. when he was 7. He went to school in New York and studied at the University of Chicago. He initially focused on medicine, but ended up in a comedy group. One of their albums, “An Evening with Mike Nichols and Elaine May,” won a Grammy for best comedy performance.
In 1968, he won the directing Oscar for The Graduate, followed in 1977 by the Tony for best musical for Annie. He also won best director Tony honors for plays The Prisoner of Second Avenue (1972), The Real Thing (1984) and Death of a Salesman (2012) and a best musical direction Tony for Spamalot (2005). His Emmy win came in 2001 for Wit in the outstanding TV movie category.
In addition to a best director Golden Globe honor for Graduate and a couple of DGA and PGA awards, he also won best film BAFTA honors for Graduate and Virginia Woolf and a best direction BAFTA for Graduate.
“No one was more passionate about his craft than Mike,” Goldston wrote. “He had recently been immersed in a new project for HBO to adapt Master Class, Terrence McNally’s Tony Award-winning play about opera legend Maria Callas. The project reunited him with Meryl Streep, one of his most frequent collaborators. She once said of Mike, “no explanation of our world could be complete and no account or image of it so rich, if we didn’t have you,” in hailing him as one of the essential artists of our time.”Playwright Tom Stoppard, said, “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.”
Concluded Goldston: “Mike had a sparkling wit and a brilliant mind. Beloved by so many in film, television and Broadway, there was no greater joy in his life than his family, and of course our own Diane Sawyer. A true and beautiful love story, Mike and Diane were married for 26 years. He leaves behind three children — Daisy, Max and Jenny — and four wonderful grandchildren.”