Mike Nichols born
Mike Nichols, who was born on this day in 1931, has been among the cream of the crop of Hollywood directors since he announced himself as a major talent in the mid-1960s with the prodigious one-two punch of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and The Graduate. But it’s easy to forget the wealth of life experiences he had before this breakthrough. Nichols was born Michael Igor Peschkowsky in Berlin, but fled Nazi Germany with his family in 1939, settling in the United States. (According to a recent interview, when Nichols arrived here, he knew only two English sentences: "I do not speak English" and "Please, do not kiss me.") Made a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1944, Nichols attended the University of Chicago in the 50s, and there discovered his creative impulses: with Elaine May, Ed Asner et al, he formed the Compass Players, a comedy ensemble which later evolved into the seminal Second City troupe, and also started a folk music show on the radio. Nichols and May paired up and became a hugely successful comedy duo on stage, the small screen and on record (they were Grammy nominated). Though they parted ways in 1961, they would work together multiple times again, not least when they performed at Jimmy Carter’s inauguration celebration. When Nichols began directing for the stage, it immediately clicked that directing was what he was meant to do: he won back to back Tony Awards in 1964 and 1965 before being lured to Hollywood, but returned many times afterwards to Broadway, winning a further five Tony awards 1968 and 2005.