Los Angeles (AFP)
Mike Nichols, the legendary film and theater director who won an Oscar for the classic American movie “The Graduate,” has died aged 83, US media reported on Thursday.
ABC television said in a statement that Nichols died of cardiac arrest late Wednesday.
Nichols is one of the rare figures in American entertainment to have earned an “EGOT” — having been awarded at least one Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony.
The director was part of American entertainment royalty, being married for many years to celebrated ABC television news presenter Diane Sawyer.
Sawyer’s employer confirmed Nichols’ death in a statement Thursday that eulogized him as a directing genius with a “sparkling wit and a brilliant mind.”
“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’,” among many other works.
“He was a true visionary, winning the highest honors in the arts for his work as a director, writer, producer and comic,” said James Goldston, president of ABC News, in his statement.
The news network said that the Nichols family will hold a small, private service for him later this week, and a memorial service at a later date.
The son of a Russian doctor who escaped to Berlin, Germany after the Russian revolution, Nichols started life as Michael Igor Peschkowsky.
His family was forced to flee Germany for the United States to escape Nazism in 1939, and settled in New York City when he was just seven years old, People Magazine wrote.
An early life of hardship — his father died when he was just 12 — led Nichols to seek solace in movie theaters, and to pursue a career in the world of entertainment, eventually becoming of its leading visionaries.
The ABC News statement quoted playwright Tom Stoppard, a close associate of Nichols, who lavished praise on the late director.
“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,” the dramatist said. “To me he is the best of America.”
It also quoted longtime Nichols collaborator Meryl Streep, who was equally passionate about her experience working with him.
“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,” Goldston said.
The news network said that Nichols and Sawyer had been married for 26 years. The director is survived by three children and four grandchildren.