Mentor…A word usually associated with an individual who has a profound impact in one’s life. A person who is generous enough to guide one on their way to whatever path or road they are choosing to take. A person whose advice you heed and who you look up to and admire.
Everyone has a mentor in one shape or another. I have had several mentors in my lifetime through my various stages of creativity. Whoopi Goldberg had one…Mike Nichols.
Had it not been for Mike Nichols, it s very possible that we may have never know the comic genius of Whoopi Goldberg. witnessed film debut of Calista Flockhart in The Birdcage, witnessed the explosive relationship of Burton and Taylor played out onscreen in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf or listened to Dustin Hoffman utter those famous words in The Graduate, “Mrs. Robinson…are you trying to seduce me?”
Mike Nichols, one of only 12 people (including Whoopi Goldberg) to have been honored with an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony Award (affectionately known as EGOT), was a celebrated director for over 60 years.
Arriving in 1931 America at 7 years old speaking little English, German born Nichols came to the US when his family escaped Nazi Germany. His legacy as a director is left in such Broadway and the silver screen hits – from “Barefoot in the Park” and “The Odd Couple” to “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” and “The Graduate.” He earned the best director Oscar for “The Graduate.”
He started his show business career with comedian Elaine May. Their three comedy albums reached the Billboard Top 40 between 1959 and 1962 and garnered them a Grammy.
He earned his eighth Tony two years ago for the revival of “Death of a Salesman and recently been working with HBO to adapt “Master Class ( “Wit” and “Angels in America” were also Emmy winning successes for Nichols and HBO),” Terrence McNally’s Tony Award-winning play about opera legend Maria Callas. The project would have reunited him with frequent collaborator Meryl Streep.
“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,” said Meryl Streep, who worked with Nichols on “Silkwood,” “Heartburn” and the HBO adaptation of Tony Kushner’s “Angels in America.”
Nichols was married to ABC newswoman Diane Sawyer and I can only imagine how this massive loss must be impacting her today…or his kids and many grandchildren.
I , for one, will miss the twist on reality in his films that made us wince, look twice and laugh at ourselves just a little bit harder under the most dire of circumstances. Whoopi Goldberg said it best…
RIP…Hope you and Anne Bancroft are having the reunion of a lifetime…