LBJBR’s Film Director Spotlight: Mike Nichols

Mike Nichols is probably most well-known from the films he directed. Films such as Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, The Graduate, In the Heat of the Night and Carnal Knowledge number among the masterworks he has contributed to the cinematic lexicon However, Nichols would only start directing stage plays in 1963, a full three years before he made his feature film debut in 1966 with the film Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? What did he do before then? LBJBR focuses the film director spotlight on Mike Nichols.Nichols would begin his career in a comedy troupe in the early 1950s. From there, he would meet and team up with comedienne Elaine May. The two would become very popular as an act, win Grammys for their comedy records. Their admirers would continue to grow and include among them Woody Allen.

Nichols would beat Allen to the punch and transition into directing, one of the first to mover from comedy to more serious films.Nichols would tackle far more heady material in the Edward Albee play than Woody Allen would and succeed at it. Also, the studio would do the young director no favors by casting real life couple Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton to star in the filming; having proven themselves more than a veteran director such as Joseph L. Mankiewicz could handle in Cleopatra.

Whereas Woody Allen would start small and work his way up in the size of the scope of his films, Nichols would start in the deep end and remain there. The Graduate, Catch-22 and Carnal Knowledge would be his next feature length projects, Four classic films to begin his career. a feat few directors could ever lay claim to.

Nichols, however, would never stray far from the stage. His directing career would be put on hold several times to return to his theatrical roots. Strangely, though, he would never return to performing in front of an audience.