Mikhail Igor Peschkowsky was born on 6 November 1931, in Berlin, Germany into a Jewish family, and became Mike Nichols, an American film director, writer, producer and comedian, probably best known for directing the 1968 film “The Graduate”, which won him an Academy Award, and the iconic 1970 film “Catch 22”. Sadly, Mike passed away following a heart attack in November 2014.
So just how rich was Mike Nichols? Sources have estimated that Mike’s net worth was $15 million, accumulated during an outstanding career in the entertainment industry spanning more than 40 years.
Mike Nichols Net Worth $15 Million
In order to avoid Nazi persecution, Mike Nichols’ family fled one by one to the United States. Nichols became a naturalized American in 1944, and grew up in New York, where he attended school and briefly studied at New York University, which he soon left and joined the University of Chicago. There he became interested in theater, and directed a theater production of William Butler Yeats’ “Purgatory”, his first directorial work. In 1955 he moved back to New York and joined the Actors Studio, where he studied under Lee Strasberg, and in the same year he began performing with Compass Players. In 1958 he met Elain May, and together they formed the successful comedy duo Nichols and May, performing on stage, on radio, and TV, being rewarded with a Grammy for Best Comedy Album in 1962.
Nichols’ first major work as a director was “Barefoot in the Park” by Neil Simons. It became a huge hit and Nichols was rewarded with his first Tony award. Nichols went on successfully directing Broadway plays, and soon he was considered a superstar of the American theater. His reputation opened the door for him into the cinema world, and in 1966 he was invited by Warner Bros. to direct “Who’s afraid of Virginia Wolf ?”, an extremely successful cinema hit starring Elizabeth Taylor and Tim Burton. Nichols’ second film, “The Graduate”, brought him the Academy Award for Best Director.
Mike Nichols kept working as both a theater and cinema director through the ’70s and ’80s. Among his notable works are “Carnal Knowledge”, a rather controversial movie due to graphic depiction of sexual intercourse, “Annie”, a Broadway musical that ran from 1977 to 1983 and won him another Tony award, and “Working Girl”, starring Melanie Griffith, one of his best known films, and a financial success very well received by critics and nominated for six Academy Awards.
Among many other successful works, Nichols has also suffered a few professional failures, such as the movie “The Day of the Dolphin” (1977), which brought little profit and did not impress critics, and the Broadway flop “Billy Bishop Goes to War”, which closed after just 12 performances. However, Mike Nichols is one of a few accomplished performing arts’ professionals who have been rewarded with an Emmy, Tony, Grammy and Oscar Award. However, the vast majority of his projects were very successful, covering more than 20 films, and almost 30 stage plays, but most importantly Mike Nichols received more than 50 awards.
Mike Nichols’ other pursuits included horse-breeding (until 2004 he owned a farm in Connecticut, he was known to be fond of Arabian horses) and occasional teaching at The New Actors Workshop in New York City.
Mike Nichols was married four times. His first marriage was to Patricia Scott(1957-60), then to Margo Callas(1963-74) with whom he had a daughter. He had two more children with his third wife, Annabel Davies-Hoff(1975-86). He married for the fourth time in 1988, to Dianne Sawyer and they were together until Mike’s death in 2014.
Six of his nine Tony Awards were for Best Direction of a Play, a record. He won for "Barefoot in the Park" (1964); "Luv and The Odd Couple" (1965); "Plaza Suite" (1968); "The Prisoner of Second Avenue" (1972); "The Real Thing" (1984); and "Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman" (2012). He also won once for Best Direction of a Musical, "Monty Python's Spamalot" (2005); and twice for producing, "Annie" (1977) and "The Real Thing" (1984). He was also nominated seven additional times for Direction of a Play or Direction of a Musical: musical "The Apple Tree" (1967); "Uncle Vanya" (1974); "Comedians" (1977); "Streamers" (1977); "The Gin Game" (1978, also as producer); and further as producer of "The Play What I Wrote" (2003) and "Whoopi, The 20th Anniversary Show (2005, Special Theatrical Events).
Was told as a child that he was a cousin of Albert Einstein, and although he never quite believed it, he repeated it to friends as he was growing up. While doing Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. (2012) he found out that it was true. They would have been 3rd or 4th cousins several times removed.
Won more Tony Awards for Best Direction of a Play than any other individual. His won for "Barefoot in the Park" (1964); "Luv and The Odd Couple" (1965); "Plaza Suite" (1968); "The Prisoner of Second Avenue" (1972); "The Real Thing" (1984); and "Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman" (2012). He also won best direction of a musical for "Monty Python's Spamalot" (2005); and as producer for "Annie" (1977) and "The Real Thing" (1984).
While paying tribute to Nichols during his 2003 Kennedy Center Honors, Meryl Streep and Candace Bergen read Nichols' "Five Rules for Filmmaking": 1: The careful application of terror is an important form of communication. 2: Anything worth fighting for is worth fighting dirty for. 3: There's absolutely no substitute for genuine lack of preparation. 4: If you think there's good in everybody, you haven't met everybody. 5: Friends may come and go, but enemies will certainly become studio heads.
Recipient of the Producers Guild of America's Visionary Award.
Was at one point going to direct The Public Eye (1972). See the trivia page for the film for more information.
Is a member of the Democratic Party.
Mike Nichols was the original choice to direct the 1976 film The Last Tycoon (1976). He left the project because of creative differences with actor Robert De Niro.
In April 2009, Nichols told The New York Times that when he came to the U.S. from Germany (in 1939, at age 7), he could speak only two English sentences, which were, "I do not speak English" and "Please, do not kiss me.".
Was the last person to have won a best director Oscar prior to 1972 still living as of January 2009.
Recovering from heart bypass surgery in New York hospital [July 17, 2008].
When he won his Oscar as Best Director for The Graduate (1967), the statuette was presented to him by actress Leslie Caron.
Two of his films are on the American Film Institute's 100 Most Inspiring Movies of All time. They are Working Girl (1988) at #87 and Silkwood (1983) at #66.
He was awarded the American National Medal of the Arts in 2001 by the National Endowment of the Arts in Washington D.C.
Received the first straight $1,000,000 director's salary for Catch-22 (1970). When percentages were figured in, Nichols was the first director to earn $1,000,000, combination salary and percentage of net or gross, from a single film, for The Graduate (1967).
From the early 1960s until his death, he was a well-known figure among Arabian Horse fans - as a breeder of over 400 registered Arabians, including owning and breeding many US National Champion horses.
Worked at the Howard Johnson's restaurant in New York's Times Square when he was 17 years old.
According to Jack Nicholson's April 1972 Playboy Magazine interview, Nichols asked Nicholson and other cast members not to smoke marijuana while filming Carnal Knowledge (1971) on location in Vancouver, British Columbia, where cannabis was easily available. Nichols thought that it dulled an actor's performance.
Often includes extremely long starting and/or ending shots taken from high in the air, for example Working Girl (1988) and Angels in America (2003).
[on firing Mandy Patinkin during making of Heartburn (1986)] I loved Mandy then, and I love him now. It was awful to have to replace him, but on film I couldn't see the chemistry I wanted. I don't know how many days it was, but to save the damn thing, I had to move fast to get Jack [Nicholson]. Mandy was, of course, devastated, and I've felt awful about it all my life.
[on coming to New York as a child] American society to me and my brother was thrilling because, first of all, the food made noise. We were so excited about Rice Krispies and Coca-Cola. We had only silent food in our country, and we loved listening to our lunch and breakfast.
Do you know my theory about '[Who's Afraid of] Virginia Woolf' which I think I only developed lately? It may be the only play - certainly the only play I can think of, including Shakespeare - in which every single thing that happens is in the present. Even the beautiful reminiscences of the past are traps being set in the present, sprung in the present, having violent effect in the present. It's why you can't hurt it. It's now. It's the one thing plays have the hardest time with.
[on developing an act with Elaine May] We were winging it, making up as it went along, It never crossed our minds that it had any value beyond the moment. We were stunned when we got to New York. Never for a moment did we consider that we would do this for living. It was just a handy way to make some money until we grew up.
[on his experience judging a limerick contest] It was easy. We just threw out the dirty limericks and gave the prize to the one that was left.
[on Stanley Kubrick] In the end, I think he began to have trouble, because if you can't leave home, you lose track of reality, and I think that happened to him. Still, he made great movies and he was a completely gifted director. If you look at 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), you suddenly realize: My God, there's nobody in this movie!
[on Elizabeth Taylor] There are three things I never saw Elizabeth Taylor do: Tell a lie; be unkind to anyone; and be on time.
[on Jack Nicholson] Jack is the sort of guy who takes parts others have turned down, might turn down, and explodes them into something nobody could have conceived of. All his brilliance of character and gesture is consumed and made invisible by the expanse of his nature.
[on working with Orson Welles on Catch-22 (1970)] We were talking about Jean Renoir one day on the set and Orson said, very touchingly, that Renoir was a great man but that unfortunately Renoir didn't like his pictures. And then he said, "Of course, if I were Renoir I wouldn't like my pictures either".
[Part of 2005 Tony Award acceptance speech] "God, my head is totally empty. I had a thing I was going to say, and I have forgot it, because I had given up so long ago. But the first thing to say is thank you. To the other members of my category, my friends Jack and James and Bartlett, I guess you are thinking age before beauty, me too! My congratulations to the winners. My love to those who have not won tonight. I just want to remind you of my motto: Cheer up, life isn't everything. It always stands me in good stead."
When I was 17, for my first job, I worked at the midtown Howard Johnson's. A customer asked me what our ice-cream flavor of the week was, which was a dumb question, because there was a huge banner showing that it was maple. So I told him that it was chicken. The customer laughed, but the manager fired me immediately. They were bastards there.
I love to take actors to a place where they open a vein. That's the job. The key is that I make it safe for them to open the vein.
If everybody's adorable, you can't go anywhere, you can't have any events.
I've never understood that aspect of DVDs, where you suddenly put back the things you took out that could go. Why ruin your movie? With material that you've taken out? I never get that. I don't have that impulse... To put them back seems very unpleasant to me. And pointless. It's like when you've written something, when you cut a paragraph, doesn't it seem dead to you? Doesn't it look like something you'd never want to include, because the point is, it could go? You'll never see anything in my pictures, the stuff that came out, stays out.
It's not a film-maker's job to explain his technique, but to tell his story the best way he can.
A movie is like a person. Either you trust it or you don't.