A deft humorist and social critic, director Mike Nichols has managed to skewer mainstream sensibilities in crowd-pleasing work throughout most of his career. Collaborating with such renowned writers as Buck Henry and original stage partner Elaine May, the theatrically trained Nichols excelled at adapting plays and novels for the screen, and eliciting superb performances from his actors.
Born Michael Peschkowsky in Berlin, Nichols and his family emigrated to the U.S. in 1938, to escape the Nazis. Though his father's death several years later left his family poor, Nichols worked his way through college at the University of Chicago, where he decided to become an actor. After studying with Lee Strasberg in New York, Nichols headed back to Chicago, where he formed an improv group with several actors, including May and Alan Arkin. Their comic and critical sensibilities well matched, Nichols and May performed as a pair in the latter half of the 1950s, earning raves for their sharp, satirical routines. After their 1960 hit Broadway show, An Evening with Mike Nichols and Elaine May, closed in 1961, however, they parted ways.