Longform You Have to Read: The Extraordinary Life of Mike Nichols


In a world where you have more options for satisfying longform reading than ever, your friends at Flavorwire are taking the time once a week to highlight some of the best that journalism has to offer. Whether they’re unified by topic, publication, writer, being classic pieces of work, or just by a general feeling, these articles all have one thing in common: they’re essential reading. This week, we’re paying tribute to the late Mike Nichols, the legendary director and entertainer who passed away this week.

One of a handful of EGOT winners, Mike Nichols had an incredible life and career. Born in Germany, he was sent to America due to World War II, and he first discovered his love of theater and comedy as a student at the University of Chicago. He then became a theater director, with highlights including Barefoot in the Park and The Odd Couple, and from there, he started working on films, too, like Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and The Graduate. We tell stories and share stories in ways that are influenced by Nichols’ work, and we could spend all day reading up on his legacy.

They Sell Horses, Don’t They? Not the Spectacular Way Mike Nichols Does It,” by Marsha Cochran, People, June 1976

A portrait of the artist at the height of his powers, this article sheds a light on Nichols’ prowess as a horse breeder. There are glitter guns and beautiful Arabian Horses. “The theatrical trimmings, that’s pure Nichols,” someone said.

American Masters: Mike Nichols and Elaine May — Take Two

In this 1996 PBS documentary about the work of Nichols and May, we get to see vintage clips of the duo working together as comedians, and observe how their imaginative, improvisatory sketch style shaped a generation of comedy.

Of Metaphors and Purpose: Mike Nichols Interview,” by Gavin Smith, Film Comment, May/June 1999

“If you have a powerful metaphor, if the audience knows why they’re there, you can soar very high. If you don’t have that metaphor, no amount of cleverness with the camera or talent on the part of the actors can lift it, because the engine that is the metaphor is everything. I believe that now as much as I did when I began.”

Director Mike Nichols on His 60-Year Career: Trouble Always Seemed Glamorous,” as told to Stephen Galloway, The Hollywood Reporter, May 2012

This piece is a pleasure, since you get to hear the story of just how Nichols started (and approached the theater) in his own words. He was funny and profane, and he said that his life “began at 54,” when he met Diane Sawyer, his fourth wife.

Who’s Afraid of Nichols and May?” by Sam Kashner, Vanity Fair, January 2013

An essential profile. Elaine May and Mike Nichols left an indelible mark on comedy for the four years that they worked together in the late ’50s and early ’60s, and May had been silent about her influence ever since. Kasher gets both May and Nichols on the record about their comedy, and how they worked together.