Essential Film Directors, Mike Nichols

Mike Nichols directs the 1996 comedy, The Birdcage, features a gay couple who own a gay cabaret in Miami Beach.  Armand Goldman (played by the late Robin Williams) is the primary owner, whereas Albert (Nathan Lane) is the leading act in the club, known as Starina.  Their son Val Goldman, who was conceived by Armand during a tragic heterosexual experiment some twenty years prior, is returning home to announce his engagement to Barbara.  Barbara, however, is the daughter of a conservative right wing senator and his wife, who are coming to Miami in order to meet the Goldmans, the expected parents of their daughter’s fiance.  As a result, Val and Barbara plead with Armand and Albert to act as “normal” as possible, prompting Armand to pretend he is a Greek diplomat and Albert to dress in drag and play the role of a housewife…a ploy that is anything but “normal.”  The rouse is short-lived as a comic stream of events takes place, revealing who each character really is.

The Birdcage

 

Director Mike Nichols was born in Berlin, Germany in November of 1931.  Being Jewish and born under the name Michael Igor Peschkowsky, Mike and his family fled Nazi Germany in 1939. He became a naturalized citizen of the United States in 1944, as the Berlin he left was finally beginning to crumble after the Allied assault.  Growing up in New York, Nichols had a tough childhood, as a bad batch of whooping cough inoculation had left him without any hair.

Nichols attended the Walden School in Manhattan, in the prestigious Central Park West neighborhood.  He briefly attended New York University, but later dropped out to move to Chicago.

By the 1950’s, Mike Nichols was beginning to make a name for himself in the improve comedy troupe, The Compass Players, which eventually led to the creation of The Second City comedy troupe.  Starring alongside Elaine May, he became one half of one of the most successful comedy duos of the 1950’s.

In 1963, Nichols received his first opportunity to direct a film, and quickly realized directing is his passion.  The director went on to produce many award winning films and became one of only 12 people to receive an Oscar, Emmy, Grammy, and Tony Award in his career.  The director passed away in November of 2014, with his 4th wife, Diane Sawyer, at his side.

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The award-winning director Mike Nichols achieved great success throughout his 50-year career, beginning with directing 1967’s highly acclaimed award-winning film, The Graduate.  Nichols followed up this project with popular films in the 1970’s and 1980’s, including Catch-22, Carnal Knowledge, Biloxi Blues, and Working GirlThe director also returned to the stage to direct a number of Broadway shows.

The 1990’s saw continued success with Regarding Henry, The Birdcage, and Primary Colors, the latter of which were written by Nichols’ one-time co-star, Elaine May.  In recent years, Nichols directed the sexual suspense Closer, and the political drama Charlie Wilson’s War, before he began to experience health problems related to heart disease.

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Alexander Ryll
Launched in June 2014, Gay Essential is the world’s largest gay themed film blog promoting new and rare features. I am helped by some amazing writers and we also cover film festivals in the UK and USA. We are 100% independent, without advertising or funding by film distributors. Help to keep Gay Essential independent by purchasing our merchandise GET (Gay Essential Tees)
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