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Mike Nichols -- at home in Hollywood and in the theater

June 9, 2010 | 12:00 pm

Nichols Director Mike Nichols, who will receive the American Film Institute's Life Achievement Award on Thursday, also has enjoyed a rich life in the theater.

In a conversation with our colleague, Susan King, the 78-year-old Oscar winner traces the start of his career to seeing the 1947 Broadway production of Tennessee Williams' "A Streetcar Named Desire" when he was a teenager.

Nichols was so inspired by the show, which starred Marlon Brando and was directed by Elia Kazan, that he ended up studying with Lee Strasberg at the Actors Studio in New York. He then joined an improv group in Chicago, where he met his future comedy partner, Elaine May.

He and May went back to New York and soon were a hot act on television and in nightclubs and the theater -- where Nichols found a home as a Tony-winning director, starting with Neil Simon's "Barefoot in the Park" up through recent hits such as "Spamalot."

Nichols moved into film in 1966 with "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" -- based on the Edward Albee play -- and became known for his work with actors such as Elizabeth Taylor, Dustin Hoffman and Candice Bergen on pictures such as "Virginia Woolf," "The Graduate" and "Carnal Knowledge."

He also has worked in television, winning Emmys for directing stage transplants "Wit" and "Angels in America."

To read more of King's conversation with Nichols, click here.

-- Karen Wada

Photo: Mike Nichols. Credit: Jennifer S. Altman / For The Times