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‘The Graduate’ director Mike Nichols dies at 83

WATCH: Mike Nichols had a gift for directing on film and stage. Through his vision, he helped shape the way we all see ourselves. Nichols. Eric Sorensen looks back at his career.

TORONTO — Director Mike Nichols, whose career included stage productions like Barefoot in the Park and Spamalot and films including The Graduate and Silkwood, died Wednesday evening, a little more than a week after his 83rd birthday.

Nichols’ death, by cardiac arrest, was announced early Thursday by James Goldston, president of ABC News.

The director, writer, producer and actor was married to ABC News personality Diane Sawyer for 26 years.

“Mike had a sparkling wit and a brilliant mind,” Goldston wrote in a memo. “Beloved by so many in film, television and Broadway, there was no greater joy in his life than his family.”

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Nichols is one of a small group of people who has won every major show business award — he earned an Oscar and Golden Globe as well as four Emmy Awards, nine Tony Awards, and a Grammy Award (for Best Comedy Album with Elaine May).

BELOW: Watch Mike Nichols performing with Elaine May.

Although he acted, Nichols’ passion was directing. He famously said that directing is like making love “because you never know if you’re doing it right or as well as the other guy.”

His stage credits include Annie in 1977, an unsuccessful Broadway production of the Canadian musical Billy Bishop Goes to War in 1980 and Death of a Salesman in 2012. His last show was 2013’s Betrayal.

Nichols’ first film was 1966’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, which was nominated for 13 Oscars and won five. He won Best Director at the Academy Awards for his second film, The Graduate.

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Nichols followed with acclaimed movies including Silkwood, Working Girl, Postcards from the Edge, The Birdcage and Charlie Wilson’s War. He also directed the TV mini-series Angels in America.

He recently worked on an adaptation of Master Class, Terrence McNally’s play about opera star Maria Callas, for HBO.

Mike Nichols with Diane Sawyer, pictured in 2011.
Mike Nichols with Diane Sawyer, pictured in 2011. Getty Images

In the early ’60s, Nichols was immersed in the theatre scene in Vancouver, B.C. He co-starred with Susan Kohner in a Vancouver International Festival production of Saint Joan and directed a production of The Importance of Being Earnest.

In the acting community, Nichols was beloved and respected.

At an American Film Institute tribute to Nichols, Streep called him “one of our era’s essential artists.”

She added: “No explanation of our world could be complete and no account or image of it so rich if we didn’t have you. You have made yourself unmistakable. You have created a quality, an essence, that’s composed of wit, grace, outrage, delight, skepticism and true love.”

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Annette Bening added: “If you’re lucky enough to work with Mike, you’ll probably give the best performance that you’re capable of giving.”

“You’re more than a great director,” gushed Dustin Hoffman. “You’re a real artist down to your toes because you’re insanely courageous.”

Natalie Portman, who starred in his 2004 movie Closer, once said: “He has an eye and an ear and a heart for the truth. He’ll tell you something that suddenly seems obvious but that you’d never have come up with yourself, which is probably the definition of genius.”

Born Mikhail Peschkowsky in Germany, he was sent to the U.S. as a child to escape Nazi persecution. His family settled in New York City and Nichols became a citizen in 1944.

Nichols is survived by Sawyer as well as children Daisy, Max and Jenny (from previous marriages) and four grandchildren.

The family will hold a private service this week but a memorial will be held at a later date.