'The Graduate' director is the star of new HBO doc 'Becoming Mike Nichols'

By Jeff Labrecque
Updated February 17, 2016 at 03:26 PM EST
Credit: HBO

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? The Graduate. Silkwood. Working Girl. The Birdcage. Angels in America. Primary Colors.

Mike Nichols was a filmmaker who transcended genre, subject matter, and style. There was no one theme that tied together his life’s work as a film director, other than the word intelligent. His films were thoughtful and honest, funny and dead serious, insightful about the human condition yet aware of the random whimsy of it all.

In Becoming Mike Nichols, the new documentary from director Douglas McGrath, the filmmaker sat down with longtime friend, director Jack O’Brien, for an interview four months before he died in 2014. They start from the beginning — Nichols’ childhood — and then navigate his days as a comedic all-star with improv partner Elaine May, his triumphant Broadway success as a director, and his five-decade career as a premiere Hollywood filmmaker.

In this exclusive clip (above), Nichols tells O’Brien and a live audience about one of the most fortuitous developments during the making of The Graduate: the discovery of Simon & Garfunkel’s hit song, “Mrs. Robinson.” Many readers might already know the story of how the pop duo originally wrote the song for another famous lady, but in Nichols’ telling, they retreated to the unfinished song about a former First Lady only after he flatly rejected their first attempt.

The HBO documentary film Becoming Mike Nichols debuts on Feb. 22 on HBO.