Nichols was one of America's most celebrated directors, whose long, protean resume of critic- and crowd-pleasing work earned him adulation both on Broadway and in Hollywood.
Dryly urbane, Mr. Nichols had a gift for communicating with actors and a keen comic timing, which he honed early in his career as half of the popular sketch-comedy team Nichols and May. He accomplished what Orson Welles and Elia Kazan, but few if any other directors have: He achieved popular and artistic success in both theater and film. He was among the most decorated people in the history of show business, one of only a handful to have won an Oscar, a Tony, an Emmy and a Grammy.
His career encompassed an entire era of screen and stage entertainment. He directed Neil Simon's early comedies Barefoot in the Park and The Odd Couple in the 1960s, the zany Monty Python musical, Spamalot, four decades later, and nearly another decade after that, an acclaimed revival of Arthur Miller's bruising masterpiece, Death of a Salesman.
In 1984, as a producer, he brought a talented monologuist to Broadway, supervising the one-woman show - it was called, simply, Whoopi Goldberg - that propelled her to fame.
The first time Mr. Nichols stepped behind the camera, in 1966, it was to direct Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, in an adaptation of Edward Albee's scabrous stage portrayal of a marriage, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? The film was nominated for 13 Academy Awards, including one for best director. Mr. Nichols did win an Oscar for his second film, The Graduate, a shrewd social comedy that defined the uncertainty of adulthood for the generation that came of age in the 1960s.
When he directed Burton and Taylor in "Virginia Woolf" they were the biggest stars in the world. "A director's chief virtue should be to persuade you through a role; Mike's the only one I know who can do it?" Burton said after the film was finished, a remarkable compliment from a renowned actor for a fledgling director. "He conspires with you to get your best. He'd make me throw away a line where I'd have hit it hard. I've seen the film with an audience and he's right every time."