The AFI Lifetime Achievement Award is presented annually to an individual who has contributed to American film culture over the course of his or her lifetime. The recipient is chosen by the AFI’s Board of Trustees, which is made up of various film executives and industry authorities.
The award is often referred to as the greatest honor of the American film industry. But like any other competitive award, there is politics involved, and the AFI is sometimes criticized for neglecting some of the greats (Katherine Hepburn, Lawrence Olivier, and Marlon Brando are notable omissions).
This year, the recipient is director Mike Nichols, who is not only known as a film talent but also for his work in theater and television (he is one of the only artists to have an Oscar, a Tony, an Emmy, and a Grammy).
Strangely enough, my introduction to Nichols’ work was the 2004 drama Closer starring Julia Roberts, Jude Law, Clive Owen, and Natalie Portman. Although my opinion is not a popular one, I found Nichols’ direction to be a compelling portrayal of human behavior that raises questions about the limits of morality. I wasn’t surprised in the least to learn that he is also a stage director, given his command of the material (Closer is adapted from a play of the same name).
Nichols brought another play to the screen (the small one, this time) in 2003 with Angels in America, a 6-part miniseries that aired on HBO. Again, Nichols managed to elevate a story intended for the stage to greater heights on the screen.
Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep will tribute and present Nichols as the next AFI Lifetime Achievement Award recipient on June 10th in Los Angeles.