Becoming Mike Nichols 9 p.m., HBO

In this documentary, director Mike Nichols describes a war he took on with studio chief Jack Warner in order to release “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” in black and white. Why was the first-time director (who’d just gotten an emergency lesson in cinematography from friend Anthony Perkins) so bent on a film look that was going away? When you watch black and white, Nichols explains, “It’s not literal. It is a metaphor automatically.”

I love that comment. We know we’re not seeing real life when we watch in black and white, and Nichols wanted the audience to have that unconscious response. Now, it’s hard to imagine the 1966 classic, based on Edward Albee’s play and starring Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, having as much power without all the rich shadows and silvery whites.


Directed by Douglas McGrath, “Becoming Mike Nichols” is an edited version of two conversations between Nichols and theater director Jack O’Brien a few months before Nichols died in 2014. Nichols focuses on the making of “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” and “The Graduate.” He also confesses to having seen George Stevens’s 1951 film “A Place in the Sun” about 150 times. “It was not only my favorite movie,” he says. “It was my bible.”

Matthew Gilbert can be reached at gilbert@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @MatthewGilbert.