Nigel Cole began his career in fringe theater before moving on to commercials and television. He directed the episode Wild Horses in Mongolia for PBS' Nature television series in 1982. In the Wild (1988) was a TV documentary that featured Julia Roberts going into the jungles of Borneo alongside conservationists to discover endangered orangutans. Cole also directed the first season of the award-winning, racy comedy British TV series Cold Feet before making his feature film-directing debut with Saving Grace (2000), a comedy about a middle-aged woman (Brenda Blethyn) who goes into the cannabis trade. The film won Audience Awards at both the 2000 Sundance Film Festival and the Norwegian International Film Festival and Cole was nominated for Best Director at the British Independent Film Awards.
His film, Calendar Girls (2003), stars Julie Walters and Helen Mirren as middle-aged women who pose nude for charity. He then directed Ashton Kutcher and Amanda Peet in the romantic comedy A Lot Like Love (2005).