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Sydney Pollack 1934-2008
 


Country : Lafayette, Indiana
Profession : Film Director
Date of birth : 1934-07-01
Date of death : 2008-05-26
Cause of Death : Cancer

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Sydney Irwin Pollack (July 1, 1934 — May 26, 2008) was an American film director, producer and actor. Born in Lafayette, Indiana to Russian Jewish immigrants, Pollack studied with Sanford Meisner at the Neighborhood Playhouse in New York City, where he later taught acting. He began directing television shows in the 1960s before moving to films.

Pollack directed more than 21 films and 10 television shows, acted in over 30 films or shows, and produced over 44 films. Some of his best known works include Jeremiah Johnson (1972), The Way We Were (1973), Three Days of the Condor (1975) and Absence of Malice (1981). His 1985 film Out of Africa won him Academy Awards for directing and producing; he was also nominated for Best Director Oscars for They Shoot Horses, Don't They? and Tootsie, the latter of which he also appeared in. Later films included Havana (1990), The Firm (1993), Sabrina (1995) and The Interpreter (2005).

Early life

Sydney Pollack was born in Lafayette, Indiana, to a family of Jewish immigrants from Russia, the son of Rebecca and David Pollack, a semi-professional boxer and pharmacist. The family relocated to South Bend and his parents divorced when he was young. His mother, an alcoholic with emotional problems, died at the age of 37 while Pollack was a student.

Despite earlier plans to attend college and then medical school, Pollack left Indiana for New York City soon after finishing high school at age 17. Pollack studied acting with Sanford Meisner at the Neighborhood Playhouse from 1952 to 1954, working on a lumber truck between terms. After two years' army service until 1958, he returned to the Playhouse at Meisner’s invitation to become his assistant. In 1960, John Frankenheimer, a friend of Pollack's, asked him to come to Los Angeles in order to work as a dialogue coach for the child actors on Frankenheimer's first big picture, The Young Savages. It was during this time that Pollack met Burt Lancaster, who encouraged the young actor to try directing.

Career

Pollack found initial success in television in the 1960s by directing episodes of series such as The Fugitive and Alfred Hitchcock Presents. His film directing debut was 1965's The Slender Thread, starring Sidney Poitier and Anne Bancroft. Over time, Pollack's films received a total of 48 Academy Award nominations, winning 11 Oscars. His first Oscar nomination was for his 1969 film They Shoot Horses, Don't They?. He was nominated a second time in 1982 for Tootsie. For his 1985 film Out of Africa starring Meryl Streep and Robert Redford, Pollack won Academy Awards for directing and producing.

During his career, he directed 12 different actors in Oscar-nominated performances: Jane Fonda, Gig Young, Susannah York, Barbra Streisand, Paul Newman, Melinda Dillon, Jessica Lange, Dustin Hoffman, Teri Garr , Meryl Streep, Klaus Maria Brandauer and Holly Hunter. Only Young and Lange won Oscars for their performances in one of Pollacks movies.

While directing Tootsie, his rows with star Dustin Hoffman became well known. Eventually Hoffman began pushing the idea that Pollack play the role of his agent, and Pollack reluctantly agreed despite not having had any film roles in 20 years. Their off-screen relationship added authenticity to their scenes in the movie, most of which feature them arguing. Pollack subsequently took on more acting roles in addition to producing and directing. He appeared as himself in the Documentary One Six Right, describing his joy of owning and piloting his Citation X jet aircraft.

He resumed his acting career with appearances in such films as The Player (1992) and Eyes Wide Shut (1999), often playing corrupt or morally conflicted power figures. As a character actor, Pollack appeared in films such as A Civil Action, and Changing Lanes, as well as his own, including Random Hearts and The Interpreter. He also appeared in Woody Allen's Husbands and Wives as a New York lawyer undergoing a midlife crisis, and in Robert Zemeckis' Death Becomes Her as an emergency room doctor. His last role was as Patrick Dempsey's father in the 2008 romantic comedy Made of Honor, which was playing in theaters at the time of his death. He had a recurring guest star role on the NBC sitcom Will & Grace, playing Will Truman's (Eric McCormack) unfaithful but loving father, George Truman. In 2007, Pollack made guest appearances on the HBO TV series The Sopranos and Entourage in addition to earlier appearances on NBC's Just Shoot Me and Mad About You.

Pollack received the first annual Extraordinary Contribution to Filmmaking award from the Austin Film Festival on October 21, 2006. As a producer he helped to guide many films that were successful with both critics and movie audiences, such as The Fabulous Baker Boys, The Talented Mr. Ripley, and Michael Clayton, a film in which he also starred in opposite George Clooney, and for which he received his sixth Academy Award nomination, in the Best Picture category. He formed a production company called Mirage Enterprises with the English director Anthony Minghella. The last film they produced together, The Reader, earned them both posthumous Oscar nominations for Best Picture.

Influences

In the 2002 Sight and Sound Directors' Poll, Pollack revealed his top-ten films: Casablanca, Citizen Kane, The Conformist, The Godfather Part II, Grand Illusion, The Leopard, Once Upon a Time in America, Raging Bull, The Seventh Seal, and Sunset Boulevard.

Personal life and death

Pollack was married to Claire Griswold, a former student of his, from 1958 until his death. They had three children: Rachel, Rebecca, and Steven Pollack. Steven Pollack died in a plane crash in 1993. Sydney's brother Bernie Pollack is a costume designer, producer, and actor.

Concerns about Pollack's health had surfaced in 2007 when suddenly he stepped out of directing HBO's television film Recount. The film aired on May 25, 2008. Pollack died the next day of stomach cancer at his home in Pacific Palisades, Los Angeles, California, surrounded by family. His body was cremated, and his ashes were scattered along the runway at the Van Nuys Airport in Van Nuys, California.

Filmography

Directing and producing

Year

Film

Role(s)

Academy Award Wins

Academy Award Nominations

1965

The Slender Thread

Director

2

1966

This Property Is Condemned

Director

1968

The Scalphunters

Director

The Swimmer

Director

1969

Castle Keep

Director

They Shoot Horses, Don't They?

Director

1

9

1972

Jeremiah Johnson

Director

1973

The Way We Were

Director

2

6

1975

Three Days of the Condor

Director

1

The Yakuza

Director, Producer

1977

Bobby Deerfield

Director, Producer

1979

The Electric Horseman

Director

1

1981

Absence of Malice

Director

3

1982

Tootsie

Director, Producer

1

10

1985

Out of Africa

Director, Producer

7

11

Sanford Meisner: The American Theatre's Best Kept Secret

Executive Producer

1988

Bright Lights, Big City

Producer

1989

The Fabulous Baker Boys

Executive Producer

4

1990

Havana

Director

1

Presumed Innocent

Producer

1993

The Firm

Director, Producer

2

Searching for Bobby Fischer

Executive Producer

1

1995

Sabrina

Director, Producer

2

Sense and Sensibility

Executive Producer

1

7

1998

Sliding Doors

Producer

1999

Random Hearts

Director

The Talented Mr. Ripley

Executive Producer

5

2001

Iris

Executive Producer

1

3

2002

The Quiet American

Executive Producer

1

2003

Cold Mountain

Producer

1

7

2005

Sketches of Frank Gehry

Director, Executive Producer

The Interpreter

Director

2006

Breaking and Entering

Producer

2007

Michael Clayton

Producer

1

7

2008

Recount

Executive Producer

NA

NA

The Reader

Producer

1

5

2009

Margaret

Producer

-

-

TBA

The Amulet of Samarkand

Producer

Appearances in film and television

  • Twilight Zone (1960) actor
  • War Hunt (1962) actor
  • Tootsie (1982) as George Fields
  • Husbands and Wives (1992) as Jack
  • The Player (1992) as Dick Mellon
  • Death Becomes Her (1992) actor (uncredited)
  • Frasier (1994) Senator Holden Thorpe
  • A Civil Action (1998) as Al Eustis
  • Mad About You (1998) as Dr. Sydney Warren
  • Eyes Wide Shut (1999) as Victor Ziegler
  • Random Hearts (1999) as Carl Broman
  • Will & Grace (2000) actor as George Truman
  • King of the Hill (2000) as Grant Trimble
  • Changing Lanes (2002) as Stephen Delano
  • One Six Right (2005) as himself
  • Sketches of Frank Gehry (2005) as himself
  • The Interpreter (2005) as Jay Pettigrew
  • Orchestra Seats (titled Avenue Montaigne in U.S.) (2006) as Brian Sobinski
  • The Sopranos (2007) actor
  • Entourage (2007) as himself
  • Michael Clayton (2007) as Marty Bach
  • Made of Honor (2008) as Thomas Bailey, Sr.

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