Sydney Pollack

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Sydney Pollack
Sydney Pollack.jpg
Sydney Pollack, 2006
BornSydney Irwin Pollack
(1934-07-01)July 1, 1934
Lafayette, Indiana, U.S.
DiedMay 26, 2008(2008-05-26) (aged 73)
Pacific Palisades, California, U.S.
Cause of death
Stomach cancer
OccupationActor, producer, director
Years active1950–2008
Spouse(s)Claire Bradley Griswold (m. 1958–2008)
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Sydney Pollack
Sydney Pollack.jpg
Sydney Pollack, 2006
BornSydney Irwin Pollack
(1934-07-01)July 1, 1934
Lafayette, Indiana, U.S.
DiedMay 26, 2008(2008-05-26) (aged 73)
Pacific Palisades, California, U.S.
Cause of death
Stomach cancer
OccupationActor, producer, director
Years active1950–2008
Spouse(s)Claire Bradley Griswold (m. 1958–2008)

Sydney Irwin Pollack (July 1, 1934 – May 26, 2008) was an American film director, producer and actor. 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, in the latter of which he also appeared. His later films included Havana (1990), The Firm (1993), Sabrina (1995), The Interpreter (2005), and as producer for and actor in Michael Clayton (2007).

Early life[edit]

Sydney Pollack was born in Lafayette, Indiana, to a family of Jewish immigrants from Ukraine,[1] the son of Rebecca (née Miller) and David Pollack, a semi-professional boxer and pharmacist.[1] 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.[2]

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.[3] Pollack studied acting with Sanford Meisner at the Neighborhood Playhouse from 1952 to 1954, working on a lumber truck between terms.[3] After two years' army service until 1958, he returned to the Playhouse at Meisner’s invitation to become his assistant.[4] 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.[4]


Pollack found initial success in television in the 1960s by directing episodes of series such as The Fugitive and Alfred Hitchcock Presents. After doing TV, he made the jump into film with a string of movies that drew public attention. His film-directing debut was 1965's The Slender Thread, starring Sidney Poitier and Anne Bancroft.[2] 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?, and his second 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 Pollack's films.

His disputes with Hoffman during the filming of Tootsie 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 in owning and piloting his Citation X jet aircraft.

One of a select group of non- and/or former actors awarded membership in The Actors Studio,[5] Pollack resumed acting in the 1990s 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 (the latter also being his final film as a director). He also appeared in Woody Allen's Husbands and Wives as a New York lawyer undergoing a midlife crisis, and in Robert Zemeckis's 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 was a recurring guest star on the NBC sitcom Will & Grace, playing Will Truman's (Eric McCormack) unfaithful but loving father, George Truman. In addition to earlier appearances on NBC's Just Shoot Me and Mad About You, in 2007 Pollack made guest appearances on the HBO TV series The Sopranos and Entourage.

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 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.


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.[6]

Personal life and death[edit]

Pollack was married to Claire Bradley Griswold, a former student of his, from 1958 until his death. His wife died on 28 March 2011, at 74 years of age, due to Parkinson's Disease. They had three children: Steven, Rachel, and Rebecca Pollack. In 1993, Steven died at 34 in the crash of a small, single-engine plane which clipped a power line and burst into flames.[7][8] Pollack's brother Bernie Pollack is a costume designer, producer, and actor.

Concerns about Pollack's health surfaced in 2007 when he withdrew from directing HBO's television film Recount.[9] The film aired on May 25, 2008. Pollack died the next day of stomach cancer, at his home in Pacific Palisades, surrounded by family.[7][10] His body was cremated, and his ashes were scattered along the runway at the Van Nuys Airport in Los Angeles.[citation needed]


Directing and producing[edit]

YearFilmRole(s)Academy Award WinsAcademy Award Nominations
1965The Slender ThreadDirector2
1966This Property Is CondemnedDirector
1968The ScalphuntersDirector
Castle KeepDirector
1969They Shoot Horses, Don't They?Director18
1972Jeremiah JohnsonDirector
1973The Way We WereDirector26
1975Three Days of the CondorDirector1
The YakuzaDirector, Producer
1977Bobby DeerfieldDirector, Producer
1979The Electric HorsemanDirector1
1981Absence of MaliceDirector3
1982TootsieDirector, Producer, Actor110
1985Out of AfricaDirector, Producer711
Sanford Meisner: The American Theatre's Best Kept SecretExecutive producer
1988Bright Lights, Big CityProducer
1989The Fabulous Baker BoysExecutive Producer4
Presumed InnocentProducer
1993The FirmDirector, Producer2
Searching for Bobby FischerExecutive Producer1
1995SabrinaDirector, Producer2
Sense and SensibilityExecutive producer17
1998Sliding DoorsProducer
1999Random HeartsDirector
The Talented Mr. RipleyExecutive producer5
2001IrisExecutive Producer13
2002The Quiet AmericanExecutive producer1
2003Cold MountainProducer17
2005Sketches of Frank GehryDirector, Executive producer
The InterpreterDirector
2006Breaking and EnteringProducer
2007Michael ClaytonProducer, Actor17
2008RecountExecutive producerNANA
LeatherheadsExecutive Producer
The ReaderProducer15


1956The Kaiser Aluminum HourShuberEpisode: "The Army Game"
1959Playhouse 90AndresEpisodes: "For Whom the Bell Tolls: Part 1" and " For Whom the Bell Tolls: Part 2"
The United States Steel HourBensonEpisode: "The Case of Julia Walton"
Armstrong Circle TheatreAlbert RousseauEpisode: "35 Rue Du Marche"
StartimeHarryEpisode: "Something Special"
1959–1964BrennerDetective Al DunnEpisodes:
"Family Man"
"Good Friend"
"Point of Law"
1960Alfred Hitchcock PresentsBernie SamuelsonEpisode: "The Contest for Aaron Gold"
Twilight ZoneArthur WillisEpisode: "The Trouble With Templeton"
1961Have Gun – Will TravelJoe CulpEpisodes: "Quiet Night in Town: Part 1" and "Quiet Night in Town: Part 2"
The DeputyChuck JohnsonEpisode: "Spoken in Silence"
The Asphalt JungleLouieEpisode: "The Professor"
1961, 1962The New BreedAustin Rogers/Bert MastersEpisodes: "The Compulsion to Confess" and "Walk This Street Lightly"
1962Ben CaseyEpisode: "Monument to an Aged Hunter"
War HuntSgt. Owen Van Horn
1975Three Days Of The CondorTaxi Driver
1979The Electric HorsemanMan who makes pass at Aliceuncredited
1982TootsieGeorge Fields
1992The PlayerDick Mellon
Death Becomes HerER Doctoruncredited
Husbands and WivesJack
1994FrasierHolden ThorpeEpisode: "The Candidate"
1998Mad About YouDr. Sydney WarrenEpisode: "Cheating on Sheila"
A Civil ActionAl Eustis
1999Eyes Wide ShutVictor Ziegler
Random HeartsCarl Broman
2000Just Shoot Me!Sydney PollackEpisode: "A&E Biography: Nina Van Horn"
King of the HillGrant TrimbleVoice
Episode: "Transnational Amusements Presents: Peggy's Magic Sex Feet"
2000–2006Will & GraceGeorge TrumanEpisodes:
"Oh Dad, Poor Dad, He's Kept Me in the Closet and I'm So Sad"
"Cheatin' Trouble Blues"
"Blanket Apology"
2001The MajesticStudio ExecutiveVoice
2002Changing LanesStephen Delano
2005The InterpreterJay Pettigrew
2005One Six Right: The Romance of FlyingHimselfDocumentary: Van Nuys Airport. Sydney discussing his love of flying and his Citation 10 private jet.
2006Fauteuils d'orchestreBrian Sobinski
American MastersNarratorEpisode: "John Ford/John Wayne: The Filmmaker and the Legend"
2007The SopranosWarren FeldmanEpisode: "Stage 5"
Michael ClaytonMarty Bach
2008Made of HonorThomas Bailey Sr.


  1. ^ a b MacNab, Geoffrey (2002-08-14). "The secret of my success?". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 2008-05-29. 
  2. ^ a b McLellan, Dennis (2008-05-27). "Sydney Pollack: 1934-2008, Prolific director known for A-list casts". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2008-05-29. 
  3. ^ a b Macnab, Geoffrey (2008-05-28). "Sydney Pollack, film director revered by stars, dies aged 73". London: The Independent. Retrieved 2008-05-29. 
  4. ^ a b "Obituary: Sydney Pollack". London: The Telegraph. 2008-05-28. Retrieved 2008-05-29. 
  5. ^ Garfield, David (1980). "Strasberg Takes Over: 1951-1955". A Player's Place: The Story of The Actors Studio. New York: MacMillan Publishing Co., Inc. p. 93. ISBN 0-02-542650-8. "Various directors and playwrights, including Frank Corsaro, Martin Fried, Jack Garfein, Michal V. Gazzo, Charles Gordone, Israel Horovitz, Arthur Penn, Eleanor Perry, Frank Perry, Sidney Pollack, Mark Rydell, Alan Schneider, and John Stix, have also been granted membership on the basis of their contributions to the life and work of The Actors Studio, as have certain other non-performers, such as Liska March and Carl Schaeffer." 
  6. ^ Sight and Sound Top Ten Poll 2002: "How the directors and critics voted: Sydney Pollack". - British Film Institute
  7. ^ a b Cieply, Michael (2008-05-27). "Sydney Pollack, Film Director, Is Dead at 73". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-05-26. "Sydney Pollack, a Hollywood mainstay as director, producer and sometime actor whose star-laden movies like The Way We Were, Tootsie and Out of Africa were among the most successful of the 1970s and ’80s, died Monday at home here. He was 73." 
  8. ^ "Film Maker's Son and Pilot Die in Crash of Small Plane". New York Times. November 28, 1993. Retrieved 2008-05-26. "The son of the film maker Sydney Pollack was one of two student pilots who was killed on Friday when a single-engine plane crashed into a two-story apartment building and burst into flames." 
  9. ^ Mike Clark (2008-05-26). "Remembering Sydney Pollack, an actor's director". USA Today. Retrieved 2009-02-23. 
  10. ^ "Actor and director Sydney Pollack dies at 73. He is survived by both daughters and six grandchildren.". Associated Press. 2008-05-26. Retrieved 2008-05-26. 

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