Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Sydney Pollack - Dies at 73

Sydney Pollack, Film Director, Dies at 73

Published: May 26, 2008

LOS ANGELES — 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 on Monday at his home in Los Angeles. He was 73.

Bryan Bedder/Getty Images

Sydney Pollack at the premiere of "Breaking And Entering" in New York City in 2007.

The cause was cancer, said a representative of the family.

Mr. Pollack’s career defined an era in which big stars (Robert Redford, Barbra Streisand, Warren Beatty) and the filmmakers who knew how to wrangle them (Barry Levinson, Mike Nichols) retooled the Hollywood system. Savvy operators, they played studio against studio, staking their fortunes on pictures that served commerce without wholly abandoning art.

Hollywood honored Mr. Pollack in return. His movies received multiple Academy Award nominations, and as a director he won an Oscar for his work on the 1985 film “Out of Africa” as well as nominations for directing “They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?” (1969) and “Tootsie” (1982).

Last fall, Warner Brothers released “Michael Clayton,” of which Mr. Pollack was a producer and a member of the cast. He delivered a trademark performance as an old-bull lawyer who demands dark deeds from a subordinate, played by George Clooney. (“This is news? This case has reeked from Day One,” snaps Mr. Pollack’s Marty Bach.) The picture received seven Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture, and a Best Actor nomination for Mr. Clooney.

Mr. Pollack became a prolific producer of independent films in the latter part of his career. With a partner, the filmmaker Anthony Minghella, he ran Mirage Enterprises, a production company whose films included Mr. Minghella’s “Cold Mountain” and the documentary “Sketches of Frank Gehry,” released last year, the last film directed by Mr. Pollack.

Apart from that film, Mr. Pollack never directed a movie without stars. His first feature, “The Slender Thread,” released by Paramount Pictures in 1965, starred Sidney Poitier and Anne Bancroft. In his next 19 films — every one a romance or drama but for the single comedy, “Tootsie” — Mr. Pollack worked with Burt Lancaster, Natalie Wood, Jane Fonda, Robert Mitchum, Al Pacino, Dustin Hoffman, Meryl Streep, Tom Cruise, Harrison Ford, Nicole Kidman, Ms. Streisand and others.

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