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Sydney Pollack

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Title: Sydney Pollack  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: Academy Award for Best Picture, 1999 in film, BAFTA Award for Best Film, Out of Africa (film), The Electric Horseman
Collection: 1934 Births, 2008 Deaths, 20Th-Century American Male Actors, 21St-Century American Male Actors, Actors from South Bend, Indiana, Actors Studio Members, American Aviators, American Film Directors, American Male Film Actors, American Male Television Actors, American People of Ukrainian-Jewish Descent, American Television Directors, Best Director Academy Award Winners, Cancer Deaths in California, Deaths from Cancer of Unknown Primary Origin, Deaths from Stomach Cancer, English-Language Film Directors, Film Directors from California, Film Directors from Indiana, Film Directors from New York City, Jewish American Male Actors, Jewish American Writers, Male Actors from Indiana, Male Actors from Los Angeles, California, Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre Alumni, People from Lafayette, Indiana, People from South Bend, Indiana, Primetime Emmy Award Winners, Stella Adler Studio of Acting Alumni, Writers from South Bend, Indiana
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Sydney Pollack

Sydney Pollack
Pollack in 2006
Born Sydney Irwin Pollack
(1934-07-01)July 1, 1934
Lafayette, Indiana, U.S.
Died May 26, 2008(2008-05-26) (aged 73)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Cause of death cancer of unknown primary origin
Occupation Actor, producer, director
Years active 1950–2008
Spouse(s) Claire Bradley Griswold (m. 1958–2008)
Children 3

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. 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? (1969) and Tootsie (1982), in the latter of which he also appeared. Some of his other best known works include Jeremiah Johnson (1972), The Way We Were (1973), Three Days of the Condor (1975) and Absence of Malice (1981). His subsequent films included Havana (1990), The Firm (1993), Sabrina (1995), The Interpreter (2005), and as producer for and actor in Michael Clayton (2007).


  • Early life 1
  • Career 2
    • Influences 2.1
  • Personal life and death 3
  • Filmography 4
    • Directing and producing 4.1
    • Acting 4.2
  • References 5
  • External links 6

Early life

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 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 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

Pollack was married to Claire Bradley Griswold, a former student of his, from 1958 until his death. His wife died on March 28, 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 cancer of unknown primary origin, at his home in Los Angeles, 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.


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
Castle Keep Director
1969 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, actor 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, actor 1 7
2008 Recount Executive producer NA NA
Leatherheads Executive producer
The Reader Producer 1 5
2011 Margaret Producer - -


Year Film Role Notes
1956 The Kaiser Aluminum Hour Shuber Episode: "The Army Game"
1959 Playhouse 90 Andres Episodes: "For Whom the Bell Tolls: Part 1" and "For Whom the Bell Tolls: Part 2"
The United States Steel Hour Benson Episode: "The Case of Julia Walton"
Armstrong Circle Theatre Albert Rousseau Episode: "35 Rue Du Marche"
Startime Harry Episode: "Something Special"
1959–1964 Brenner Detective Al Dunn Episodes:
"Family Man"
"Good Friend"
"Point of Law"
1960 Alfred Hitchcock Presents Bernie Samuelson Episode: "The Contest for Aaron Gold"
Twilight Zone Arthur Willis Episode: "The Trouble With Templeton"
1961 Have Gun – Will Travel Joe Culp Episodes: "Quiet Night in Town: Part 1" and "Quiet Night in Town: Part 2"
The Deputy Chuck Johnson Episode: "Spoken in Silence"
The Asphalt Jungle Louie Episode: "The Professor"
1961, 1962 The New Breed Austin Rogers/Bert Masters Episodes: "The Compulsion to Confess" and "Walk This Street Lightly"
1962 Ben Casey Episode: "Monument to an Aged Hunter"
War Hunt Sgt. Owen Van Horn
1975 Three Days of the Condor Taxi Driver
1979 The Electric Horseman Man who makes pass at Alice uncredited
1982 Tootsie George Fields
1992 The Player Dick Mellon
Death Becomes Her ER Doctor uncredited
Husbands and Wives Jack
1994 Frasier Holden Thorpe Episode: "The Candidate"
1998 Mad About You Dr. Sydney Warren Episode: "Cheating on Sheila"
A Civil Action Al Eustis
1999 Eyes Wide Shut Victor Ziegler
Random Hearts Carl Broman
2000 Just Shoot Me! Sydney Pollack Episode: "A&E Biography: Nina Van Horn"
King of the Hill Grant Trimble Voice
Episode: "Transnational Amusements Presents: Peggy's Magic Sex Feet"
2000–2006 Will & Grace George Truman Episodes:
"Oh Dad, Poor Dad, He's Kept Me in the Closet and I'm So Sad"
"Cheatin' Trouble Blues"
"Blanket Apology"
2001 The Majestic Studio Executive Voice
2002 Changing Lanes Stephen Delano
2003 Charlie: The Life and Art of Charles Chaplin Narrator Voice
2005 The Interpreter Jay Pettigrew
2005 One Six Right: The Romance of Flying Himself Documentary: Van Nuys Airport. Sydney discussing his love of flying and his Citation 10 private jet.
2006 Fauteuils d'orchestre Brian Sobinski
American Masters Narrator Episode: "John Ford/John Wayne: The Filmmaker and the Legend"
2007 The Sopranos Warren Feldman Episode: "Stage 5"
Michael Clayton Marty Bach
2008 Made of Honor Thomas 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".  
  3. ^ a b Macnab, Geoffrey (2008-05-28). "Sydney Pollack, film director revered by stars, dies aged 73". London:  
  4. ^ a b "Obituary: Sydney Pollack". London:  
  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.  
  6. ^ Sight and Sound Top Ten Poll 2002: "How the directors and critics voted: Sydney Pollack". - British Film Institute
  7. ^ a b  
  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".  
  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. 

External links

  • Sydney Pollack at the Internet Movie Database
  • Sydney Pollack discography at Discogs
  • Detailed biography of Sydney Pollack
  • An appreciation, Charlie Rose, May 28, 2008
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