Born In: Lafayette, Indiana
Career: Actor, Film Director and Producer
Died: 26 May 2008
Sydney Pollack was a multitalented personality who is recognized as an Academy Award-winning American film director, producer and actor. He directed over 21 brilliant films and 10 television shows. Besides, he acted in more than 30 films and shows, and produced over 44 movies. A number of his well-known works are Jeremiah Johnson (1972), The Way We Were (1973), Three Days of the Condor (1975), and Absence of Malice (1981).
Pollack won the Academy Award for directing and producing the film, Out of Africa (1985). Some of his superb films like They Shoot Horses, Don't They? and Tootsie also brought him in the nominations for the Best Director in Oscars. Late in his career, he gave fabulous movies such as Havana (1990), The Firm (1993), Sabrina (1995) and The Interpreter (2005) to the audiences.
Sydney Irwin Pollack was born on 1 July 1934 in Lafayette, Indiana to Rebecca (née Miller) and David Pollack, who were Jewish immigrants from Russia. His father was a semi-professional boxer and pharmacist. Soon after Sydney’s birth, the family relocated to South Bend and the parents were divorced when he was young. When Pollack was a student, his mother who was an alcoholic died at the mere age of 37.
Notwithstanding the former plans to attend college and then medical school, Pollack left Indiana for New York City shortly after completing high school, at the of age 17. From 1952 to 1954, he studied acting with Sanford Meisner at the Neighborhood Playhouse, while working on a loading truck between terms. He came back to the Playhouse at Meisner’s summons to become his assistant, after two years’ army service until 1958.
In 1960, John Frankenheimer, who was friends with Pollack, called him to come to Los Angeles so as to work as a dialogue coach for the child actors for the film, The Young Savages. During this time, Pollack met Burt Lancaster, who actually encouraged the juvenile actor to undertake directing. In the 1960s, Pollack got opening success in television by directing episodes of series like The Fugitive and Alfred Hitchcock Presents.
In due course, he made his directorial debut attempt at The Slender Thread (1965), featuring Sidney Poitier and Anne Bancroft. His films, over time, received about 48 Academy Award nominations, and won 11 Oscars. He was nominated first for Oscars for his film They Shoot Horses, Don't They? (1969). Again in 1982, he was nominated for Tootsie (1982). For his film Out of Africa (1985), featuring Meryl Streep and Redford, Pollack won Academy Awards for brilliant direction and production.
While directing Tootsie, Pollack’s strings with Dustin Hoffman became famous. Over time, Hoffman convinced Pollack to play the role of his agent in the movie. He unwillingly agreed in spite of not acting in the last 20 years. Their off-screen relationship brought authenticity to the on-screen scenes, most of which present them in dispute. Consequently Pollack took on more acting roles, besides producing and directing.
In the documentary One Six Right, Pollack appeared as himself and described his delight of owning and piloting his Citation X jet aircraft. He again started his acting career with appearances in films like Husbands and Wives (1992), The Player (1992) and Eyes Wide Shut (1999). Pollack played leading role in the following films: A Civil Action, Changing Lanes, Random Hearts and The Interpreter. He acted as a lawyer from New York, undergoing a midlife crisis, in Woody Allen’s Husbands and Wives.
He, lastly, played the role of Patrick Dempsey’s father in Made of Honor that was in theaters at the time of his demise. In 2007, Pollack made guest appearances on the HBO TV series - The Sopranos and Entourage; he also appeared on NBC's Just Shoot Me. On 21 October 2006, Pollack got the first annual Extraordinary Contribution to Filmmaking award at the Austin Film Festival. In 2007, He also established a production company, Mirage Enterprises, with Anthony Minghella.
Personal Life and Death
In 1958, Pollack got married to Claire Griswold, his former student. Together, they had three children: Rachel, Rebecca, and Steven Pollack. It was in the year 2007; Pollack’s deteriorated health was surfaced when he, suddenly, moved out of directing HBO's television film Recount. On 25 May 2008, the film was aired and the prodigy died the very next day i.e. on 26 May 2008 of cancer at his home in Pacific Palisades, Los Angeles, California.