Sydney Pollack was remembered yesterday as a generous, unpretentious talent by the elite actors he directed in films such as Out of Africa, Tootsie and Absence of Malice. Pollack, diagnosed with cancer nine months ago, died Monday at his home in Los Angeles.
Unlike many other top directors of his era, Pollack was also a film and television actor himself, and he used this unique position to forge a relationship with Hollywood’s elite stars and create some of the most successful films of the 1970s and ‘80s.
“I sort of straddle the line ... between personal movies and mainstream Hollywood,”' he told The Associated Press in 1993.
As director and producer, he won Academy Awards for the 1986 romantic epic Out of Africa, starring Robert Redford and Meryl Streep, which captured seven Oscars in all.
Last fall, Pollack played law firm boss Marty Bach opposite George Clooney in Michael Clayton, which he also co-produced. It received seven Oscar nominations.
“Sydney made the world a little better, movies a little better and even dinner a little better. A tip of the hat to a class act,” Clooney said in a statement. “He'll be missed terribly.”
Other A-listers Pollack directed included Tom Cruise in The Firm, and Redford in seven films.
“I first met him while he was in the midst of editing Tootsie,” Cruise said in a statement.
“Throughout the years, unpretentious and never condescending, he shared with me what he loved about family, storytelling, food, flying and a great bottle of vino,” Cruise said. “He was a renaissance man and a great friend. I will miss him dearly.”
On television, Pollack had an occasional recurring role on the sitcom Will & Grace, and appeared in the The Sopranos, Frasier and Mad About You.
His last screen appearance was in Made of Honor, a romantic comedy currently in theatres, where he played the oft-married father of star Patrick Dempsey’s character.
Pollack also produced many independent films with the late Anthony Minghella and the production company Mirage Enterprises.
His producing credits include The Talented Mr. Ripley, Cold Mountain, Sketches of Frank Gehry, a documentary that was also the final film he directed; and the new HBO film Recount, about the 2000 presidential election.