Oscar-winning director Sydney Pollack, a Hollywood mainstay who achieved commercial success and critical acclaim with 'Tootsie' and period drama 'Out Of Africa', has died of cancer at 73, his agent said today.
Leslee Dart said Pollack died at his home in Pacific Palisades, Los Angeles, surrounded by his family. He had been diagnosed with cancer about nine months ago.
Pollack’s biggest success was the 1985 film 'Out Of Africa', a romantic epic of a woman’s passion set against the landscape of colonial Kenya, starring Robert Redford and Meryl Streep. It won seven Oscars, including best director and best picture.
His other notable films included the comedy 'Tootsie' starring Dustin Hoffman and the romantic film 'The Way We Were', which paired Redford with Barbra Streisand.
Pollack, who occasionally appeared on the screen himself, worked with and gained the respect of Hollywood’s best actors in a long career that reached prominence in the 1970s and 80s.
His last screen appearance was in 'Made Of Honour', a romantic comedy currently in cinemas, where he played the oft-married father of star Patrick Dempsey’s character.
Last year, he played Marty Bach opposite George Clooney in 'Michael Clayton', which Pollack also co-produced. The film received seven Oscar nominations, including best picture and a best actor nod for Clooney. It won the Oscar for best supporting actress – Tilda Swinton.
“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 today. “He’ll be missed terribly.”
In recent years, Pollack produced many independent films with film-maker Anthony Minghella and a production company Mirage Enterprises.
Lafayette, Indiana-born Pollack was the son of first-generation Russian-Americans.
In high school, he fell in love with theatre, a passion that prompted him to forego college and move to New York and enrol in the Neighbourhood Playhouse School of the Theatre.
“We started together in New York and he always excelled at everything he set out to do, his friendships and his humanity as much as his talents,” actor Martin Landau, a close friend of Pollack’s, said.
Pollack's movies frequently had some of Hollywood's top actors, such as 'Absence Of Malice', with Sally Field and Paul Newman, 'The Yakuza', with Robert Mitchum, 'Three Days Of The Condor', with Redford, and 'The Firm', with Tom Cruise.
“Having the opportunity to know Sydney and work with him was a great gift in my life,” Field said in a statement. “He was a good friend and a phenomenal director and I will cherish every moment that I ever spent with him.”
In later years, he devoted increasing time to acting, appearing in Woody Allen’s 'Husbands And Wives', Robert Altman’s 'The Player', Robert Zemeckis’ 'Death Becomes Her', and Stanley Kubrick’s 'Eyes Wide Shut'. He also had a recurring role in the TV comedy 'Will & Grace'.
Pollack’s recent producing credits include 'The Talented Mr Ripley' and 'Cold Mountain'.