Sydney Pollack

Celebrity

Biography

  • Birth Name: Sydney Irwin Pollack
  • Birth Place: Lafayette, IN
  • Date of Birth / Zodiac Sign: 07/01/1934, Cancer
  • Date of Death: 05/26/2008
  • Profession: Director; actor; producer
User Rating: (12 ratings)
Add Your Rating: 1 stars2 stars3 stars4 stars5 stars
One of the first generation of feature filmmakers who learned their craft directing for television – a generation that included William Friedkin, Robert Altman, Sidney Lumet and John Frankenheimer  – writer-producer-director Sydney Pollack forged a wide-ranging career that leaned heavily towards grown up, character-driven dramas while tossing in the occasional comedy curveballs, like the gender-bending hit Tootsie (1982). Pollack's work earned him two Oscars – both for Out of Africa (1985) – and nominations for five more, including a nod for his role in producing The Reader (2008), one of his last films. Born in Lafayette, Indiana, in 1934 and raised in South Bend, Pollack's father was a pharmacist who once boxed professionally; his mother was a homemaker who died when he was a teenager.  Pollack fell in love with drama at South Bend High School and, despite his father's disapproval, opted to forgo college in favor of moving to New York City and trying to become a professional actor. He studied under the renowned Sandford Meisner at the Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theater and quickly earned roles in such Broadway productions as A Stone for Danny Fisher, with Zero Mostel, and The Dark Is Light Enough, starring legendary stage actress Katharine Cornell. He also made more than a dozen episodic television appearances, notably in the two-part Playhouse 90 production of For Whom the Bell Tolls (1959); the stellar cast included Maureen Stapleton, Eli Wallach, Jason Robards, Maria Schell, Nehemiah Persoff and legendary acting teacher Herbert Berghof, under the direction of Frankenheimer, who was only four years Pollack's senior. By the early 1960s, Pollack's agent -- powerhouse Lew Wasserman -- also secured some directing gigs for his young client Encouraged by Hollywood legend Burt Lancaster, whom he met through Frankenheimer, Pollack redirected his ambition behind the camera and didn't act again until 1982, with the exception of a brief, unbilled bit in his own The Electric Horseman (1979). But Pollack's return to acting was showstopper: He played Dustin Hoffman's exasperated agent in Tootsie, and if he didn't quite steal the show from his temperamental star – the two feuded throughout production -- he gave him a run for his money – this despite the fact that he was uncredited. Until his death, Pollack alternated between acting and directing, sometimes doing both, and left his mark on a generation television viewers playing the recurring role of Will's philandering father on Will & Grace. His last film roles were as George Clooney's boss and Patrick Dempsey's father in, respectively, Michael Clayton (2007) and Made of Honor (2008). Pollack was know for his skill at directing actors, which he attributed to his own experience as a performer. Over the course of a directing career that spanned five decades, Pollack directed 20 films, including critical and box office successes like They Shoot Horses, Don't They? (1969), The Way We Were (1973), Jeremiah Johnson (1972), Three Days of the Condor (1975) and The Firm (1993). Interspersed among the hits were some spectacular misses: The Harrison Ford-Julia Ormond remake of Sabrina (1995); Bobby Deerfield (1977), with Al Pacino; and the notorious Havana (1990), with Raul Julia, Lena Olin and PoSydney Pollack Fast Facts:
  • Studied acting from 1953-54 at New York City's Neighborhood Playhouse with legendary teacher Sanford Meisner; Pollack subsequently taught there from 1954-59.
  • Once studied dance with Martha Graham.
  • Directed more than 80 TV shows, including episodes of Ben Casey, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Fugitive and The Defenders.
  • In addition to directing the classic 1982 comedy Tootsie, he played the role of Dustin Hoffman's agent at the urging of the star.
  • His 2005 political thriller The Interpreter was the first motion picture ever allowed to film inside the United Nations building.
  • Sydney Pollack Relationships:
  • Sharon Pollack Griffith - Sister
  • Claire Griswold - Wife
  • Rachel Pollack Sorman - Daughter
  • Bernie Pollack - Brother
  • David Pollack - Father
  • Rebecca Miller Pollack - Mother
  • Steven Pollack - Son
  • Rebecca Pollack-Parker - Daughter
  • Sydney Pollack Awards:
  • 2008 Emmy: Outstanding Made for Television Movie - Winner
  • 1983 BAFTA Film Awards: Best Direction - Nominee
  • 1987 César Awards: Best Foreign Film - Nominee
  • 2008 Oscar: Best Motion Picture of the Year - Nominee
  • 1983 Golden Globe: Best Director - Motion Picture - Nominee
  • 1963 Emmy: Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Drama - Nominee
  • 2008 Emmy: Outstanding Variety, Music or Comedy Special - Nominee
  • 1986 Berlin Film Festival: Berlinale Camera - Winner
  • 2007 Oscar: Best Motion Picture of the Year - Nominee
  • 1964 Emmy: Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Drama - Nominee
  • 1986 Golden Globe: Best Director - Motion Picture - Nominee
  • 1966 Emmy: Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Drama - Winner
  • 2003 BAFTA Film Awards: Best Film - Nominee
  • 2008 BAFTA Film Awards: Best Film - Nominee
  • 1984 César Awards: Best Foreign Film - Nominee
  • 1983 BAFTA Film Awards: Best Film - Nominee
  • 1970 Golden Globe: Best Director - Motion Picture - Nominee
  • 1985 Oscar: Best Achievement in Directing - Winner
  • 1969 Oscar: Best Achievement in Directing - Nominee
  • 1985 Oscar: Best Motion Picture of the Year - Winner
  • 1982 Oscar: Best Motion Picture of the Year - Nominee
  • 1982 Oscar: Best Achievement in Directing - Nominee
  • 2003 BAFTA Film Awards: The Alexander Korda Award for the Outstanding British Film of the Year - Nominee
  • 1998 BAFTA Film Awards: The Alexander Korda Award for the Outstanding British Film of the Year - Nominee

Shop

Charlie Rose with Frank Gehry, Sydney Pollack, Will Shortz (July 3, 2006)
Buy Charlie Rose with Frank Gehry, Sydney Pollack, Will Shortz (July 3, 2006) from Amazon.com
From Charlie Rose (DVD)
Usually ships in 24 hours
Buy New: $17.10
Sydney Pollack: A Critical Filmography
Buy Sydney Pollack: A Critical Filmography from Amazon.com
From McFarland (Paperback)
Usually ships in 24 hours
Buy New: $33.25

More Products

TV GUIDE Users' Most Popular