RIP: Sydney Pollack, 1934-2008

As NowPublic has reported here and here, acclaimed actor and director Sydney Pollack has died of cancer at the age of 73. 

Accolades and remembrances are beginning to pour in. Here is a sample of recent posts from around the web. May he rest in peace.

Sydney Pollack, the director and producer who won a pair of Oscars for Out of Africa, died Monday at his home, of cancer. One of Hollywood’s premier directors of the eighties — in addition to Africa, he helmed Tootsie and Absence of Malicein the first half of the decade — Pollack’s impact on film for the pasttwenty years has been as a sometime actor (playing benevolent or, inthe case of Michael Clayton, malevolent grandfatherlyfigures) and as a prolific producer with excellent taste. Often inconjunction with Scott Rudin or Anthony Minghella, Pollack helpeddevelop dozens of terrific, intelligent movies, shepherding films asdiverse as The Talented Mister Ripley, Sense and Sensibility, Iris, Searching for Bobby Fischer, and Michael Clayton to theaters.

Pollack had been ill for some time, and indeed just Sunday Recount,a film he was originally slated to direct, premiered on HBO; Pollackwas listed as an executive producer on the acclaimed project but had tobow out of directing the movie, replaced by Jay Roach.

SydneyPollack made movies for grownups. He didn’t make movies aboutteenager-stalking slashers or CGI monsters or men in tights (well,except for Tootsie). The director, who died yesterday at 73,seems like the last of a breed, a filmmaker who specialized inold-fashioned, star-driven, sweeping romances and epics of the kindthat used to win Oscars but that Hollywood has all but forgotten how tomake. (About the only other director of recent years who still madesuch anachronistic spectacles was Pollack’s producing partner, Anthony Minghella, who died just two months ago.) It’s hard to imagine anyone trying nowadays to make a romance with the sprawl and scope of The Way We Were or Out of Africa,movies with artistic ambition, star-powered glamour, and faith thatthere are enough adult ticketbuyers to make them hits without pandering.

Pollack will be remembered mostly as a director of such glossy,Academy-approved fare (and for helping to make Robert Redford anenduring star by casting him in seven movies), but he dreaded directing,and I wonder if he wouldn’t rather have been remembered as a producer.After all, he directed only about 20 movies over his 43 years makingfeatures, but he produced more than twice as many, including such gemsas The Fabulous Baker Boys, Sense and Sensibility, The Talented Mr. Ripley, and Iris

n 1970, “They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?” about Depression-era marathon dancers, received nine Oscar nominations, including one for Pollack’s direction. He was nominated again for best director for 1982’s “Tootsie,” starring Dustin Hoffman as a cross-dressing actor and Pollack as the exasperated agent who tells him, “I begged you to get some therapy.”

Pollack is survived by his wife, Claire; two daughters, Rebecca and Rachel; his brother Bernie; and six grandchildren.

From Salon:[q
url=http://www.salon.com/ent/movies/feature/2008/05/27/pollack/index.html]It’s
true that good actors are often good regardless of the direction (or
lack thereof) they get from a filmmaker. But you can usually tell when
a director is driven by the impulse to bring out the best in everyone.
Pollack had a way of orchestrating the performances in a movie as if he
were a conductor placing each instrument to greatest advantage in a
piece of music. He could often bring an actor’s best qualities to the
fore, and make his or her worst ones register as little more than
background noise. Not all directors are good actors themselves, nor do
they need to be. But Pollack had a way of turning his own intuitiveness
as an actor into generosity toward others, the sort of alchemy that
should never be taken for granted when you’re talking about an industry
filled with fat egos.

I didn’t love every movie Sydney Pollack made, but I can’t
remember a single time I didn’t feel a rush of joy at seeing him show
up in a picture.[/q]

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