Sydney Irwin Pollack, American film director, Died at 73

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Dead, Sydney Irwin Pollack on May 26, 2008, at the age of 73, he was an American film director, producer and actor.

Born in Lafayette, Indiana, to a family of Jewish immigrants from Ukraine on July 1, 1934, the son of Rebecca (née Miller) and David Pollack, a semi-professional boxer and pharmacist.

The family relocated to South Bend and his parents divorced when he was young.

His 1985 film Out of Africa won him Academy Awards for directing and producing; he was also nominated for Best Director Oscars for They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? (1969) and Tootsie (1982), in the latter of which he also appeared.

Some of his other best known works include Jeremiah Johnson (1972), The Way We Were (1973), Three Days of the Condor in 1975 and Absence of Malice (1981).

Pollack studied acting with Sanford Meisner at the Neighborhood Playhouse from 1952 to 1954, working on a lumber truck between terms.

After two years’ army service until 1958, he returned to the Playhouse at Meisner’s invitation to become his assistant.

In 1960, John Frankenheimer, a friend of Pollack’s, asked him to come to Los Angeles in order to work as a dialogue coach for the child actors on Frankenheimer’s first big picture, The Young Savages.

One of a select group of non- and/or former actors awarded membership in The Actors Studio, Pollack resumed acting in the 1990s with appearances in such films as The Player (1992) and Eyes Wide Shut (1999), often playing corrupt or morally conflicted power figures.

As a character actor, Pollack appeared in films such as A Civil Action, and Changing Lanes, as well as his own, including Random Hearts and The Interpreter (the latter also being his final film as a director).

He also appeared in Woody Allen’s Husbands and Wives as a New York lawyer undergoing a midlife crisis, and in Robert Zemeckis’s Death Becomes Her as an emergency room doctor.

His last role was as Patrick Dempsey’s father in the 2008 romantic comedy Made of Honor, which was playing in theaters at the time of his death.

He was a recurring guest star on the NBC sitcom Will & Grace, playing Will Truman’s (Eric McCormack) unfaithful but loving father, George Truman.

In addition to earlier appearances on NBC’s Just Shoot Me and Mad About You, in 2007 Pollack made guest appearances on the HBO TV series The Sopranos and Entourage.

Pollack returned to the director’s chair in 2004, when he directed The Interpreter (2005), the first film ever shot on location at the United Nations Headquarters and within the General Assembly in New York City.

Pollack reached perhaps his career pinnacle with “Out of Africa.” Released by Universal, the film, based on the memoirs of Isak Dinesen, paired Ms. Streep and Mr. Redford in a period drama that reworked one of the director’s favourite themes, that of star-crossed lovers.

It captured Oscars for best picture and best director.

In his later years, Mr. Pollack appeared to relish his role as elder statesman.

At various times he was executive director of the Actors Studio West, chairman of American Cinematheque and an advocate for artists’ rights.

 

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