Sydney Irwin Pollack (July 1, 1934 May 26, 2008) was an Academy Award-winning American director, producer, and actor, known for his appearances in multiple films and television shows and directorial work from the early 1970s through the mid-2000s.
Born and raised in Indiana, Pollack moved to New York after graduating from high school and started his career in 1952 at the Neighborhood Playhouse, where he learned acting from noted playwright and actor Sanford Meisner. He later became Meisner's assistant at the Playhouse, and was eventually approached by his friend John Frankenheimer to visit Los Angeles and try his hand at directing.
From there, Pollack began directing episodes of several television shows, including Alfred Hitchcock Presents and The Fugitive. He eventually made the jump to feature films, beginning with The Slender Thread in 1965. Four years later he received his first Oscar nomination for They Shoot Horses, Don't They?, and he continued with a string of box-office successes through the '70s, including Jeremiah Johnson, The Way We Were, The Yakuza, and The Electric Horseman.
Pollack's 1982 film Tootsie (which he both directed and costarred in) received an Oscar nomination, and was famous for its on/off-screen arguments between himself and Dustin Hoffman. Pollack would receive two Academy Awards four years later for Out of Africa.
He spent most of his later career acting as an executive producer for several films throughout the 90s and 2000s, and his last major film role was playing Marty Bach in Michael Clayton (which he also produced). He also appeared in many guest roles during this time, including stints on Will & Grace, King of the Hill and The Sopranos, and hosted The Essentials on Turner Classic Movies for a couple of years.
Pollack passed away at the age of 73 on May 26, 2008, from stomach cancer.
- The Slender Thread (1965) (Pollack's directorial debut)
- This Property Is Condemned (1966)
- The Scalphunters (1968)
- The Swimmer (1968) (uncredited)note
- Castle Keep (1969)
- They Shoot Horses, Don't They? (1969)
- Jeremiah Johnson (1972)
- The Way We Were (1973)
- The Yakuza (1974) (also producer)
- Three Days of the Condor (1975)
- Bobby Deerfield (1977)
- The Electric Horseman (1979)
- Absence of Malice (1981) (also producer)
- Tootsie (1982) (also actor)
- Out of Africa (1985)
- Havana (1990)
- The Firm (1993) (also producer)
- Sabrina (1995) (also producer)
- Random Hearts (1999) (also actor)
- The Interpreter (2005) (also actor; the last film Pollack directed)
- The Fabulous Baker Boys (1989) (producer)
- Presumed Innocent (1990) (producer)
- The Player (1992) (actor)
- Husbands and Wives (1992) (actor)
- Death Becomes Her (1992) (uncredited cameo)
- A Civil Action (1998) (actor)
- Eyes Wide Shut (1999) (actor)
- Michael Clayton (2007) (producer/actor)
- Made of Honor (2008) (actor)
Tropes embodied by Pollack and his work include:
- As Himself:
- In the Just Shoot Me! episode "A&E Biography: Nina Van Horne"
- In the documentary One Six Right, discussing his love of airplanes.
- The Cameo: As a doctor in Death Becomes Her.
- Creator Cameo:
- As Michael's agent in Tootsie.
- As a man who makes a pass at Hallie in The Electric Horseman.
- In Three Days of the Condor, Pollack plays Hale's boyfriend (heard over the phone) and a cab driver who nearly hits Turner.
- The Danza: As a doctor named Sydney (though not with the same last name) on an episode of Mad About You.
- Real Life Writes the Plot: Pollack decided to play Michael's agent, George, in Tootsie at Dustin Hoffman's suggestion, as they had previously been feuding over the direction of the film and decided to incorporated that conflict into the story.
- What Could Have Been: