Academy Award-winning director Sydney Pollack, a Hollywood mainstay who achieved commercial success and critical acclaim with the gender-bending comedy Tootsie and the period drama Out of Africa while often dabbling as a TV and movie actor, has died. He was 73.
Pollack died of cancer on Monday afternoon at his home in Pacific Palisades in Los Angeles, surrounded by family, publicist Leslee Dart said. Pollack had been diagnosed with cancer about nine months ago, Dart said.
Pollack, who occasionally appeared on the big screen himself, worked with and gained the respect of Hollywood’s best actors, including Robert Redford, Dustin Hoffman and Meryl Streep, in a long career that reached prominence in the 1970s and 1980s.
“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,” George Clooney said in a statement from his publicist.
“He’ll be missed terribly,” Clooney said.
Last fall, he played law firm boss Marty Bach opposite Clooney in Michael Clayton, a drama that examines the life of a lawyer who fixes sordid problems. The film, which Pollack co-produced, received seven Oscar nominations, including for best picture and a best actor nod for Clooney. Tilda Swinton won the Oscar for supporting actress.
Pollack was no stranger to the Academy Awards. In 1986, Out of Africa a romantic epic of a woman’s passion set against the landscape of colonial Kenya, captured seven Oscars, including best director and best picture.
In accepting his Oscar, Pollack commended Streep, who was nominated for best actress but did not win.
“I could not have made this movie without Meryl Streep,” Pollack said. “She is astounding — personally, professionally, all ways.”
Over the years, several of his other films, including Tootsie and They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? received several nominations, including best director nods.
The list of actors he directed reads like a who’s who of Hollywood A-listers: Sally Field and Paul Newman in Absence of Malice, Nicole Kidman and Sean Penn in The Interpreter, Robert Mitchum in The Yakuza, Tom Cruise in The Firm, Robert Redford in Three Days of the Condor and Redford and Barbra Streisand in The Way We Were and other big-name actors in other films.
“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 more 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.
His last screen appearance was in Made of Honor, a romantic comedy currently in theaters, where he played the oft-married father of star Patrick Dempsey’s character.
Pollack had an occasional recurring role on the NBC comedy series Will & Grace playing Will’s (Eric McCormack) father and also appeared in the The Sopranos, Frasier and Mad About You.