RIP Sydney Pollack
May 26, 2008 8:41 PM   Subscribe

Sydney Pollack has died of cancer, at age 73. While best known as the director of Out of Africa and Tootsie, he also made documentaries (Sketches of Frank Gehry) and was an actor with notable roles in Eyes Wide Shut, Michael Clayton, and even an appearance in The Sopranos.
posted by Bora Horza Gobuchul (64 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
He always seemed to play a certain type of character, but he was an excellent actor. His performance in Husbands and Wives is worth mentioning as well.
posted by dhammond at 8:46 PM on May 26, 2008

He wasn't just a prison orderly on the final season of Sopranos.
posted by MikeonTV at 8:49 PM on May 26, 2008

Sorry to hear that. I look forward to Recount. A great note to end on. RIP.
posted by chance at 8:49 PM on May 26, 2008

Damn. All his greatest films are sitting in my netflix queue unwatched and unknown. I shouldn't have started with "The Interpreter".
posted by Science! at 8:49 PM on May 26, 2008


Sydney Pollack interview on Charlie Rose regarding 'Sketches of Frank Gehry.'
posted by ericb at 8:50 PM on May 26, 2008

It was my understanding that he started out as an actor and only got into directing later. Can't point to a reference or any early performances though.
posted by hwestiii at 8:52 PM on May 26, 2008

Sydney Pollack [video | 46:30].
posted by ericb at 8:53 PM on May 26, 2008


I didn't realize he was sick. I really enjoyed his work.
posted by mullacc at 8:57 PM on May 26, 2008

Oh dear. One of the great ones.

posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 9:00 PM on May 26, 2008

I really loved "Three Days of the Condor" in my youth, and still enjoy it. He'll be missed. Perfect 70's paranoid thriller.
posted by hwestiii at 9:05 PM on May 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

posted by krautland at 9:05 PM on May 26, 2008

posted by fingers_of_fire at 9:07 PM on May 26, 2008

You were a tomato!!!
posted by fingers_of_fire at 9:07 PM on May 26, 2008 [2 favorites]

They Shoot Pollacks, Don't They?

In college, I had the privilege of listening to Mr. Pollack talk about directing and being a director in Hollywood, which were to him two very different things.

posted by infinitewindow at 9:13 PM on May 26, 2008

He despised hypocrisy among the powerful and he was a romantic in the truest sense. He loved being to make good, fun movies. I remember when The Firm came out that he said something along the lines of if people could go see the movie and then have a good talk about it at a diner or something, he would be satisfied. (Whenever I go for dinner AFTER the movie, I think about the quote and it's sad how rarely movies are worth talking about at dinner.....)

I'll only add that he was a good friend of Anthony Minghella (the director of the English Patient, The Talented Mr. Ripley, and Cold Mountain) who also recently died (young too) and who similarly was drawn to the theme of star crossed lovers or improbable lovers for whom circumstances (usually, politics), past their control kept them from being together. To the point about despising hypocrisy, I find it heartwarming that he only was married to one person in a Hollywood where that's almost improbable.

Btw......anyone else feel like he's one of those actors who never really AGED? Pollack looked the same in movies for almost 2-3 decades.

posted by skepticallypleased at 9:15 PM on May 26, 2008

Ah, shit goddamn. RIP, Sydney.
posted by middleclasstool at 9:17 PM on May 26, 2008

Damn. Dammit. Damn.

posted by sleepy pete at 9:18 PM on May 26, 2008

Call me ... idiosyncratic, but I thought he was completely, devastatingly sexy. Hotter than hell.

posted by ethnomethodologist at 9:19 PM on May 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

I really enjoyed his films. It's worth point out that he wasn't just a great actor and director, he was also a fantastic producer -- Cold Mountain, The Talented Mr. Ripley, Searching for Bobby Fischer, Absence of Malice (which he also directed), Tootsie, (ditto) -- it's a very complete body of work. He was a real pro.

Rest in peace, sir.
posted by mosk at 9:20 PM on May 26, 2008


Most people know him for Out of Africa and Tootsie but here are some trailers to some of the other films he made:
The Slender Thread
The Scalphunters
They Shoot Horses Don't They
Jeremiah Johnson
Three Days of the Condor
Sketches of Frank Gehry
He also did some directing on The Swimmer.
posted by Rashomon at 9:20 PM on May 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

Was happy to discover today that I've seen most of the films he directed and many of his acting performances. Just saw him in Made of Honor a few weeks ago and will be watching Recount within the next few days. What a loss.

posted by fuse theorem at 9:22 PM on May 26, 2008

posted by Sphinx at 9:24 PM on May 26, 2008

Out of Africa is the only time in my entire life that I've loved a movie just as much as I've loved a book.

Thank you, Mr Pollack.
posted by blessedlyndie at 9:25 PM on May 26, 2008

posted by BaxterG4 at 9:32 PM on May 26, 2008


His bit in Death Becomes Her had me in tears.
posted by WolfDaddy at 9:36 PM on May 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

When I hear the name Sydney Pollack, the first thing that always comes up in my swiss cheesed brain is this scene from Tootsie.

"You wanna kill somebody and bring me back the stiff? That's okay but she better look just like you cuz these people don't miss a trick."

The best scene in that whole movie.

Sydney Pollack was one of a kind. As comfortable and talented in front of the camera as behind it. Every film he touched is golden. Thank you sir for all of them. Even the ones I didn't like. Even the ones I haven't seen yet. I see your name and that's always been a mark in favor of seeing a film. And thank you for your hand in this one especially.

You were damn good at what you did, sir. When you get to the bar in heaven, look up my dad, and tell him I said to buy you a drink.

posted by ZachsMind at 9:41 PM on May 26, 2008

posted by eclectist at 9:45 PM on May 26, 2008

Shame. One of the greats.
posted by scody at 9:47 PM on May 26, 2008

Damn. Loved watching this guy, even in lousy films.

posted by The Card Cheat at 9:47 PM on May 26, 2008

Aw, hell.

posted by brundlefly at 10:18 PM on May 26, 2008

posted by pointilist at 10:36 PM on May 26, 2008

posted by MythMaker at 10:44 PM on May 26, 2008

posted by lalochezia at 10:47 PM on May 26, 2008

I loved that scene in Eyes Wide Shut where he invites Tom Cruise into his pool room and his table is piled high with the world's most expensive hooch, and Tom takes a sip of Scotch and double-takes and says, "That's good Scotch" and Pollack offers to send him a case of it.

It's just a perfect little cinematic moment, establishes the characters and the relationship perfectly. Pollack understood these kinds of scenes as well as anyone ever has.
posted by ikkyu2 at 11:41 PM on May 26, 2008

awww, no. :(

posted by stumcg at 12:12 AM on May 27, 2008


It's hackneyed to say, but he really was one of the greats.
posted by jtron at 12:25 AM on May 27, 2008

His Sopranos appearance was just on HBO a couple weeks ago. He played the part of an incarcerated doctor working as an orderly easing the last days of a terminal cancer patient mafioso.
posted by telstar at 1:29 AM on May 27, 2008

He was a very proficient director (and producer), but I haven't run across anyone who has said he was their favorite filmmaker, or in their top five, and that's the kind of topic I've discussed with many friends and acquaintances. Of course, that's someone's cue to pipe up and say that he was indeed their favorite director. Lest anyone think I'm crapping in an obit thread, as I said, he was a very able (if not prodigious) filmmaker imo. We watched some of his movies in film class, and our instructor used quite a few examples from his films to demonstrate certain cinematic techniques and themes, and whenever I run across similar motifs or techniques in a film, I think of Sydney Pollack and Three Days of the Condor (or a couple of his other films).

And I agree that he was a solid character actor, although for some reason I always found him vaguely intimidating, even when the character he played wasn't necessarily so.

RIP, teacher.
posted by Devils Slide at 2:04 AM on May 27, 2008

posted by darkripper at 4:06 AM on May 27, 2008

posted by Thorzdad at 4:16 AM on May 27, 2008

posted by pmurray63 at 5:13 AM on May 27, 2008

I was very sad when I saw this on CNN last night. Pollack was a great actor as well as director. One of my favorite movies is Changing Lanes, where Pollack plays Ben Affleck's father-in-law, the head of a questionable law firm. I recommend this movie to everyone. Pollack is mesmerizing every second he's onscreen. I just watched Changing Lanes for about the 20th time last week to show my folks.

posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 5:27 AM on May 27, 2008

posted by Smart Dalek at 5:35 AM on May 27, 2008

I had lunch with Pollack once. He was a fascinating man. I was working at a chi-chi travel company at the time and he was a regular client. I had only worked there about 3 weeks and I wandered into the kitchen and he was just sitting by himself at the bar. "Holy fuck! You're Sydney Pollack. You made two of my favorite films ever." He asked what they were and I said They Shoot Horses and Condor and he seemed pleased and a little happy that I hadn't said Tootsie or one of his later films. He was very polite and asked who I was and what I did at the company.

Later, during lunch, he talked mostly about travel, which is why he'd come there that day of course, but he also shared some stories about making films. My favorite was when he talked about making Eyes Wide Shut. He said, "I don't know why Stanley wanted me in the movie. I thought it was ridiculous, that he should get a real actor, and if it had been anyone else I would have said no, the part's not right for me. But it was Stanley... One day I showed up on set and Stanley told me I had to take my shirt off. I told him there was no way I was going to be shirtless on screen, especially standing next to Tom Cruise. I was adamant that it was going to happen and was very happy when he gave in and saw my side of it. Then I saw the film and there's footage of me with my shirt off. Acting! I don't remember doing it. I just remember saying I wouldn't. But it was Stanley..."

RIP Mr. Pollack.

posted by dobbs at 5:51 AM on May 27, 2008 [3 favorites]

Damn. Adamant it wasn't going to happen.
posted by dobbs at 6:00 AM on May 27, 2008

> I loved that scene in Eyes Wide Shut...

Yeah, his scenes were about the only parts of that film I enjoyed. And he was great in Michael Clayton; "The case reeked from day one. Fifteen years in, I've got to tell you how we pay the rent?"
posted by The Card Cheat at 6:04 AM on May 27, 2008

Very classy.

posted by waraw at 6:22 AM on May 27, 2008

posted by space2k at 6:36 AM on May 27, 2008

posted by podwarrior at 6:39 AM on May 27, 2008

posted by contessa at 7:25 AM on May 27, 2008

Damn. I just watched Michael Clayton last night too. RIP.
posted by spec80 at 7:45 AM on May 27, 2008

Man, I just watched Michael Clayton, and was happy to see he was still acting in stuff.

posted by jamuraa at 7:57 AM on May 27, 2008

One of those you don't miss till they are gone, and then you REALLY miss them.
posted by Senator at 8:08 AM on May 27, 2008

I will miss him. Incredibly brilliant guy, he made some durable, memorable films (it's hard to imagine a list of the films of the eighties without thinking of "Tootsie," whether you like the movie or not -- same can be said for "The Firm" on a list of nineties films, "The Way We Were" on a list of seventies films, and and "They Shoot Horses, Don't They?" on a list of sixties films), and dhammond's mention up above of his terrific performance in Woody Allen's "Husbands and Wives" -- I second that heartily (and there's also his small part in Kubrick's "Eyes Wide Shut," which stays with you long after the bland performances of the lead actors in it).
posted by blucevalo at 8:34 AM on May 27, 2008

posted by porn in the woods at 8:53 AM on May 27, 2008

posted by papafrita at 9:01 AM on May 27, 2008

56 comments and no mention of The Yakuza?

Extremely solid director, did some truly outstanding work -- and a masterpiece -- over the 1970s, then over the 1980s he was the monster hit comedy / Oscar guy with some pretty weak work, and after that one would rather talk of Pollack the very funny, very effective, very good actor.

But then, his 1970s work alone places him solidly in a class that's way above where 99.9% of current working Hollywood directors are and will ever be.

posted by matteo at 10:24 AM on May 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

posted by grubi at 11:07 AM on May 27, 2008

He was never a great director, but his work was always entertaining and well crafted.
posted by ljrsphb at 12:38 PM on May 27, 2008

he's just travelling ahead a bit, on safari. he'll set the fire, and we can all steer by that -- until we meet up with him at the end of the day.

posted by CitizenD at 2:07 PM on May 27, 2008

posted by wrapper at 3:18 PM on May 27, 2008

I saw Three Days of the Condor at a young age and, for reasons that still elude me, it had a profound impact on me. I still remember several scenes from it very vividly. I've seen it since and, though not his best film, it remains my favorite.

posted by slimepuppy at 3:36 PM on May 27, 2008

He was brilliant in his Death Becomes Her cameo.
posted by bauermaster at 6:26 PM on May 27, 2008

He always came across in his acting performances as real. I thought he was excellent and one of those mainstays who you imagine is just going to pop off very quietly at an advanced age after having been excellent for untold decades. He went earlier than I imagined he would. That seems to be happening a bit recently.

posted by h00py at 8:26 AM on May 28, 2008

« Older "... there is no appeal but mutual love and trust...   |   Angola, it's not like they said Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments