Register  |   Log In  |  
Sign up to our weekly newsletter    
Empire Magazine and iPad
Follow Me on Pinterest YouTube Tumblr
Trending On Empire
100 Greatest Videos Games Of All Time
Robin Williams: The Big Interview
Empire Visits The Hobbit's VFX Team
Nick Frost:
My Movie Life

The World's End star's pick of the flicks
4Music's Size Does Matter
Introducing your new favourite app
Empire Blogs
Empire States

Back to all blogs Comment Now

Sydney Pollack (1934 - 2008)

Posted on Tuesday May 27, 2008, 11:23 by David Parkinson in Empire States
Sydney Pollack (1934 - 2008)

Sydney Pollack could never be called an auteur. But he made films with a care and intelligence that made him popular with Hollywood's more conscientious stars and the discerning viewing public.

He studied to be an actor, but Burt Lancaster encouraged him to become a prolific TV director and he made his feature bow with the tense drama, The Tender Thread (1965). Following a handful of misfires, he acquired a reputation for social commitment with They Shoot Horses, Don't They? (1969), a harrowing account of a Depression dance marathon that earned Gig Young a Best Supporting Oscar.

Twelve actors were nominated under Pollack's tutelage, with Jessica Lange winning Best Supporting Actress for Tootsie (1982), in which Pollack also co-starred as the cross-dressing Dustin Hoffman's agent, and Meryl Streep earning the Best Actress prize for Out of Africa (1985), which also landed Best Picture. However, this proved to be Pollack's penultimate picture with his longest-standing collaborator, Robert Redford, with whom he made This Property Is Condemned (1966), Jeremiah Johnson (1972), The Way We Were (1973), Three Days of the Condor (1975), The Electric Horseman (1979) and Havana (1990).

Pollack was less fortunate in his outings with Al Pacino (Bobby Deerfield, 1977) and Paul Newman (Absence of Malice, 1981). But he coaxed a typically laconic performance out of Robert Mitchum in The Yakuza (1975) and put Tom Cruise's posturing to good use in the John Grisham courtroomer, The Firm (1993).

However, later outings like Sabrina (1995), Random Hearts (1999) and The Interpreter (2005) found fewer admirers and Pollack consoled himself by producing such hits as The Fabulous Baker Boys (1989), Sense and Sensibility (1995) and Cold Mountain (2003), while also taking scene-stealing roles in the like of Husbands and Wives (1992), Eyes Wide Shut (1999) and Michael Clayton (2007).

He closed his accomplished, if under-appreciated directorial career with the architecture documentary Sketches of Frank Gehry in 2005.

Login or register to comment.


1 amish_allen
Posted on Tuesday May 27, 2008, 23:54
Sad news to see someone talented in so many aspects of filmmaking die. R.I.P

2 Harry Lime
Posted on Wednesday May 28, 2008, 23:51
Another sad loss in a fairly depressing year. The Yakuza is one of the most underrated films to come out of the 1970's whilst They Shoot Horses, Don't They? and Tootsie are two fine movies. And everybody should have a little bit of love for The Firm!

One small point though. Streep took the best actress prize for Sophie's Choice. Not Out Of Africa. She was beaten to the Oscar by Geraldine Page that year. Still, pedancy aside, it's a very well made film.

3 RJNeb2
Posted on Thursday May 29, 2008, 12:49
Adding to the pedancy, this entry contains a couple of glaring inaccuracies. Pollack's 1965 film was "The Slender Thread", not The Tender Thread. And as the above poster quite rightly pointed out, Meryl Streep did not win an Oscar for "Out of Africa", although she was nominated.

"They Shoot Horses Don't They?" did win an Oscar for Gig Young. But it should also be noted that Pollack earned his first Best Director nomination for the film as well.

And I would take issue with the observation that Pollack's collaboration with Paul Newman on "Absence of Malice" was unsuccessful. It did earn Newman a Best Actor Oscar nomination.

But still, a great loss to the industry. I thought he was wonderfully sleazy in "Michael Clayton".

4 Manfrendshensindshen
Posted on Saturday May 31, 2008, 10:12
I could never really call myself a Pollack fan, though I have a place in my heart for Three Days Of The Condor and especially The Yakuza. But I heard he was an ideal producer - dedicated, but always letting others participate in the creative process.
Yet the area in which Pollack probably left the biggest impression on me is as an actor - his small parts in Eyes Wide Shut and Changing Lanes were extremely effective and showed he was one of those few who could appear intimidating through sheer (non-physical) presence.
He'll be missed.

5 YourOtherLeft
Posted on Saturday May 31, 2008, 14:58
Not normally one for the online back-patting but nice1 lads; The Yakuza is indeed, a right bloody gem of a movie. Really enjoyed his performance in Changing Lanes, a sad loss to the film world. And Harvey Korman too....crap month!

6 Frank Comiskey
Posted on Wednesday July 23, 2008, 10:41
I took my mum to Memphis/Graceland/Sun Studios for her 60th a few year's ago, and we stayed in the slightly-cheaper hotel opposite the famous Peabody place; anyway, the point is, a few years before that, Pollack was staying there while directing The Firm, and, from what I can gather, he always (figuratively) charmed the pants off all the staff.

They still have a The Firm poster signed in the lobby, and Sydney got Tom Cruise to schmooze the receptionists.

He was, by all accounts, a top bloke, and unlike THIS runaway comment, I also like that his later shooting scripts always demonstrated the precious economy and value of words....................

Log in below, or register to post comments
Remember Me:


Empire States (439)

Under The Radar (317)

Infinite Lives (92)

Small Screen (57)

Words From The Wise (35)

Cannes 2011 (28)

Off The Wire (24)

Comic-Con 2010 (21)

Casting Couch (2)

Oscars 2011 (1)


Screen To Stage: Shakespeare In Love
By Helen O'Hara

9¾ Things We Learnt At Universal Studios Florida's Diagon Alley
By Ali Plumb

Pete Docter And Jonas Rivera Talk Pixar's Inside Out
By James White

Miss Game Of Thrones Already? Here's The Solution…
By Dan Jolin

H. R. Giger: An Empire Tribute
By Ian Nathan

How Edible Cinema Finally Allows You To Eat A Movie
By Ali Plumb

Why Do People Think Captain America Is Boring?
By Helen O'Hara

Are iPads And Smartphones Changing The Face Of Filmmaking?
By Ben Kirby

Screen To Stage: Let The Right One In
By Helen O'Hara

My Encounter With Shia LaBeouf
By James White


Screen To Stage: Shakespeare In Love
"Have just re-watched this twice over the past few weeks and forgot how fantastic it was. I'm now des"  fire_and_water5025
Read comment

9¾ Things We Learnt At Universal Studios Florida's Diagon Alley
"This looks unbelievably good... wish I could afford to go!"  Roo
Read comment

Miss Game Of Thrones Already? Here's The Solution…
"Nice to know Martin enlisted another author to help in his world-building. Time to get acquainted wi"  Imperion
Read comment

9¾ Things We Learnt At Universal Studios Florida's Diagon Alley
" The original Hogwarts section and what was duelling dragons (has now"  Sexual Harassment Panda
Read comment

Miss Game Of Thrones Already? Here's The Solution…
"Actually i recomend The Foucault Pendulum for several reasons, in the first place it explores the es"  andresfelipeurb
Read comment

9¾ Things We Learnt At Universal Studios Florida's Diagon Alley
"A great sneak peek, Ali. Aside from your confusion as to where Diagon Alley/King's Cross and Hogsmea"  bruciebonus
Read comment

9¾ Things We Learnt At Universal Studios Florida's Diagon Alley
"im due to go in October this year and having been before, i can honestly say i cannot wait. I agree "  kopite
Read comment

9¾ Things We Learnt At Universal Studios Florida's Diagon Alley
"still think it's a shame that they didn't make this in England. imagine getting the Hogwarts Express"  RX78
Read comment

9¾ Things We Learnt At Universal Studios Florida's Diagon Alley
"Were you actually there Ali? If so, surely you know that Marvel Land is Islands of Adventure and not"  Y2Neildotcom
Read comment

Miss Game Of Thrones Already? Here's The Solution…
"I did the exact same thing with the books after season 1(even though I'd promissed myself to just re"  manufan
Read comment


Movies’ Most Quotable Lines

'It's Just A Bit Of Fun': Why Defensive Fans Are Bad News For Movies

Competitive Geek Baiting: Or, How To Start A Fanboy Fight

The Avatar Backlash: Evaluatin' The Hater-atin'

The Complete List Of Tired Movie Cliches

Your Favourite Animated Film

Note To Hollywood: How To Get People To Switch To Blu-Ray

Food For Thought

The Ten Moviegoing Commandments

Just The Facts, Ma’am

Damon Wise (297)
Helen O'Hara (167)
James Dyer (86)
Amar Vijay (71)
Ali Plumb (56)
James White (29)
Phil de Semlyen (19)
Owen Williams (15)
Ally Wybrew (2)
Ben Kirby (1)
Ian Nathan (1)
Dan Jolin (1)
David Parkinson (1)

You turned out in your hundreds and thousands, and here are the results... Browse the full list

Rogues Gallery: Powers Boothe
Sin City's Roark talks us through his most memorable baddies

Richard Attenborough: In Celebration
Saluting a man who made a lasting impact on cinema and beyond…

Exclusive: Luc Besson Talks Lucy
'There is no bullshit with Scarlett Johansson'

Video: Daniel Radcliffe Talks What If...
On Gordon Ramsay, swearing and date movies

The 24 Best Film-Related Ice Bucket Challenges
The viral craze that won’t quit takes in some of Hollywood’s finest

Who Shot First? The Complete List Of Star Wars Changes
An exhaustive chronology of George Lucas' post-release tinkering

Film Studies 101: A Film Buff's Guide To Movie Movements
Everything you need to know about cinema's key groups

Subscribe to Empire magazine
Get 6 Issues Of Empire For Only £15!

Get exclusive subscriber-only covers each month!

Subscribe today

Subscribe to Empire iPad edition
Get The Empire iPad Edition Today

Subscribe and save maney on annual digital subscription

Subscribe today
Buy single issues

Get 6 issues of Empire for just £15!
Get the world's greatest movie magazine delivered straight to your door! Subscribe today!
Empire's Film Studies 101 Series
Everything you ever wanted to know about filmmaking but were afraid to ask...
The Empire iPad Edition
With exclusive extras, interactive features, trailers and much more! Download now
Home  |  News  |  Blogs  |  Reviews  |  Future Films  |  Features  |  Interviews  |  Images  |  Competitions  |  Forum  |  iPad  |  Podcast  |  Magazine Contact Us  |  Empire FAQ  |  Subscribe To Empire  |  Register
© Bauer Consumer Media Ltd  |  Legal Info  |  Privacy Policy  |  Bauer Entertainment Network
Bauer Consumer Media Ltd (company number 01176085 and registered address 1 Lincoln Court, Lincoln Road, Peterborough, England PE1 2RF)