Oscar-winning director, producer, and actor Sydney Pollack died on Monday afternoon at the age of 73. Where do you begin with someone like Pollack and his career? He’s directed a helluva lot of great films over the decades, including They Shoot Horses Don’t They?, Three Days of the Condor, Jeremiah Johnson, Tootsie, Out of Africa, and even a few so-so films like The Way We Were, The Firm, and Sabrina. He produced or executive produced a bevy of his directorial efforts, but also lent a hand on Songwriter, Searching For Bobby Fischer, Sense and Sensibility, The Talented Mr. Ripley, Michael Clayton, and even HBO’s new Recount. His career began as an actor, and he performed in films that were not his own, delivering fine performances in Husbands and Wives, Eyes Wide Shut, Changing Lanes, Avenue Montaigne, and a great one-episode turn on The Sopranos.
You’d assume Pollack was a good guy, considering how often he worked with his friends. He directed Robert Redford seven times, produced Anthony Minghella three times, and was willing to not only replace Harvey Keitel on Eyes Wide Shut at the last minute, but also spent three weeks shooting that 13-minute billiard room scene with Tom Cruise and Stanley Kubrick. Obviously, he was a good sport, and presumably a good family man (he was married for 50 years, up until the day he died). He was also down-to-earth. He once said, “The very reasons sometimes that you make a film are the reasons for its failure.” He rarely failed.