Sydney Pollack

Biography: One of the first generation of feature filmmakers who learned their craft directing for television – a generation that included William Friedkin, Robert Altman, Sidney Lumet and John Frankenheimer – writer-producer-director Sydney Pollack forged a wide-ranging career that leaned heavily towards grown up, character-driven dramas while tossing in the occasional comedy curveballs, like the gender-bending hit Tootsie (1982). Pollack's work earned him two Oscars – both for Out of Africa (1985) – and nominations for five more, including a nod for his role in producing The Reader (2008), one of his last films. Born in Lafayette, Indiana, in 1934 and raised in South Bend, Pollack's father was a pharmacist who once boxed professionally; his mother was a homemaker who died when he was a teenager. Pollack fell in love with drama at South Bend High School and, despite his father's disapproval, opted to forgo college in favor of moving to New York City and trying to become a professionalOne of the first generation of feature filmmakers who learned their craft directing for television – a generation that included William Friedkin, Robert Altman, Sidney Lumet and John Frankenheimer – writer-producer-director Sydney Pollack forged a wide-ranging career that leaned heavily towards grown up, character-driven dramas while tossing in the occasional comedy curveballs, like the gender-bending hit Tootsie (1982). Pollack's work earned him two Oscars – both for Out of Africa (1985) – and nominations for five more, including a nod for his role in producing The Reader (2008), one of his last films. Born in Lafayette, Indiana, in 1934 and raised in South Bend, Pollack's father was a pharmacist who once boxed professionally; his mother was a homemaker who died when he was a teenager. Pollack fell in love with drama at South Bend High School and, despite his father's disapproval, opted to forgo college in favor of moving to New York City and trying to become a professional actor. He studied under the renowned Sandford Meisner at the Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theater and quickly earned roles in such Broadway productions as A Stone for Danny Fisher, with Zero Mostel, and The Dark Is Light Enough, starring legendary stage actress Katharine Cornell. He also made more than a dozen episodic television appearances, notably in the two-part Playhouse 90 production of For Whom the Bell Tolls (1959); the stellar cast included Maureen Stapleton, Eli Wallach, Jason Robards, Maria Schell, Nehemiah Persoff and legendary acting teacher Herbert Berghof, under the direction of Frankenheimer, who was only four years Pollack's senior. By the early 1960s, Pollack's agent -- powerhouse Lew Wasserman -- also secured some directing gigs for his young client Encouraged by Hollywood legend Burt Lancaster, whom he met through Frankenheimer, Pollack redirected his ambition behind the camera and didn't act again until 1982, with the exception of a brief, unbilled bit in his own The Electric Horseman (1979). But Pollack's return to acting was showstopper: He played Dustin Hoffman's exasperated agent in Tootsie, and if he didn't quite steal the show from his temperamental star – the two feuded throughout production -- he gave him a run for his money – this despite the fact that he was uncredited. Until his death, Pollack alternated between acting and directing, sometimes doing both, and left his mark on a generation television viewers playing the recurring role of Will's philandering father on Will & Grace. His last film roles were as George Clooney's boss and Patrick Dempsey's father in, respectively, Michael Clayton (2007) and Made of Honor (2008). Pollack was know for his skill at directing actors, which he attributed to his own experience as a performer. Over the course of a directing career that spanned five decades, Pollack directed 20 films, including critical and box office successes like They Shoot Horses, Don't They? (1969), The Way We Were (1973), Jeremiah Johnson (1972), Three Days of the Condor (1975) and The Firm (1993). Interspersed among the hits were some spectacular misses: The Harrison Ford-Julia Ormond remake of Sabrina (1995); Bobby Deerfield (1977), with Al Pacino; and the notorious Havana (1990), with Raul Julia, Lena Olin and Pollack's frequent collaborator, Robert Redford. Redford and Pollack eventually made seven films together, starting with This Property is Condemned (1966), becoming close friends in the process. He also worked on several films with his brother, Bernie Pollack, a costume designer whose credits include Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008). Their sister, Sharon, became a dance teacher. Pollack and his wife, actress Claire Griswold, were married in 1958, and had three children. One daughter, Rebecca Pollack-Parker, was a production executive at United Artists during the 1990s; the other, Rachel Pollack-Sorman, is a singer. Their son, Steven Pollack, died in a single-engine plane crash in 1993. Expand

Sydney Pollack's Scores

  • Movies
  • TV
Average career score: 67
Highest Metascore: 94 Amazing Grace
Lowest Metascore: 37 Made of Honor
Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 32 out of 45
  2. Negative: 3 out of 45
45 movie reviews
Title: Year: Credit: User score:
94 Amazing Grace Nov 23, 2018 Director / Director / Himself - Director / Himself - Director tbd
61 Margaret Sep 30, 2011 Producer 7.9
58 The Reader Dec 10, 2008 Producer 7.3
37 Made of Honor May 2, 2008 Thomas Bailey Sr. / Thomas Bailey Sr. 1.4
56 Leatherheads Apr 4, 2008 Executive Producer 5.6
82 Michael Clayton Oct 5, 2007 Producer / Marty Bach 7.7
64 Avenue Montaigne Feb 16, 2007 Brian Sobinski 7.5
56 Breaking and Entering Dec 15, 2006 Producer 6.9
62 Catch a Fire Oct 27, 2006 Executive Producer 6.6
71 Sketches of Frank Gehry May 12, 2006 Director / Director / Executive Producer / Executive Producer tbd
74 Forty Shades of Blue Sep 28, 2005 Executive Producer / Executive Producer 6.1
62 The Interpreter Apr 22, 2005 Director / Executive Producer 7.4
80 Charlie: The Life and Art of Charles Chaplin Feb 13, 2004 Narrator / Narrator tbd
73 Cold Mountain Dec 25, 2003 Producer 5.6
84 The Quiet American Nov 22, 2002 Executive Producer 8.7
68 Heaven Oct 4, 2002 Executive Producer 7.7
69 Changing Lanes Apr 12, 2002 Stephen Delano / Stephen Delano tbd
51 Birthday Girl Feb 1, 2002 Executive Producer / Executive Producer tbd
76 Iris Dec 14, 2001 Executive Producer 7.3
38 Blow Dry Mar 7, 2001 Executive Producer / Executive Producer tbd
57 Up at the Villa May 5, 2000 Executive Producer 6.6
76 The Talented Mr. Ripley Dec 24, 1999 Executive Producer 8.9
38 Random Hearts Oct 8, 1999 Director / Director / Producer / Producer / Carl Broman / Carl Broman tbd
68 Eyes Wide Shut Jul 16, 1999 Victor Ziegler / Victor Ziegler tbd
68 A Civil Action Dec 25, 1998 Al Eustis 7.8
59 Sliding Doors Apr 24, 1998 Producer 5.8
56 Sabrina Dec 15, 1995 Director / Producer 6.9
84 Sense and Sensibility Dec 13, 1995 Executive Producer / Executive Producer 6.8
89 Searching for Bobby Fischer Aug 11, 1993 Executive Producer 9.0
58 The Firm Jun 30, 1993 Director / Producer 8.7