Oscar-winning director Pollack dead

LOS ANGELES: 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 television and movie actor, has died. He was 73.

Pollack died of cancer on May 26 at his home in Pacific Palisades in Los Angeles, surrounded by family, said publicist Leslee Dart. Pollack had been diagnosed with cancer about nine months ago, said Dart.

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.

The list of actors he directed reads like a who’s who of Hollywood A-listers.

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 father, and also appeared in the The Sopranos, Frasier and Mad About You. Pollack also produced many independent films with filmmaker Anthony Minghella, who died in March, and the production company Mirage Enterprises. His recent producing credits include The Talented Mr Ripley and Cold Mountain.

Pollack is survived by his wife, Claire; two daughters, Rebecca and Rachel; his brother Bernie; and six grandchildren. Pollack’s son, Steven, died in a plane crash in 1993.