Sydney Pollack
Birth Date:
July 1, 1934
Birth Place:
Lafayette, Indiana, USA
6' (1.83 m)
Famous for:
1985: Out of Africa costarring Robert Redford and Meryl Streep
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Out of Africa


Filmmaker/actor Sydney Pollack gained respect after directing the biopic Out of Africa (1985), based on the books by Karen Blixen. Before long, the movie won two Academy Awards, a David di Donatello Prize, an Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists’ Silver Ribbon and a Guild Film Gold Award. Also, the biopic brought in a Golden Globe, a Directors Guild of America and a César nomination. Three years previously, Pollack helmed the romantic comedy Tootsie (1982, also costarred as George Fields) and collected a Kinema Junpo Readers’ Choice Award and a Bodil Award, as well as received two Oscar, a Golden Globe, a Directors Guild of America and two BAFTA nominations. Both Tootsie (1982) and Out of Africa (1985) were listed on the American Film Institute’s “The 100 Best American Love Movies” list in June 2002.

The two-time Emmy nominee was also praised for his directing work in “The Game” episode of “Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre” (1965, won an Emmy Award), the Oscar-nominated They Shoot Horses, Don’t They (1969, also earned a Golden Globe and a Directors Guild of America nomination), Jeremiah Johnson (1972, took home a Western Heritage’s Bronze Wrangler), Three Days of the Condor (1975, won a David di Donatello Special Award) and the drama Absence of Malice (1981, netted a Berlin International Film Festival’s Honorable Mention Prize and the festival’s Reader Jury of the “Berliner Morgenpost” prize). In addition, Pollack’s received acclaim for his producing attempt in Sliding Doors (1998) and Cold Mountain (2003) and for his acting performance in the thriller Eyes Wide Shut (1999).

The owner of the production company Mirage Enterprises (formerly Mirage Productions Inc.) was a jury member of the 1973 Cannes Film Festival and the jury president of the 1986 Cannes Film Festival. In 1989, Pollack faced a $1 million lawsuit by producer Richard Roth after excluding him from the production of Havana (1990). Several years later, the filmmaker brought a lawsuit against Danish TV for screening his Three Days of the Condor (1975) in pan-and-scan in 1991. The court case, however, went in favor of the defendant (due to a technicality).

Pollack is married to Claire Griswold. The couple has three children, a son who died in a plane crash and two daughters.

Acting and Teaching

Childhood and Family:

Sydney Pollack was born on July 1, 1934, in Lafayette, Indiana, to David Pollack (pharmacist, professional boxer) and Rebecca Miller. His mother, who later divorced his father, suffered from alcoholic addition and died at age 37, when Sydney was 16. He has a younger brother, Bernie Pollack (costume designer, actor) and a younger sister named Sharon Pollack (dance instructor).

After graduating from high school, Sydney went to New York and studied acting with Sanford Meisner at The Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre. He then served in the army for two years before returning to The Playhouse to teach acting. At the same time, he also acted on stage and later on screen.

On September 22, 1958, Sydney married his former student, Claire Griswold (architect). He and Claire had a son, Steven Pollack (born in 1959), who died on November 26, 1993, in a plane crash in Santa Monica. The couple also has two daughters, Rebecca Pollack (born in 1963, Vice President of Production for United Artists in the 1990s) and Rachel Pollack (born in 1969).



“I don’t value a film I’ve enjoyed making. If it’s good, it’s damned hard work.” Sydney Pollack

While teaching at The Neighborhood Playhouse, Sydney Pollack made his off-Broadway debut in “A Stone for Danny Fisher” (1954) and appeared on the Broadway stage in Christopher Fry’s “Dark Is Light Enough” (1955). Within four years, Pollack advanced to the screen and played Andres in two episodes of the anthology series “Playhouse 90” (1959). He also served as the dialogue director for John Frankenheimer’s TV horror thriller The Turn of the Screw (1959) before playing Arthur Willis in an episode of the sci-fi series “The Twilight Zone” (1960) and Joe Gulp in “Have Gun - Will Travel” (1961). A year later, Pollack made his silver screen debut as Sgt. Owen Van Horn in War Hunt (1962).

With a friend’s encouragement, Pollack tried directing with the series “The Defenders” (1961) and the hospital-set drama “Ben Casey” (1962-1963, 9 episodes), in which he immediately earned an Emmy nomination for his work in the “A Cardinal Act of Mercy” episode. He also received another Emmy nomination for directing the “Something About Lee Wiley” episode of “Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre” (1963, 1965, 3 episodes), as well as won an Emmy for the Chrysler’s “The Game” episode (1965). Also in 1965, Pollack had his first feature-directing work in The Slender Thread, starring Sidney Poitier and Anne Bancroft. The new director then directed Robert Redford in an adaptation of Tennessee Williams’ This Property Is Condemned (1966) and replaced director Frank Perry in the drama The Swimmer (1968, unaccredited).

Pollack’s first breakthrough came with his screen adaptation of Horace McCoy’s novel about a barbaric dance marathon, They Shoot Horses, Don’t They (1969). Before long, his work in the drama movie brought in an Oscar, a Golden Globe and a Directors Guild of America nomination for Best Director. The progress was ensued by Pollack’s western drama project, Jeremiah Johnson (1972, starring Robert Redford), which gave him a Western Heritage Bronze Wrangler for Theatrical Motion Picture and a Golden Palm nomination from the Cannes Film Festival.

Following his teamwork with Redford in the romantic drama The Way We Were (1973) and his first producing work in The Yakuza (1974), Pollack was praised for the thriller Three Days of the Condor (1975), which was about the attempt of an agent (played by Redford) to find a CIA traitor. The director was then handed a David di Donatello Special award and a Golden India Catalina nomination from the Cartagena Film Festival.

He next made two romantic drama movies, Bobby Deerfield (1977) and The Electric Horseman (1979), before gaining wild reviews at Berlin International Film Festival for his drama Absence of Malice (1981). Centering on the framed son of a mafia boss, the movie was given the festival’s Honorable Mention prize and the Reader Jury of the “Berliner Morgenpost” prize, as well as a Golden Berlin Bear nomination.

The filmmaker’s reputation was further established after he shot the romantic comedy Tootsie (1982), which chronicled a desperate actor, played by Dustin Hoffman, disguising himself as a woman to get a TV role. Tootsie was soon handed a Kinema Junpo Readers’ Choice award and a Bodil for Best Foreign Film. Tootsie was also nominated for two Oscars, a Golden Globe, a Directors Guild of America, and two BAFTAs. In the movie, Pollack also appeared on screen, playing Dustin Huffman’s agent, George Fields.

Continuing his success, Pollack made his landmark project, the biopic drama Out of Africa (1985), based on the books by Karen Blixen. The movie, which starred Robert Redford and Meryl Streep, won two Oscars (one for Best Picture and another for Best Director), a David di Donatello, a Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists’ Silver Ribbon and a Guild Film Gold award. In addition, Out of Africa received a Golden Globe and a Directors Guild of America nomination for Best Director and a César nomination for Best Foreign Film.

Next up for Pollack, he produced Bright Lights, Big City (1988) and The Fabulous Baker Boys (1989) before helming the drama Havana (1990). The executive producer of King Ralph (1991) then made an acting performance as Dick Mellon in Robert Altman’s The Player (1992) and contributed his vocals for Holden Thorpe in an episode of the sitcom “Frasier” (1994). Pollack, who in 1993 brought John Grisham’s novel The Firm to the screen, directed actors Harrison Ford and Julia Ormond in the movie version of Samuel A. Taylor’s play, Sabrina (1995). After executive producing the BAFTA-nominated Sliding Doors (1998), the moviemaker took home a Blockbuster Entertainment award nomination for Favorite Supporting Actor for his fine portrayal of Victor Ziegler in the thriller Eyes Wide Shut (1999).

The following years, the director of Random Hearts (1999) was primarily credited as a producer or an actor. He executive produced the drama Up at the Villa (2000), the Morgan Freeman-starring thriller Birthday Girl (2001), Heaven (2002) and the acclaimed Cold Mountain (2003, earned a PGA Golden Laurel Motion Picture Producer of the Year nomination and two BAFTA nominations). Pollack also lent his voice for Grant Trimble in the animated series “King of the Hill” (2000), voiced the Studio Executive in the drama movie The Majestic (2001) and played Stephen Delano in Changing Lanes (2002).

2005 saw the director make the box office thriller The Interpreter, featuring Nicole Kidman and Sean Penn, as well as shoot the documentary film Sketches of Frank Gehry (2005, also did the cinematography). Recently, he became the executive producer for Catch a Fire (2006) and acted in the French film Fauteuils d’orchestre (2006, as Brian Sobinski).

Still in 2006, Pollack will appear on screen as Marty Bach, alongside George Clooney, Tom Wilkinson and Tilda Swinton, in the self-produced upcoming drama thriller Michael Clayton (2006). He will also serve as the producer for the drama Margaret (2006).


  • Guild of German Art House Cinemas: Guild Film Award – Gold for Foreign Film, Out of Africa, 1987
  • Oscar: Best Director, Out of Africa, 1986
  • Oscar: Best Picture, Out of Africa, 1986
  • David di Donatello: Best Foreign Film, Out of Africa, 1986
  • Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists: Silver Ribbon for Best Director - Foreign Film, Out of Africa, 1986
  • Kinema Junpo: Readers’ Choice Award for Best Foreign Language Film, Tootsie, 1984
  • Bodil: Best Non-European Film, Tootsie, 1983
  • New York Film Critics Circle: Best Director, Tootsie, 1982
  • Berlin International Film Festival: Honorable Mention, Absence of Malice, 1982
  • Berlin International Film Festival: Reader Jury of the “Berliner Morgenpost,” Absence of Malice, 1982
  • David di Donatello: Special David for Direction, Three Days of the Condor, 1976
  • Western Heritage: Bronze Wrangler for Theatrical Motion Picture, Jeremiah Johnson, 1973
  • Emmy: Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Drama, “Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre,” “The Game” episode, 1966

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