Academy Award-winning director Sydney Pollack, a mainstay Hollywood leader who achieved commercial success and critical acclaim with the gender-bending comedy "Tootsie" and the period drama "Out of Africa" has died. He was 73. Pollack died of cancer Monday afternoon at his home in Pacific Palisades in Los Angeles, surrounded by family. Pollack had been diagnosed with cancer about nine months ago.
Pollack, who occasionally appeared on the screen himself, worked with and gained the respect of Hollywood's best actors in a long career that reached prominence in the 1970s and 1980s. Last fall, he played Marty Bach opposite George Clooney in "Michael Clayton," which Pollack also co-produced. The film received seven Oscar nominations, including best picture and a best actor nod for Clooney.
In recent years, Pollack produced many independent films with filmmaker Anthony Minghella and a production company Mirage Enterprises. Pollack was born in Lafayette, Indiana to first-generation Russian-Americans. In high school, he fell in love with theater, a passion that prompted him forego college and move to New York and enroll in the Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theater.
Studying under Sanford Meisner, Pollack spent several years cutting his teeth in various areas of theater, eventually becoming Meisner's assistant. After appearing in a handful of Broadway productions in the 1950s, Pollack turned his eye to directing.