Hollywood Director Sydney Pollack Is Dead The director and actor died of cancer Monday afternoon. Pollack was 73 years old and won wide acclaim for his films Tootsie, which starred Dustin Hoffman, and the 1986 Robert Redford vehicle Out of Africa, which won an Academy Award.
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Hollywood Director Sydney Pollack Is Dead

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Hollywood Director Sydney Pollack Is Dead

Hollywood Director Sydney Pollack Is Dead

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(Soundbite of music)


Overlooking historic Bryant Park in midtown Manhattan, live from NPR Studios, this is the Bryant Park Project from NPR News. News, information, mules. I'm Rachel Martin.


And I'm Mike Pesca. It's Tuesday, May 27th, 2008. You're just like a girl. You're always talking about shoes.

MARTIN: A mule - they're mules, like the animals.

PESCA: Oh, those mules.

MARTIN: I don't even like shoes. I'm wearing flip-flops today.

PESCA: Well...

MARTIN: I know.

PESCA: You certainly are.


PESCA: That's scandalous.

MARTIN: I know, it's so scandalous. But we're talking about mules, because you talked about mules, right?

PESCA: I did. But listen, when I wasn't here, there was a treat in my absence, and I think that just because my - my presence should not rob you of the song stylings of Simon and Garfunkel. So, hello lamppost, what you knowing? Come to watch your flowers growing. You want me to segue into "At the Zoo"?

MARTIN: OK. No, stop there.

PESCA: At the zoo.

MARTIN: It's so good to have you Mike - back, Mike Pesca. Yeah.

PESCA: Yeah. No more "Sounds of Silence." But on the show this hour, we ask, who exactly is Puerto Rico? There primary is Sunday. So, as the protracted primary race barrels along, as protracted primary races are bound to do, so does our series looking at who's going to the polls in the primaries.

MARTIN: And that mule reference? Well, it's about one ingenious farmer in Tennessee, who... PESCA: Two.

MARTIN: Two farmers?

PESCA: Father and son. Yeah.

MARTIN: Wow. Who decided, you know what...

PESCA: Similar DNA.

MARTIN: This gas-price debacle, these things are too high. We're giving up gas, and we're switching to mules. We'll talk with him and the son, about why they decided to ditch their tractors for Dolly and Molly.

PESCA: And what should you do to save the planet? Wired Magazine argues you should cut down trees, buy a used Hummer, and build a nuclear power plant. It's our segment on the contrary. Actually, I just made that up.

MARTIN: What the...?

PESCA: I like it and I'm going to endorse it. And we'll get today's headlines in just a minute, but first...

(Soundbite of music)

PESCA: Director Sydney Pollack has died. The Academy-Award winner was diagnosed with cancer about nine months ago, and died yesterday afternoon in his home in Los Angeles. He was 73 years old.

MARTIN: Pollack directed some of the most successful films of the 1970s and '80s, and directed Hollywood's top actors for more than 30 years. He won Oscars for producing and directing the 1986 epic, "Out of Africa," starring Meryl Streep and Robert Redford, one of the seven times that Pollack and Redford worked together.

PESCA: Pollack was adept at all genres, and worked with so many different actors, Sally Field and Paul Newman in "Absence of Malice," Barbra Streisand in "The Way We Were," Jane Fonda in "They Shoot Horses, Don't They?," Robert Mitchum in "The Yakuza," and Tom Cruise in "The Firm."

MARTIN: But Pollack may be best known for his 1982 comedy, "Tootsie," starring Dustin Hoffman. Pollack was nominated for best director for that film. He often took small acting roles in his movies as well, and in "Tootsie," he played the frustrated agent to Dustin Hoffman's struggling actor.

(Soundbite of movie "Tootsie")

Mr. SYDNEY POLLACK: (As George Fields) You played a tomato for 30 seconds. They went a half a day over schedule because you wouldn't sit down.

Mr. DUSTIN HOFFMAN: (As Michael Dorsey) Yes. It wasn't logical.

Mr. POLLACK: (As George Fields) You were a tomato! A tomato doesn't have logic!

MARTIN: Great bit.

PESCA: That's one nutty hospital. Last fall, Pollack co-produced "Michael Clayton," which got seven Oscar nominations. In that film, he also played law-firm boss Marty Bach, opposite George Clooney.

(Soundbite of movie "Michael Clayton")

Mr. POLLACK: (As Marty Bach) You've got something everybody wants. You have a niche. And if it's nostalgia, oh, boy, you should have seen me when I was a DA back in Queens. Let me give you a serious piece of advice. Leave it there. God forbid, you're not as good as you remember because I've seen that happen, too.

MARTIN: Pollack actually started off as an actor, and made the switch to directing in the early '60s, after Burt Lancaster told him that was where his true talents lie. In a 2000 interview with NPR, Pollack explained how he directs actors.

(Soundbite of NPR's Morning Edition)

Mr. POLLACK: The real directing work happens while they're in their own trailers, and I'll go back and forth from one trailer to another trailer to talk to each one alone and not necessarily tell the other one what I've said. It isn't really a trick. It's just - you're - what happens in acting is, when two people don't know what's coming next, they become very dependent upon each other, and that's a lot of what good acting is. When you get in a scene with somebody and really listen, because you honestly don't know, like life, what's coming next, the connection is palpable.

PESCA: Pollack's last screen appearance was in "Made of Honor," a romantic comedy currently in theaters starring Patrick Dempsey. Sydney Pollack is survived by his wife Claire, two daughters and six grandchildren.

MARTIN: Now, let's get more of the day's news headlines with the BPP's Mark Garrison.

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