The death of director Sydney Pollack at age 73 comes as a blow tonight. Even though it was widely known that he was ailing, somehow Pollack seemed to hang on. A true gentleman who I don't think had any Hollywood enemies, he will be sorely missed.
Here's something you may not know: When his producing partner, director Anthony Minghella, died suddenly a couple of months ago, Pollack was catalyzed. Even though he was ill, Pollack got out of bed, went to the office at Mirage Productions and called a staff meeting. He didn't want the people who worked for him to think all hope was lost.
I've written about this before, but two years ago I had the privilege of sitting with Sydney at a table for four with Regis and Joy Philbin.
It was a dinner at Osteria del Circo for his documentary about architect Frank Gehry. Even though I knew Sydney before that night, it was with the Philbins that we were truly regaled by Pollack about his adventures as a master chef and pilot.
It was a mesmerizing experience to hear him talk about acting in Stanley Kubrick's "Eyes Wide Shut"; about directing his friend Robert Redford in "Out of Africa," "Electric Horseman" and "Havana"; and so on.
Even though he was a great director and producer, many people will only know Sydney as an actor. He's most famous as Dustin Hoffman's agent in "Tootsie," from the now-classic scene in the old Russian Tea Room.
Just recently, he appeared on "The Sopranos" (he killed Johnny Sack in the hospital) and in "Michael Clayton," and right now he's onscreen in "Made of Honor." As an actor, he had a refreshing, winning demeanor that conveyed honesty. Even when he played a bad guy, you wanted to be his friend.