That's how most of Sydney Pollack's obits begin — by citing his Oscar win of 1985. (He actually won two statuettes that year, including one for producing the best-picture champ) How interesting that a fake gold statuette becomes the measure of a person's achievement, eh?
If that's the case, then these obits should really give Sydney Pollack credit for Tilda Swinton's recent Oscar victory too — and those six other nominations "Michael Clayton" got, including best picture. Throughout this past Oscar derby I was a bit baffled by all of the gushing over "Clayton," which received only a polite reception when it debuted at last year's Toronto Film Festival. Afterward, whenever I observed excessive gushing over it, I asked industry honchos what the heck was going on. He or she would wink, nudge me and say in a conspiratorial whisper, "You know, it's Sydney Pollack's last movie — everybody's saying goodbye." (Pollack not only appeared briefly in the film, but he produced it.)
In addition to Pollack's Oscars for "Out of Africa," he was also nominated for directing and producing best pic nominee "Tootsie," plus helming "They Shoot Horses, Don't They?" which didn't make the best-pic derby.
He earned DGA bids for "Africa," "Tootsie" and "Horses," but he never won the guild prize. In 1985 when he was up for "Africa," he lost to Steven Spielberg ("The Color Purple"), who wasn't even nominated for an Oscar. He was also nominated — and lost — for directing those same three pix at the Golden Globes. However, "Africa" won best drama picture, so Pollack nabbed a Globe trophy for that.
The only Emmy he ever won was for directing an episode of "Chrysler Theatre," called "The Game" back in 1965. Since he produced "Recount" for HBO, he'll probably win posthumously for that as best TV film.
Among his other notable achievements were directing "The Way We Were," "Three Days of the Condor," "The Firm" and TV episodes of "Ben Casey" and "The Alfred Hitchcock Hour."
(Photo: L.A. Times)