Mr. Pollack's output as a director was not large, but it included many popular hits, including "They Shoot Horses, Don't They?," "The Way We Were," "Three Days of the Condor," "Tootsie," "Out of Africa" and "The Firm." He was not known as a visual stylist or a filmmaker with a particular sensibility, but rather as a solid craftsman and storyteller, and director who could often guide his star actors to Oscar-nominated performances. He frequently worked with Robert Redford. All his pictures were dramas or thrillers, save one, "Tootsie," which may be his most lasting achievement. The comedy about a difficult actor (Dustin Hoffman) who dresses in drag to land a role in a soap opera was bedeviled in production but praised upon release. It is considered one of the classic film comedies of the past 30 years. In it, Mr. Pollack played several scenes with Mr. Hoffman, portraying his perplexed agent. Sydney Irwin Pollack was born on July 1, 1934, in Lafayette, IN, and raised in South Bend by David and Rebecca Pollock. His parents divorced when he was young and his mother, an alcoholic, died when he was 16. Following high school, he went to New York and enrolled at the Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theater, where he studied for two years under Sanford Meisner. He spent five more years as Meisner's assistant. His brother, Bernard, was a Broadway stage manager in the 1960s and 1970s, and worked as costume designer on many of Sydney's films.
In 1955, he appeared on Broadway with Katharine Cornell in The Dark Is Light Enough. He also acted in other Off-Broadway dramas and on television, but, in the 1960s, acting on advice from Burt Lancaster, he began directing for television.
In later years, he directed little, preferring to work as an actor ("Eye Wide Shut," "A Civil Action," "Michael Clayton") and producer ("Cold Mountain," "The Interpreter").