The Actor’s Director as Actor

Sydney Pollack (1934-2008) was an affable authority figure in Hollywood, a former acting teacher who directed 21 features and many more television episodes, and produced 47 movies during his half-century career. But his best work may well have been a supporting performance in another director's film, his 20 minutes of screen time as Victor Ziegler in Stanley Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut (1999).

Several times during his career Pollack was cast as a very particular type: the charming, unscrupulous—and distinctly Jewish—New York professional. InTootsieHusbands and WivesMichael Clayton, and Eyes Wide Shut, he played men whose authority came directly from their knowledge and mastery of enclosed high-power worlds. He also had a gift for playing a great bullshit artist, a sweet-talker who could make the listener feel they were part of a conspiracy, even though he was in total control.

Not coincidentally, all these traits come in handy for a film director, and in real life, Pollack knew how to manage people with large talents—and egos—including Dustin Hoffman, Barbra Streisand, Robert Redford, and the stars of Eyes Wide Shut, Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise.

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Actors, Classic Movies, Commentary


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