Sydney Pollack died Monday at the age of 73.
Besides being an excellent director, he was, to my mind, a better actor. Every line he delivered, every gesture he made on-screen was interesting, considered and natural. His scene in the billiard room with Tom Cruise in Kubrick's last movie "Eyes Wide Shut," for instance, was one of the best things about that movie; he felt so grounded and real in that scene that Tom Cruise came off insubstantial, lost and actorly. Pollack had been busy of late, or so it has seemed watching him turn up on TV (as the disgraced surgeon in the last season of "The Sopranos"), and in the movies. Just last year he showed up as the tough, workaholic corporate lawyer in "Michael Clayton," delivering fantastic lines while making them seem as though he'd just thought of them. And there wasn't one second in that movie where he came off like a guy in his 70's (or his 60's for that matter), so news of his death (and his age!) comes as something of a shock.
Update: Here's a short and sweet look back at Pollack's career by the excellent A.O. Scott.