A Year Ago, Sydney Pollack Brought Class to AFI Dallas and SMU

Dana Archip/Courtesy AFI Dallas International Film Festival
Sydney Pollack, speaking last year to a handful of very fortunate SMU students.

Last time I saw Sydney Pollack in the flesh, he was grabbing a light lunch at the W Hotel in Victory Park -- with, oh, Lauren Bacall, nice. It was a little more than a year ago, when Pollack was in town in March 2007 to receive an honor on behalf of the debut outing of the AFI Dallas International Film Festival -- one he almost declined, as he told a Jackson, Mississippi, interviewer: "They tried to give me something called a 'Living Legend Award, ' and I wouldn't take it. ... I get very uncomfortable with the hyperbole of all these great titles and things. I wouldn't know what you would say if I got one." Now, of course, he will be lavished with deserving hyperbole, as the 73-year-old director of Tootsie, Three Days of the Condor, Out of Africa and myriad others died yesterday of cancer at his home in the Pacific Palisades.

Pollack was in town in June '06 to promote Sketches of Frank Gehry, his years-in-the-making doc about the famed architect; when I asked him whether he'd let anyone ever making a doc about him, Pollack vehemently resisted the idea. "God, no," he said, claiming he was too fragile to withstand another director's poking and prodding.

But while he was in Dallas in March 2007, some SMU students were fortunate enough to hear the man offer his advice on filmmaking during an afternoon master's class. Copious photos of his final trip to Dallas are available on the AFI's site. --Robert Wilonsky

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