Cliff Robertson talks to CWB about Sydney Pollack

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Cliff Robertson is the only actor to have won the Academy Award, Emmy Award, Theatre World Award, as well as the Advertising Age Award. His brilliant performance in Charly earned him the Academy Award for Best Actor. That critical success was followed by the Emmy Award for Best TV Actor in the drama The Game, directed by Sydney Pollack.

He also starred in, directed and wrote the outstanding rodeo drama J.W. Coop, and directed and starred in The Pilot. Other films include Star 80, Escape from L.A.,  Spider-Man, Spider-Man 2, Spider-Man 3, and the recently released Stephen King’s Riding the Bullet.

A native of La Jolla, California, Cliff now resides in Water Mill, Long Island, New York. A licensed Commercial Pilot, he maintains and flies a stable of classic vintage aircraft, as well as a record-setting Glider. In 2006, Cliff was

 enshrined in the National Aviation Hall of Fame.

Bijan Tehrani: When was the first time that you met Sydney Pollack? When did you first work together?
Cliff Robertson: The first time we worked together was many years ago on a Ben Casey Show. He was a young director and an actor, and he had come out from New York. He was doing his early directorial jobs on television then. I was an actor and I played the part of a pilot, and he and I shared an enthusiasm for flying. He directed me in that show and it went very well, and then later on we did two films. Those were very successful. For “The Game” in 1966 Sydney won the Emmy for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Drama and I won the Emmy for Outstanding Single Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Drama.

BT: What were those movies that you worked on?
CR: The movie was “Three Days of the Condor” with Robert Redford. The television show we worked on that was very well received was called “The Game”.

BT: How did you find him as a director?
CR: I found him to be very insightful and creative. He was very good. We shared a common love for aviation. I had already been a pilot, and he ended up learning to fly. The last time I saw him we talked about aviation.

BT: Sydney Pollack was also an actor.
CR: Yes, a very good actor. He started as an actor. He went to Sandy Meisner’s school to learn to be an actor, and later he was hired as a teacher at that same school. Meisner was an advocate of the Stanislavski method of teaching. Later on he started directing.

BT: Do you have a favorite Sydney Pollack film?
CR: “Three Days of the Condor

BT: Every director has a different way of working with actors. How did he work with actors?
CR: He was very collegiate. Because he was an actor he empathized with that actor. He made them feel like he was with them all the way.

BT: Do you have any interesting memories of your time working with Sydney Pollack?
CR: I remember when we were doing “The Game” at Universal; he was very worried because the executives were hounding him for not being right on schedule. He was very worried about that. I told him, ‘don’t you worry about them. If the show is good, you will have nothing to worry about.’ The show was very good, and as a result he didn’t have to worry any more. He was afraid he would never work there again.

BT: He has made different kinds of movies. He was made comedies like “Tootsie”, and very tough movies like “Three Days of Condor” and “Quiet Man”, and romantic movies like “Out of Africa”.
CR: I attribute a lot of that to his acting skills. He was an actor who had talent in many directions. He was quite versatile. I think his acting versatility helped him as a director to be more versatile.

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Bijan Tehrani

Bijan Tehrani a film director, film critic and writer, works as editor in chief of Cinema Without Borders while teaching Language of Film and Film History at workshops nationwide. Bijan has won several awards in international film festivals and book fairs for his short films and children's books.

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