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From our files – Director Pollack off the film set: His Hollywood movies turn out to be different

The director and actor, remembered for his films such as 'Out of Africa,''Tootsie,' and 'Absence of Malice,' was interviewed by the Monitor in 1975 upon release of his film, 'Three Days of the Condor.

Academy Award winning director Sydney Pollack

Mario Anzuoni/Reuters/FILE

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From the November 26, 1975 issue of The Christian Science Monitor

In the film "Three Days of the Condor" lead character Joseph Turner tried to use the knowledge he has acquired as a CIA research librarian to safeguard himself from - the CIA.

Similarly, "Condor" director Sydney Pollack has used the (movie) establishment to make films the establishment itself would be unlikely to make.

He said, however, "I am not a cult director at all. I make Hollywood movies. I hate to say it as a pejorative term but I work for the Hollywood system for the most part."

And yet....his films turn out to be different. His western was "Jeremiah Johnson," which far from being a shoot-em-up trifle, took up the modern themes of dropping out of society to go back to nature, seeking a future apart from the accepted forms of the day. It was as though the flower children and Vietnam rebels, unthought of in J.J's time, were casting their shadows so far before. In pictures like "Condor," where suspense heightens all the way through its two hours or so of running time, Mr. Pollack noted, it is often considered that "women are a drag....but it would bore me to have any picture without a woman in it," However, "you don't want to stop for romance." So he integrated love with the uncertainties of Joe Turner's twistings and turnings to stay alive after he had discovered what an inner circle of the CIA was up to.

In the original book, heroin was being smuggled. In the film, oil is what it's all about. There are other changes, too. And, Mr. Pollack points out vigorously, the picture was not conceived as an expose of the CIA. When filming began, the CIA's dirty laundry was still waiting its turn at the public laundromat. After reading James Grady's original book, Mr. Pollack says, he thought "what if such and such occurred." The film answers that "what if."


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