LOS ANGELES (AFP) - Sydney Pollack, the prolific US director, producer and actor who helmed the Oscar-winning romance "Out of Africa" and the cross-dressing comedy "Tootsie," has died of cancer. He was 73. Pollack died Monday afternoon at his home in Pacific Palisades in Los Angeles, surrounded by his family, his agent Leslee Dart told AFP. He had been diagnosed with cancer nine months ago. The film-maker balanced box office success with critical acclaim over a half-century career, working with stars such as Robert Redford, Paul Newman, Sydney Poitier, Meryl Streep, Dustin Hoffman, Barbra Streisand, Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman. Redford, one of Pollack's favourite actors, expressed sadness at his friend's passing. "Sydney's and my relationship both professionally and personally covers 40 years," Redford was quoted as saying by The New York Times. "It's too personal to express in a sound bite." Pollack tackled a variety of social issues and earned a worldwide reputation for an acute romantic and political sensibility that led to some of the most respected films of the late 1960s through the 1980s. He received best director nominations for "They Shoot Horses Don't They?" (1969) a harrowing Depression-era drama starring Jane Fonda, and "Tootsie" (1982), starring Dustin Hoffman as an out-of-work actor who makes his way by pretending to be woman. He finally won the directing and best picture Oscars with "Out of Africa" (1985), starring Streep and Redford as a Danish baroness and a big game hunter who have a love affair destined for failure in colonial Kenya. "I was shocked at the success of both 'Tootsie' and 'Out of Africa,'" Pollack said in an interview with the website MonstersAndCritics.com in August 2005. An accomplished actor, Pollack's last screen appearance was alongside George Clooney in the critically-acclaimed legal thriller "Michael Clayton" (2007) which he also co-produced. Pollack also played memorable parts in Woody Allen's "Husbands and Wives" (1992), and Robert Altman's "The Player" (1992). Born July 1, 1934 in Lafayette, Indiana, the son of a pharmacist, Pollack first had ambitions to be a dentist. But he moved to New York at age 17 and learned acting under legendary coach Sanford Meisner. Last summer, Pollack pulled out of directing a film about the disputed 2000 US presidential election for cable channel HBO, after falling ill. He was married with three children.