Academy Award-winning director Sydney Pollack, who achieved critical acclaim with the period drama "Out of Africa" and the romantic comedy "Tootsie," died of cancer Monday, his agent told CNN.

Pollack, 73, died at his home in Los Angeles. He was surrounded by his wife of nearly 50 years, Claire Griswold, their two daughters, Rebecca and Rachel, and his brother, Bernie, agent Leslee Dart said. Their only son Steven died in a plane crash in 1993.

Pollack, who often appeared on the screen himself, worked with and gained the respect of Hollywood`s best actors in a long career that reached prominence in the 1970s and 1980s, according to the Associated Press.

"Sydney made the world a little better, movies a little better and even dinner a little better. A tip of the hat to a class act," actor George Clooney said in a statement issued by his publicist, the Associated Press reported.

Last fall, Pollack played Marty Bach opposite Clooney in "Michael Clayton," a drama that examines the life of a fixer for lawyers. The film, which Pollack co-produced, received seven Oscar nominations, including best picture and a best actor nod for Clooney, according to the Associated Press.

Pollack was no stranger to the Academy Awards. In 1986, "Out of Africa," a romantic epic of a woman`s passion set against the landscape of colonial Kenya, captured seven Oscars, including best director, The Associated Press reported.

In addition to directing "Out of Africa," "Tootsie," "The Way We Were," and a host of other Oscar-nominated films, he appeared in Stanley Kubrick`s "Eyes Wide Shut," Woody Allen`s "Husbands and Wives," and his own "The Electric Horseman."

He also produced nearly 50 films, including 1981`s "Absence of Malice," which starred Paul Newman and Sally Field, and 1999`s "The Talented Mr. Ripley," which starred Matt Damon.

Though he had been working until recently -- his show "Recount" premiered Sunday night on HBO -- he had been in a lot of pain and did not watch it, Dart said.

Doctors never were able to determine the primary source of the cancer, she said.

Services will be private, she said.