To watch Harris portray him at work is a wonderful experience. But we also see how each of us, even in our giftedness, often brings destruction into our lives.

-Review by Darrel Manson


This page was created on March 5, 2001
This page was last updated on May 16, 2005

Directed by Ed Harris
Screenplay: Gregory Barbara Turner and Susan Emshwiller
Book: Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith (Jackson Pollock: An American Saga)

Ed Harris .... Jackson Pollock
Marcia Gay Harden .... Lee Krasner
Amy Madigan .... Peggy Guggenheim
Jennifer Connelly .... Ruth Klingman
Jeffrey Tambor .... Clement Greenberg
Bud Cort .... Howard Putzel
John Heard .... Tony Smith
Val Kilmer .... Willem de Kooning
Stephanie Seymour .... Helen Frankenthaler
Tom Bower .... Dan Miller
Robert Knott .... Sande Pollock
Matthew Sussman .... Reuben Kadish
Sada Thompson .... Stella Pollock
Norbert Weisser .... Hans Namuth
Sally Murphy .... Edith Metzger
Molly Regan .... Arloie Pollock
Rebecca Wisocky .... Dorothy Seiberling
Moss Roberts .... Ted Dragon
Eduardo Machado .... Alfonso Ossorio
Katherine Wallach .... Barbara Kadish

Produced by Joseph Allen (executive), Fred Berner Peter Brant (executive), Ed Harris John Kilik, Cecilia Kate Roque (co-producer), Candy Trabacco (associate)
Original music by Jeff Beal
Cinematography by Lisa Rinzler
Film Editing by Kathryn Himoff

Rated R for language and brief sexuality.

"The modern artist...
is working and expressing the inner world
--in other words-- expressing the energy, the motion, and other inner forces."
—Jackson Pololock

In August of 1949, Life Magazine ran a banner headline that begged the question: "Jackson Pollock: Is he the greatest living painter in the United States?" The article pictured Pollock in a now-famous pose, wearing a worn black jacket and blue jeans, his arms crossed defiantly over his chest and one of his kinetic canvasses stretched out behind him. Already well-known in the New York art world, he had become a household name-America's first "Art Star"-and his bold and radical style of painting continued to change the course of modern art. But the torments that had plagued the artist all of his life-perhaps the ones that drove him to paint in the first place, or that helped script his fiercely original art-continued to haunt him. As he struggled with self-doubt, engaging in a lonely tug-of-war between needing to express himself and wanting to shut the world out, Pollock began a downward spiral that would threaten to destroy the foundations of his marriage, the promise of his career, and-on one deceptively calm and balmy summer night in 1956-his life.

"Pollock" is directed by Golden Globe winner and Academy Award nominated actor Ed Harris, who makes his directorial debut, stars in the title role, and serves as a producer. The film is a look back into the life of an extraordinary man, a man who has fittingly been called "an artist dedicated to concealment, a celebrity who nobody knew."

Click to enlargeHarris had been working ideas for "Pollock" over in his mind for nearly a decade. "During the years I spent reading and thinking and feeling about Pollock," says Harris, "and I spent time 'painting' and trying to understand emotionally what it is to be a painter-I had to trust that something had seeped into my bones that would allow me to portray Pollock honestly. I had no difficulty in choosing an interpretation because it all has been very personal and of all that I read and heard I had to go with what touched my soul and what made sense to me both intellectually and emotionally."

"I've never been interested in exploiting Pollock," Harris continues. "In fact, there were times I would say to myself, 'Why are you making a movie about this guy? Let him rest in peace. But then I realized that was only a desire to leave myself in peace. It's tricky, but I never wanted to pretend to be Pollock. I wanted to be Ed Harris using all of his tools as an actor and as a person to allow Pollock's experience on this earth to touch me, inspire me, lead me to an honest, true performance."

In portraying Pollock, Harris made a concerted effort to accurately show Pollock's artistic process, which was utterly revolutionary and confounded many people at the time. To accomplish this, Harris began to explore paint and painting techniques in the early 1990's. "I've been painting and drawing off and on since I became committed to making this film," says Harris. "I had a little studio built so I'd have enough floor space to work on larger canvases."

"It's preposterous to think I could ever paint as he did," Harris continues, "and yet I had to paint in the film. The most challenging part of all that was gaining enough confidence to paint for myself in the style in which he painted... to be committed first to myself as a painter, to try and keep my focus on creating art and not recreating someone else's."

Harris believes that the need for approval motivated much of Pollock's work. "A desperate need for approval usually forces one into doing that which is recognizable," says Harris. "To do something similar to that which has gained approval elsewhere. Pollock's need for approval bordered on the psychopathic and yet his even deeper need to create art that had no hint of the lie about it, drove him to make art that had never been made before and was certainly fair game for ridicule and abuse. But Pollock's toughest critic was himself and he knew that only he knew what was pure and true and real as far as his own work was concerned. He fought fiercely to be true to himself. He did not separate himself from his art. That aspect of his being: desperately needing approval and yet only offering truth to be approved-that drew me to him."

Click to enlargeAcclaimed actress Marcia Gay Harden ("Meet Joe Black," "Miller's Crossing") plays Lee Krasner, Pollock's wife, whose efforts at promoting her husband's career often stymied her own growth as an artist. "When she was first married, Lee's main concern was pleasing Jackson," Harden explains. "She was the kind of woman who hung her hat on another man's peg to find herself, in spite of how brilliant she was in her own right." Harden describes the Pollock-Krasner marriage as "wonderful, fabulous, and hideous." "They fed off each other in ways that weren't always healthy," she says. "But, if they hadn't been together, Pollock never would have become world famous and Lee wouldn't have pushed herself to the artistic limits she did. As soon as they split apart, one of them was bound to destruct."

Like Harris, Harden, too, found herself picking up the paintbrush: "I took painting lessons as a way of exploring where Lee was coming from. Would how she put paint down on a canvas tell me something more about her? I also read everything I could. I went to museums. I met her friends and family. Finally, I studied Pollock."

Click to enlargeOn working with Harris and the cast and crew of "Pollock," Harden adds, "On everyone's part, there was a real care about the process. Ed is an amazing director. He was constantly pushing himself and the rest of us to work harder. And he'd really done his homework-so much that it was almost embarrassing to me. He had gathered so much information that the filming process reminded me a little of one of Pollock's paintings-all these elements layered on top of each other."

-Review by Darrel Manson

Pastor, Artesia Christian Church, Artesia, CA

This biopic of one of mid-century America's key artists offers wonderful performance by Ed Harris and Marcia Gay Harden (both of whom were nominated for Academy Awards).

Click to enlargeJackson Pollock was one of the preeminent abstract expressionists. He developed the method of painting of dripping and pouring paint on the canvas. (Some referred to him as "Jack the Dripper".) Many people may well not understand this to be art, but is creations were original and bold and helped to move painting in new directions.

Click to enlargePollock is seen in this movie as almost a cliché of a self-absorbed, self-destructive troubled artist. He is manic-depressive and alcoholic, and only seems to be alive when he is creating or being praised for what he has created.

Click to enlargeJackson Pollock was certainly gifted. (One of the blessings in the film is to see many of his works and be able to recognize that they aren't all the same.) To watch Harris portray him at work is a wonderful experience. But we also see how each of us, even in our giftedness, Click to enlargeoften brings destruction into our lives.

Pollock (at least in this depiction of him) was indeed the center of his own universe. Even those closest to him were really only conveniences. I don't know if he could have been as creative any other way. But in time, his universe collapsed around him.

Subject: Pollock
Date: Tue, 29 Jan 2002
From: Jessica

I enjoyed your review about Pollock, but I must say the research about Reuben kadish for this movei was pathetically deplorable. I know the movie featured Pollock, but some accuracy is portraying Reuben would have been good. As a very good friend of Reuben's son, it was quite shocking to see the poetic license taken by Hollywood on this one.

Pollock © 2001 Sony Pictures Classics