Robert Redford received one of the three Tributes at this year’s Telluride Film Festival. After a series of clips from Redford’s extensive career, the Tribute Silver Medallion was presented by Ralph Fiennes whom Redford had directed in “Quiz Show” (1994). Fiennes, who was In Telluride with “The Invisible Woman”, said he had not seen Redford in 20 years.
Redford gave an entertaining analysis of his career. He said the Sundance Kid in “Burch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” (1969) was the part that was the most fun, since the Kid grows up in the film. Redford could identify with the outlaw at that early stage of his career.
A big reason Redford enjoyed making the film was his co-star Paul Newman. The studio did not want Redford in the film as he was relatively unknown then. Newman, already cast, supported Redford as co-star. Newman was originally cast as Sundance and the actors switched parts. Redford described working with Newman as “so much fun” with their personal connection and playing gags on each other, which carried over when they reteamed in “The Sting” (1973).
The most demanding part for him was the British big-game hunter in “Out of Africa” (1985), directed by his “old friend” Sydney Pollack. Redford felt he was used as a “symbol” and felt “encased”.
Redford grew up in Southern California and began with an art career. He believes that for an actor, listening and watching is as important as talking. He began listening and watching with his sketchpad.
On television, his silhouette was seen from behind a screen on a game show. TV performances included “Perry Mason”, “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” and Eugene O’Neill’s “The Iceman Cometh”.
His Broadway roles included the newlywed in “Barefoot in the Park” (1963). He repeated his part in the 1967 film version. He does not think he’s geared to a long stage run, finding it hard to be the same each night.
Early in his career, he turned down the part of the male guest in the film version of “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” (1966) because he felt the character was “false”. He also didn’t think he was right for “The Graduate” (1967). Both films were directed by Mike Nichols who had directed Redford on stage in “Barefoot”.
Redford’s film debut was “War Hunt” (1962) in which Sydney Pollack, who would later direct Redford in several films, portrayed Redford’s commanding officer. Redford joked that the two kept up that connection. He said they both “hit it off”. For his second film with Natalie Wood, “This Property Is Condemned” (1966), Redford successfully recommended Pollack as director because he “wanted companionship” since “the script was not very good.”
Pollack directed Redford in the popular thriller “Three Days of the Condor” (1975). Redford said they collaborated on the screenplay. He described their “wonderful relationship…challenging each other, open and accommodating.” The film was based on the novel “Six Days of the Condor”, described by Redford as a “potboiler” with stun guns and parachuting over DC. He said the film stripped the book to “Three Days” and kept the core of the central character (played by Redford) forced to “think in order to live and survive” after his fellow agents are killed.
In the 1966 “The Chase”, Redford played a prison escapee returning to his home town where the sheriff (Marlon Brando) struggles to prevent an outbreak of violence. Redford said he didn’t watch Brando on the set since it was “unfortunate” that Brando was then tired of acting, not fully into the character and he “threw it away”. Redford described the situation as “painful”.
Redford said he never made a sequel to his 1972 “The Candidate”, about the behind-the-scenes of a political campaign, because “everything is out there” now in the media. He added politics is “so divided now” and he doesn’t think there is “anything new to tell” on the subject.
One of Redford’s most acclaimed films was “All the President’s Men” (1976). Redford read Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein’s bylines covering the Watergate scandal in the Washington Post newspaper. He was intrigued by their different backgrounds and by what happened when they worked together. He called them at the paper. His call was not returned because they were under the heat of deadlines. Eventually Redford made contact, telling Woodward and Bernstein he wanted to “tell the story of what you did” on film. Redford’s Wildwood Enterprises produced “All the President’s Men”, the film on the Watergate reporters, which took four years to get made. Redford portrayed Woodward.
Redford said that after his long career, he still has the “acting drive”, he “can’t help it.” The next blog will be on Redford’s latest “All Is Lost” in which he is the sole actor.