Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...

Revealing Robert Redford

by Leonard Maltin
February 10, 2014 2:51 PM
  • |
Robert Redford-325
Photo Courtesy of SBIFF.

Who knew Robert Redford was funny? That was just one of the happy discoveries I made—along with a sold-out audience—at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival on Friday evening. I was lucky enough to spend a couple of hours onstage interviewing the famously private movie star-turned-director, producer, and indie film hero. Having said hello to him at the Sundance Film Festival a few weeks back, he greeted me warmly backstage and set my wife’s heart palpitating with his effortless charm. (Other women around us responded the same way. I later asked Alice if it was wrong to refer to the 77-year-old actor as “boyish,” but she agreed that he still embodies that quality.)

I’ve hosted a number of these tributes and while they’re always enjoyable, there are evenings when, if the subject feels relaxed, the interview (interspersed with film clips) becomes more of a conversation. That’s what made Friday so special, especially since Redford doesn’t make many personal appearances or expose himself on the talk-show circuit. He was genuinely touched by the standing ovation that greeted him and sensed that it was sincere. “I’m a California kid,” he said, “I grew up not far from here. I spent a lot of my time in Santa Barbara surfing and spending time in these mountains, so it’s a little bit like coming home.”

He spoke with candor about his aimless and troubled youth in a working-class Chicano neighborhood of Los Angeles. He said he was a bad student, recalled how he blew a college baseball scholarship, and identified the first thing that truly motivated him: his desire to be an artist. He traveled to Europe and scraped by, sketching people in cafes and bars.

“Do you still draw?” I asked, and he said yes. I then inquired if he made thumbnails or storyboards for the films he directs, and he recalled the lightbulb moment on Ordinary People when, talking to his cinematographer, he realized that he could communicate best by sketching the way he wanted a shot to look. (He confessed that in all his years in front of the camera, he never paid attention to the technical chatter around him; asked if he wanted a 35mm lens or a 50, he had no idea how to respond.)

As I introduced a pair of film clips, from The Candidate and The Way We Were, I said it seemed as if these political stories allowed him to mouth his real-life beliefs. There was a hesitation on his part and I added, “Or am I overstepping here?”

Robert Redford-SBIFF-361
Photo Courtesy of SBIFF

“Yes, you are,” he replied with a slight smile, “But you’re right.”

The crux of our talk was his journey from artist to actor to storyteller. He explained that he was always interested in probing beneath the surface, and early on set out to expose hypocrisy in the worlds of sports, politics, and business. “I got to do two out of three,” he concluded, citing Downhill Racer and The Candidate.

He has spoken before of his fondness and admiration for Paul Newman, and how he wound up taking the role his costar was originally set to play in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. He reiterated that director George Roy Hill doesn’t get enough credit for shaping and interpreting William Goldman’s screenplay, which was played more for laughs than the finished picture.

I asked how he and Hill dealt with Newman’s habit of dissecting every scene of every script. He laughed and said Hill would urge Newman to stop and just get on with it.

He spent time outlining the four-year journey from the moment he was promoting The Candidate in 1972 and overheard reporters grumbling about there being more to the Watergate break-in than anyone was telling, to his first attempts to contact reporters Woodward and Bernstein, to the completion of his landmark movie All the President’s Men four years later. The audience at Santa Barbara’s cavernous Arlington Theatre hung on every word.

Following an excerpt from The Great Gatsby—a film he thoroughly enjoyed making—I mentioned that we’d be paying tribute to Bruce Dern the following night. Summoning the timing he learned from his earliest years on stage, he paused briefly and said, “Ask him if he remembers me.” It got the huge laugh it deserved.

As it came time to close the tribute I told him that what I intuited from our conversation, and his account of working to tell the kind of stories that interested him—even if Hollywood disagreed—was that he was driven by curiosity. He looked somewhat startled, but pleased, at my remark and said that it was the word that best described his character: an insatiable curiosity.

Robert Redford revealed a bit of himself over the course of this career tribute, and both the audience and I came away from the experience admiring him all the more.




Free Indie Movies and Documentaries    


  • Valeluja | March 12, 2014 6:08 PMReply

    Watergates' "own" 2004 testimony of Howard E. Hunt in writing is January 2004, creating the need for sanitizing, i.e., murder of witnesses, coincides with Robert Redford's release of Motorcycle Diaries which "did the job" of setting up the poison/murder of the real witness on Dealy and CIA activity, the World War II nurse (poisoned upon release of motorcycle diaries in 2004). The 2004 timeline is problematic for the Hunt family and for Robert Redford where confessions were "starting to roll" and there are problems here for Robert Redford. when a cutlass type car was called in to Sonoma County dispatch as having a carpet over the license plate, indicating intended foul play, it coincided with the 2004 murder of the Christian Counselors at Jenner, the famed 2004 double homicide Jenner Cutshall Lindsay, where murder of JFK killer code was used in the journal entries listed by the Sonoma County Sheriff as evidence. OK, was the "cutlass" car seen in Jenner 04 double homicide a 88 cutlass like the one owned in 2004 by St. John Hunt (the one making money off his dads' deathbead confession that began in 2004 Jan testimony (written up)). complicated, I know, but a better story than the hwite was of Robert Redford where he likes his photo op looking like a truth teller when the 2004 release of motorcycle diaries at same time of Jenner 04 double homicide where the JFK murder radio code was listed, looks more than accidental tourist. Looks more like the history lesson learned is that these events play in harmony to kill the witness on significant issues reality. The 2004 Jenner 04 double homicide has a quote written from Che Guevara, and a "take what is at stake before another mistake" sounding like someone is ready to kill more witnesses, to be sure they can "take" and then the car shows up, cutlass type, at eh same address Robert Redford drove up and called my name on. The practice to shoot JFK took place at the same place as the car drove with the covered plate, the same place Redford called my name out of (not so pleased, I might add). Does this add up to a coverup? Is this the "pretend you are God while you kill the real witnesses with movie and testimony release" or someone afraid the world will find out 'the way we were' practicing to kill Kennedy and then make money on "art" about the Cuban Revolution and CIA mishaps. Is this the plumbers of the CIA with clogged pipes, I ask, because a river is running through the storefront here.

  • Valerie Welch | March 12, 2014 5:52 PMReply

    Watergates’”own” 2004 Testimony of Howard E. Hunt in writing (January 2004) made the need for the sanitizing of the “story of JFK” and was St. John Hunt in his 88 cutlass around the
    Double Homicide of 04 Jenner California, Where two Christian counselors were murdered execution style on a beach. The 2004 timeline is problematic for the Hunt Family and for Robert Redford. The confessions were “starting to roll” and there were teengers involved in the murder of President John F. Kennedy. These were Michael Claire Welch and Mary Melissa Welch who trained along side the actual sniper who was capable of making the 6th story book depository window shot in dealy square. Mike and Melissa were not good enough to make the shot, but they assisted the man who did the murder. Mike was 14 years old, so, Watergate being helped by the 19 year old St. John Hunter is not a nuew sudden reality, and Robert Redford assisting in the “gee, allow Motorcycle Diary movie to go without protecting the World War II nurse” mentality looks like a “help the Hunts” game more than a “anti-coverup” game. Complicated, I know, but a better story than the white wash of Robert Redford where he likes his picture as a “hel0per of revealing truth” when in fact, his releasing of Motorcycle Diaries the same year that the JFK Howard E. Hunt confession came out as a blending of effort to kill, murder witnesses. The murder at Jenner 04 double homicide of the Christian counselors Cutshall Lindsay speak as blood on the ground of a meeting of hit men and women and their spoiled tots who are allowed to kill and never be arrested. There is evidence in place now at the Sonoma County Sheriff Office of this very truth, the truth that some of the coverup artists who are now artists (rich) were out there working to figure out together how to keep some of the coverup going, while making money off the Cuban Revolution and the Release of testimony (controlled, surprise, by some who helped in cover-up).

  • teresa silva | March 7, 2014 5:56 AMReply

    he is so beautifull... i love him since i have 14 years old ,iam 55 ;-)))
    i want so much meet him ....the most beautifull men in the world ,yes!!!!

  • Elena Chera | February 19, 2014 10:56 AMReply

    A smile in the corner of the mouth, actor Robert Redford that covered the full scores from Barefoot in the Park to the president's bluff Everyone at Rider electric.Un actor who knew how to show it is more than just a handsome boy with blue eyes, a true gentleman, a great professional of all time

  • Elena Chera | February 19, 2014 10:58 AM

    A smile in the corner of the mouth, actor Robert Redford that covered the full scores from Barefoot in the Park to the president's bluff Everyone at Electric Horseman An actor who knew how to show it is more than just a handsome boy with blue eyes, a true gentleman, a great professional of all time

  • Lena | February 13, 2014 7:30 PMReply

    Robert Redford is and always be one of the most charismatic and gifted actors of all time. So many younger actors have tried to emulate his mannerisms and style. Unfortunately none have been come close. .. FYI Mr. Redfords birthday is 8/18/1936. He's 77 yrs old. A true icon.

  • KC | February 13, 2014 5:24 PMReply

    I loved this! It sounds like such a charming evening. Sometimes it's nice to just sit back and chat. It sounds like you revealed a few things about Redford despite, or maybe because of, the relaxed tone.

  • sam rutherford | February 12, 2014 1:13 PMReply

    Robert Redord hasn't reached out to Che's daughter yet, while Robert Redford collects monies on a film on Che....Che's American daughter has been crippled and overcome, blinded and still trying to make ends meet, and Robert Redford is still play gaming his image instead of reaching out. How very NOT CAPTAIN AMERICAN. Maybe Robert Redford wants Captain America to be a louse and "what can I take from the fatherless and homeless now" kind of guy.

  • Paul Wolske | February 11, 2014 2:44 PMReply

    Robert Redford has the same birthday as me (8/9/37). He is 76, not 77!

  • mb | February 11, 2014 4:08 AMReply

    Redford is a class act, but as his long time fan I have to say that I have read and seen many interviews with him, and he is always being asked the same questions and gives the same answers. I just wish someone would try to ask him some new questions... I have many.
    How was it to be a father of teenagers while being a sex simble (its a very unusual situation)? Any funny stories? Or as he gets older now, does it happen that people don't know who he is? What does he feel about it, as someone that was so publicity shy... is it a relief or he misses being more in the center of attentions? What does he regret about? Stuff like rhat...

  • jo morrison | February 19, 2014 1:47 AM

    MB, I love your comment!! Do interviewers just not know what to ask, do they ask what they think the celebs expect or are able to answer, or just what they think viewers want. Your questions are great! Bob is so terribly private and avoids the interviews to a degree. Wonder if that is part of what hurt for "All is Lost" film. I also am long time fan and felt he was hands down best actor. Sadly, as he pointed out, the film was not marketed/hyped up like most of the others. I have friends who can name 10 current movies and have never heard of All is Lost. That is so wrong. I do find he has a great sense of humor. If I was the interviewer I would strive for him feeling comfortable and put a big smile on his face as we chat! I hope you keep in touch.

  • Bobby | February 10, 2014 11:34 PMReply

    This is a very light article. Hard to believe the interview was so lacking in substance or grit. Maybe it was just short. It's really just more Bobmiration.

  • Matthew | February 10, 2014 10:26 PMReply

    Will we be able to watch this online?

  • mike schlesinger | February 10, 2014 4:59 PMReply

    In a world dominated by Biebers, Cyruses, LaBoeufs and Kardashians, it's comforting to know the term "class act" is still viable.

Email Updates

Latest Tweets

Follow us

Most "Liked"

  • New Laurel & Hardy Book: Love At First ...
  • Blind Husbands-Erich Von StroheimThrowback Thursday: Von Stroheim!