By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood December 3, 2013 at 3:26PM
While Redford does not like doing the usual dog-and-pony shows demanded of Oscar contenders, last fall he did attend two festivals. The Telluride Film Festival gave him a tribute, and he participated in a Q & A at the New York Film Festival (where he arrived at the press conference characteristically late). Why the relatively high profile? This year, after years of directing such films as "The Company We Keep," the star is in the running for acting awards.
"Margin Call" writer-director J.C. Chandor managed to convince Redford to perform in "All is Lost," in the virtually silent solo role of an expert sailor in big trouble alone on the Indian Ocean. It's the first time a Sundance director has asked the head of the Utah Institute and Festival to star in a film, Redford said at his Telluride Tribute. Redford said, "Sure, let's do it." He got a kick out of returning to his acting roots, he said.
The star carries the screen--you believe that he is a capable, canny, confident sailor who resourcefully pits himself against everything that the sea and nature throw at him. In one shot as he prepares to confront a major storm there's a glimpse of that old Sundance Kid smile as he faces a worthy adversary.
Redford liked "All is Lost" because "it is existential," he said. "I've always been interested, like 'Jeremiah Johnson,' in people who go through a terrible ordeal...all there is to do is to keep going...that's what this is about."
He didn't mind having no dialogue. "You give yourself over to the character," he said."You have to live through these tests. In a real way I wanted to know at this point in my life what I was able to physically do. I hadn't lost myself in a character in a while...it was tough."
Chandor later said that 90% of the film was done by Redford himself--and that "no humans were harmed while making the film." Stunt men filled in on some key shots, but not many.