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New York Film Critics Winner Redford Candidly Talks Career and Stunning 'All is Lost' (UPDATE)

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood December 3, 2013 at 3:26PM

Following his triumph at Cannes with "All is Lost," Robert Redford has now landed a Best Actor win from the New York Film Critics Circle. He is on his way to an expected Oscar nomination.
Chandor and Redford of 'All Is Lost' at Cannes
Chandor and Redford of 'All Is Lost' at Cannes

A Redford tribute is an embarrassment of riches, because his 51-year acting career spans so many superb films. The man who grew up in a working class Hispanic neighborhood of Los Angeles briefly attended the University of Colorado on a baseball scholarship (he later played an aging baseball star in "The Natural" in 1984) before studying art and theater at New York's Pratt and the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, respectively, where he learned to listen and observe as an artist. He learned early on what it was like be short on cash and booed for doing nothing on a 1959 quiz show (fodder for his later directing triumph in "Quiz Show"). His star Ralph Fiennes, who is in Telluride with his movie "The Invisible Woman," when presenting Redford with his medallion, said working on that film was "a master class for me."

Redford starred in many TV shows, from "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" and "The Twilight Zone" to "Route 66" and "Perry Mason." The tribute clips alone were a treat, starting with TV movie "The Iceman Cometh" in 1960, and the sexy and funny "Barefoot in the Park" with Jane Fonda (1967), the film version of Mike Nichols' hit play. (Redford turned down Nichols' "The Graduate," which went to his later "All the President's Men" co-star Dustin Hoffman, because it didn't feel right to him. He also passed on "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf" because it felt "fake.")  

"Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" (1969) made him a movie star. Director George Roy Hill and Paul Newman had to fight for him and agree to switch the two lead roles so that the originally titled "Sundance Kid and Butch Cassidy" got changed to favor the bigger movie star. It was his favorite experience acting, Redford told interviewer Todd McCarthy, and so he and Newman reteamed on the Best Picture Oscar-winning "The Sting" (1973) which earned him his only Best Actor Oscar nomination. He may well add another for "All is Lost." (He won the Oscar for directing "Ordinary People" as well as an honorary statuette in 2002.)

Redford's 60s politics came to the fore in a series of films from "Downhill Racer" in 1969, about "the pyrrhic victory of winning," and the meltdown on the campaign trail in "The Candidate" (1972) and "All the President's Men" (1976) to "The Way We Were" (1973) in which he romanced Barbra Streisand and another film with long time directing muse Sydney Pollack, "Three Days of the Condor" (1975) which they developed closely together. His most demanding role, he said, was opposite Meryl Streep in Pollack's "Out of Africa" (1985). "I began to feel he used me as symbol," he said. "I was encased."

The director helped his old friend Pollack's directing career get started by recommending him to Natalie Wood for "This Property is Condemned." When asked if Redford has approved of any of the presidents he has lived through, he thought for a moment and said, "no."

"Do you still have the acting drive?" asked McCarthy. "Yup, I can't help it," Redford answered.

This article is related to: Robert Redford, All Is Lost, Telluride Film Festival, Telluride, Festivals, Interviews, Interviews , Interviews

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Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.