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San Francisco Film Society







The next International takes place April 25–May 9, 2013.


Robert Redford Considers His Career


The atmosphere was tinged with excitement in the glorious movie palace that is the Castro Theater. Eager audiences were assembled to worship at the feet of one of filmdom's true icons. Here, on this stage, was an actor who has made women swoon, made man envious and made his mark as one of the last true Hollywood stars. Robert Redford, with a face and physique that still makes heads turn, was being honored by the San Francisco International Film Festival with the Peter J. Owens Award for his contributions to the art of film acting.

After introductions by the ever dapper Graham Leggat, the Executive Director of the San Francisco Film Society, a 20 minute clip reel was screened giving potent reminder to the Redford star power. From his stage-to-screen breakout role in Neil Simon's BAREFOOT IN THE PARK, through such classics as BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID, THE CANDIDATE, THE STING, THREE DAYS OF THE CONDOR, THE WAY WE WERE, ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN and OUT OF AFRICA, Redford has done it all.....comedy, drama, political thrillers, historical pagaents.

"I never really thought I would make it as an actor", Redford confessed on the stage to interviewer Phillip Bronstein, the Editor At Large of the San Francisco Chronicle. "When I was young, I dreamed about becoming a professional baseball player, and in my early career I loved parts that were physically demanding." In THE NATURAL, he finally got his chance to play the American sport in a film....and he was the actor himself hitting those hits, catching those balls and playing the field.

Asked if he consciously chose roles that accented his natural gifts (his extraordinary good looks, piercing eyes, perfect blond hair), the veteran actor chuckled. "The truth is, I never had much of a plan. I just chose film roles where there was some interesting angle that I could latch on to. If a guy was charming, I was curious about what insecurities or demons lay beneath the surface. That is what is interesting to play."

When Bronstein quoted a biographer's comment that Redford has led a charmed life, the actor was quick  to shoot down such a quaint notion. "I grew up in a working class neighborhood in Los Angeles, where our family was one of the few Anglos. Times were hard for people in that community, and I myself worked a lot of thankless jobs in my early years. Even after I had made my successes, first on Broadway and then in the movies, there were always personal challenges and family losses. So, no, I definitely do not think of this as a charmed life, although it has been an interesting one."

The actor shared various anecdotes surrounding some of his famous films. "I turned down the part of the screenwriter in THE WAY WE WERE, because I thought the character was too bland and was just a foil for the Barbara Streisand character. But Sydney Pollack (the director) really pushed me and he showed me that there was an insecurity behind this character that made him interesting, and that is how I played it."

"For ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN, I spent time with Bob Woodward, who told me straight out that he was pretty dull. But as the script developed, I saw that he was the calm one, who could go for the jugular if needed. I also was impressed with his doggedness and how relentless he was about doing endless, boring research just to find one good fact he could use. I played it that way and found his obsessiveness an interesting character to play."

Despite the perks that come with being one of the most recognizable faces on the planet, Redford pointed to the downside of such celebrity. "Hey, I'm only human and flattery is a nice thing to have around you. But after BUTCH CASSIDY, I found that I was constantly being approached on the street and started feeling concerned about how this fame would affect my family. I've tried to live a very private life, despite of that, because I think an important job for an actor is to observe life as it is going on. When you are the center of attention, it is hard to observe and absorb. That is the key to really going deeper into your craft. So fame is definitely a double-edged sword, but obviously, it has its compensations."

Redford, who is also an accomplished film director and a well-known social and political activist, talked about his motivations for creation of the Sundance Institute. "We didn't really have a full plan, I just knew that I wanted to provide an environment where filmmakers who wanted to make films outside of mainstream Hollywood could meet and thrive. If we don't have a way to have new voices be heard, then the film culture will only be blockbusters and films that appeal to young people. It can be and should be so much than that." The revealing on-stage interview with the notoriously reclusive Redford was followed by the world premiere screening of a new 40th anniversary film print of his enduring classic, BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID.

After 40 years as an actor, director, indie film icon, Redford has had an influence way beyond that of a typical matinee idol....his career and his legacy continue to evolve. And women still swoon at the sight of him.

Sandy Mandelberger, Festival Dailies Editor



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About San Francisco Film Society

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The longest-running film festival in the Americas, the San Francisco International Film Festival has built an international reputation for bringing the world’s finest films and filmmakers together with passionate and enthusiastic Bay Area audiences.

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