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The Horse Whisperer interview

Robert Redford at The National Press Club

 


Robert Redford fielded several audience questions after his initial comments, on the occasion of his second appearance before the club in Washington, booked on the day of his ‘Quiz Show’ premiere in D.C. At the time, he was geared up to film, ‘The American President.’ He discussed a wide range of subjects from the environment, through ‘the merchant mentality’ to Van Doren. Redford assured Press Club fans he is still awaits a good script for another charismatic classic with Paul Newman, his Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid-Sting buddy.

Redford provides a sneak preview of earlier plans for the hot new Hillerman project based on the best selling mystery, ‘Skinwalkers.’ Redford’s Wildwood Productions began the telefilm for PBS’s “Mystery” series in February 2002, after many years of speculation about the delivery. The script, penned by James Redford (Robert’s son) is about modern day Navajo cops Jim Chee and Joe Leaphorn. Variety reports that ‘Smoke Signals’ Chris Eyre will direct Adam Beach and Wes Studi, as they pursue ‘the bad guys’ for an acquired TV audience. Follow up films are likely, in the tradition of ‘who dunnit’ favorites, Sherlock Holmes and Poirot.

Redford asked if anyone had any ‘nice, friendly questions’ after his initial comments. The following exchanges typify Redford’s delivery style with Press Club members.

 

Question: When are you going to run for the Senate?
Answer: Never. That question has been asked ever since we made ‘The Candidate’ and I had no idea there was going to be this ‘mark’ that would follow me around about me and politics. I really mean this, and of course, it has no currency to it, because if I deny it then I sound like every politician that denies he’s running, which is usually a set up to start running. But the truth is, for whatever that’s worth, I don’t want to, never would, never will, and there are many, many good reasons for it.

Question: On Utah, any thoughts about the gentrification of the West, the buying up of huge tracks of Western land by celebrities and others?
Answer: (audience laughs) Guess that’s a zap. Well, yes, I would feel okay about that simply because chances are, unless celebrities want to sub-divide like developers do, then I consider that as much of a good part of a land use policy, which by the way, doesn’t much exist, in my opinion. But, it’s like a software company coming in over an industrial company coming into a community in terms of the environment.
It’s just healthier for the community and its good for business. So if a celebrity or anyone who has that kind of money is going to buy a large tract of land and preserve it, I’m, of course, all for it.
What I’m not for is the kind of almost indiscriminate raping of so much of the land that’s going on, particularly in the West ‘cause that’s where most of the land exists, by consortiums of companies that are not even inside this country, so we can’t claim chauvinism in terms of our business interest. They’re outside companies who come in and take our resources, mine them and ship the profit and the byproduct out, so that doesn’t seem like good business to me, and it’s unfortunate that the power in all this, the decision making seems to be in the hands
of just a handful of Western Senators that I don’t think
are acting in the best interest of either the country or the
West.

Question: With what specific environmental causes are you currently involved? And would you care to comment on the Cairo conference on population?
Answer: The what? The work I’ve done in the environment goes back to 1969 and it’s been kinda sporadic having to do with my own work schedule. There’d be periods of time, where I would not be working or I would have to take time off of work to work exclusively in the environment politically, or in other areas politically (also) but essentially the environment.
Anything having to with the last couple of years, because I did ‘A River Runs Through It’ and then acted in two films and went right into this one (Quiz Show) So, the last couple of years I’ve been pretty preoccupied with work and I ‘m not as plugged in to every current thing, like the Cairo conference, as I might be. I have philosophic overviews that don’t change - and I keep enough up to date with what’s going on to to stay abreast in general things. Some specifics I might be a bit out of touch with.

Question: Here’s someone who’s shamelessly trying to line you up! Would you be will in to lobby on the endangered species act next year during the reauthorization process, here on Capitol Hill?

Answer: Well, Yes, I would as a matter of fact, because I think it’s going to be important. The whole issue on endangered species is a much larger one than just the phrase allows. If you’re talking about ‘the spotted owl’ I can well see that the average person is gonna think, when the political opposition to endangered species starts to mount its attack and tries to put it in the context of:

"Do you want jobs or do you want to save this thing called The Spotted Owl on a branch?"
Well, of course it’s gonna have a kind of negative impact. But for me the issue of endangered species ties to the larger, more important issue of our relationship to the natural environment and our place in it, and what I think we should be doing is respecting the balance of nature and not toying with it too much in the interest of manifest destiny or whatever you want to call it, so that carries a larger issue for me about our relationship, and balance and the use of our resources.

Question:
Do you still plan to star in a movie about the former editor of ‘The Atlantic Constitution?’ When will we see that on the screen?
Answer: That project has been put on hold, because it was important to me – if you’re going to do something like that, and particularly that subject - you need to have really all the facts, in terms of the research, and that had not - um, we didn’t. And so, what happened was that got put on the shelf, that got put on hold. And the second thing was that I find him really an interesting and admirable character. But until you can mount a character within a good story frame, there’s no point in making a film, and we have not been able to do that and in the meantime, I’ve been sidetracked with other projects.

Question: What are your plans for the movie rights to the Tony Hillerman books that feature Navajo characters? When will we see the one that was in production over four years ago?
Answer: I have the rights to all of them. The plan is, and always was - was to make them as a series, almost like the old Charlie Chan, for those of you that may remember, the Charlie Chan murder mysteries of the 40s. To make them very low budget, to make them on the reservation, with an unknown cast, new faces, new people - Native Americans. And make them pretty close together so they could be released in a space of a year at least, between. And build up, hopefully, build up a kind of momentum of an affection for these two characters, at the same time delivering a view of Native American life as it really exists today rather than in time. …………

Question: Did you seriously consider the role of Robert Kincaid in the movie version of ‘Bridges of Madison County?’ A little envious that Clint Eastwood got the role?
Answer: No. I didn’t. It wasn’t that I didn’t consider it. I wish the best for Clint. I was not always convinced that that could be a movie. It was a wonderful book. I was interested in it but not sure what kind of a movie it could be. So, I never really considered it until it would come to me in some kind of form, which it really never did, because that was a contract deal between Clint and the studio that he’s got a connection with.

Question: Do you have a favorite of all the movies in which you’ve appeared or that you’ve directed?
Answer: No. I don’t. I like different movies for different reasons. They’re just different reasons. I mean, Butch Cassidy was probably the most fun… just because.* And then, there was ‘All The President’s Men,’ because so many people thought we couldn’t make it… and we had so much resistance to getting it made, much of it from the press itself. Just being able to get that to the screen. It took three years and a lot of hard work, and we had to suffer some early paranoia on the media, and a lot of it at The Washington Post. So to get past all that – we were getting both cooperation and hedge betting at the same time. So that was tough… it was hurdle after hurdle and we finally got past it. It was very gratifying to finally show the film here in Washington and not be eaten alive and have it come out all right. There was satisfaction in that. There was satisfaction in taking this small book, ‘A River Runs Through It,’ not many had heard of, and those who had read it said, “You can’t make a movie out of this.” I saw that was probably the case, but I just had to try and be able to get that to the screen and get a film out of it - those are all very satisfying along with films that are fun because of the acting experience. So there’s no one film, no. ....

Question: In all of those movies, is there a common thread running through them?
Answer: I think somebody like Hal Hinson could do better with that one than I can. I can only talk about intentions. How it’s perceived by others is another matter. There are always issues that run through for me. Characters involved in a conflict that turns out to be a human conflict having to do with forces that might overwhelm their right to be an individual. Any clash - capitalism and ethics, which ‘Quiz Show’ is certainly about, which is an eternal struggle; ethics usually loses. And any system that has the power to overwhelm either our rights or us as individuals interests me dramatically.

Question: Late breaking question here - what was the paranoia with The Washington Post about ‘All The President’s Men’?
Answer: I don’t criticize it; I understand it. It just made it tough to film, that’s all. The paranoia was, ‘what were you going to do with it? I was perceived as a movie star and there was this institution that had this reputation and what was I going to do with it? What was I doing to do with a project that had such charisma to it, was a best selling novel and a huge event in our history? Was I going to make it a Hollywood movie? You know, what was I going to do with it. Simple as that. And that’s a very understandable concern. And their own ambivalence about wanting to be in movies and not wanting to trust movies was what created the hurdle that I had to try to work over. But we did. We had some people within the Post that were unflagging in their cooperation, like Bob Woodward. He may have had something to gain in it, but he was incredibly cooperative even against the heat of his own paper.
And it was through Bob and Carl – their notes – we were able to construct a lot of the screenplay from because I wasn’t able to get enough information from the original screenplay. So, we went back with them and just took all their notes and constructed a lot of the dramatic scenes from their notes. That was invaluable cooperation. There were editors within the paper. And then there were others that were frayed and nervous There were others off making themselves up in the corner, trying not to be discovered There was a whole lot of stuff going on that just made it tough.

U>Question: People regard you with enormous respect as an actor, producer and director. When you bring your talent and prestige to television?
Answer: I’ve been there. I started in the theatre and then I went from theatre to television and I had a two and a half year, pretty intense apprenticeship in television, which by the way, I’m very grateful for; I learned a great deal from it. It taught me a lot about how to work quickly on my feet. But, finally, and particularly at that time, in the early 60’s, I wanted the medium of film because it gave me more time to get into the development of a character and the development of the story, so I liked graduating to film but I don’t regret the time I spent in television.

Question: I just saw the rerun of ‘The Way We Were’ – it was truly the way it was. Make more movies like that! What was it like working with Barbra Streisand? What’s your view of the hostility she feels she has faced in Hollywood as an attractive female and filmmaker and performer? And someone else wants to know if you plan to work with her again?
Answer: Yea, I do want to work with her again and I loved working with her. So much so that I said I’d like to do something again. What I did not want to do is a sequel, which people have been pushing for, what is it now, for 20 years, I guess. And I don’t believe in sequels, for me. With so many wonderful stories to tell and so much to do creatively, it seems like a tremendous waste of time to make a sequel, but that’s my own view. The film, whatever you think of it, it was what it was and it said it, did it, and it’s done.
But, I want to work with her. She knows that. As far as the hostility she turns out, I don’t know about that.
She’s quite, I think, loved in Hollywood. Hostility usually comes from - evoking hostility usually comes from having strong points of view clearly expressed, and she does that. She’s an ‘out there’ entertainer who I have a lot of respect for, so, yes I’d like to work with her. I don’t think there’s that much hostility to her in Hollywood. I think she’s doing fine. She’s doin’ better than I am.

Question: Have you been following Leonard Pelteir’s plight since the documentary? If so, have there been any changes?
Answer: Well, it just keeps going on. I’m obviously eternally hopeful about his plight and that the outcome will be positive because I think it should. There’s clearly some behind the scenes struggle going on there. I don’t know when we’re really going to find out all there is to know about it. The due process is certainly very labored at the moment. It’s taken a long time. I think the latest constitutionally, the odds seem to be somewhat against him. I think the hope is that he will be granted a pardon, which I certainly, at least, think he deserves. I think that is the new hope – that, within this administration a much-deserved pardon would come his way. As to where he is at the moment I don’t know.

Question: What do you think of the press? Do we tell the truth or not?
Answer: Well, I think sometimes you do and sometimes you don’t. I can experience it on my own. You know sometimes in my own life I’ve been victimized by the press, championed by the press, and I suspect if you sort it all out, it’s been a pretty fair go in my time. But I certainly experienced first hand totally irresponsible disregard for the truth in printing a story just because it’s good copy, and good copy makes good money. That’s tough because the feeling you have when those things happen, when that kind of abuse comes and you read something about yourself that’s so remotely untrue. I mean, it’s so far off the track. You think, “Couldn’t they call? Do they ever want to call? Do they ever want to check that or verify it?” I just had to sit through a thing in TIME magazine. You know, it’s so one sided - and a couple of other places. Most of the time, you just let it go cause there’s nothing you can do about it. And then sometimes it’s funny. It’s so ridiculous, it’s funny and you can laugh at it and move on. And sometimes it just plain hurts. But the feeling you always have is that you are impotent.
At that moment, it’s like being put into a cell and having the door shut – and you can’t move. It would be nice if everybody had to experience that before they went out and so off-handedly perpetuated that on another human being.
But I think that still I happen to be grateful for television, as critical as I am. I’m grateful for it’s existence because it can bring us the truth. It can educate us. I am grateful for print journalism because of what it supposedly stands for and, I think, in many instances still does. And of course, I’m saddened and disappointed and sometimes angered by the flagrant abuse of something so valuable to us, that I worry about it’s future if it isn’t more respected.

Question: Do you find it difficult to be a celebrity?
Answer: Yes, I do.

Question: Do you want to elaborate on that?
Answer: It’s obviously got great points to it. I mean, here’s one of them. The fact that I’m invited here to speak and that somebody’s interested in what I have to say about something is very flattering and bolstering. But you know, there is a Faustian side to all this, that you, for whatever glamour, whatever wonderful things there are that can benefit your life, there is also a down side, which is a loss of privacy, the beginning to be treated like an object, and then worrying that you’re going to start feeling like one, and then maybe become one. The inability to be private and somebody makes too much out of it. People make a lot about me and privacy. It is really very simple. I just want to have as much of a normal life as I can. And sometimes you have to go so private to have it, you do it.
It isn’t a question of being a recluse or hiding from anybody or anything like that. It just that it gets to be tough when you’re trying to go about observing life around you, interacting with life around you in that kind of real way. It’s frustrating when the hype of your own persona gets in your way. - it’s hard. So, that’s the down side.

Televised live on C-SPAN from The National Press Club in Washington, D.C.
September 1994

* Making 'Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid'


Environmental page Redford and the BIOGEMS Project
Earth Theme: Sundance Channel The Green: Eco-mmunity

 

 

THE RIVER RUNS THROUGH IT balances and disciplines tendencies to color outside the lines. First, there is a reference to pre-creation when we hear about the veiled codes of God: “Even before that, beneath the rocks, are the words of God – Listen!”
The father teaches both sons, who are brothers suspiciously akin to Gemini (the lower mind, self-taught) and Sagittarius (upper mind, instructed in schools of higher learning) * “Casting is an art that is performed on a four-count rhythm that is between ten o’clock and two o’clock.”
And finally – “We can love completely without complete understanding.” “Eventually all things merge into one, and the river runs through it.”

Great references TV and Movia Trivia ~ Robert Redford
AMC's synopsis ~ THE CANDIDATE
(1972) Warner Bros.
Color, 117 min
Starring: Robert Redford, Melvyn Douglas, Don Porter, Peter Boyle, Allen Garfield, Karen Carlson, Quinn Redeker
Director: Michael Ritchie

An idealistic politician, son of a famous governor, is pressured into running for the U.S. Senate against the popular incumbent, with the assurance that he will lose and not have to give up his integrity or ideals. However, as the campaign deepens, he finds himself giving in and allowing himself to be manipulated as the polls slowly change and swing in his favor, and his backers decide that they want him to win after all. Ritchie's satire is made sharper by its realistic treatment of the subject.

 


BABE RUTH SIZED UP TED WILLIAMS AS NATURAL FIRST TIME
When I first saw Ted Williams swinging a bat I knew he would be one of the best. He's loose and easy, with a great pair of wrists. Just a natural. Williams ought to be one of the first hitters in many years to pass .400."

"You know how it is in golf," Babe said later. "You have to get in a good body turn. There'd be more home run hitters in baseball if the fellows at the plate would get their body around farther at the start. I watched Joe Jackson, old Shoeless Joe, bat this way and I copied him. Only I was around even farther than Joe was." Golden Days: Ted Williams and Babe Ruth

Robert Redford entry page

visit The Natural Robert Redford and Ted Williams - The Natural

Spy Game

- Mountain Lake Wave, shared by Robert Redford, Brad Pitt, and Ted Williams

* Prayers For Leonard Peltier *

 

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