Legendary filmmaker Robert Redford, honored with the Film Society of Lincoln Center Chaplin Award Monday night, was not going to get roped into a political imbroglio on the red carpet on his big night. Redford was asked as a “left wing guy,” whether he thought Hillary Clinton or Ted Cruz would have “to center their views to win without losing their ideals?”
Redford countered, “That’s a great question. I don’t know what their real views are.” The reporter persisted, “So you think they’re already diluting…?” His words wandered off while Redford replied diplomatically, “I have no idea. I just know politics is a dangerous ship to float in and you have to make compromises and maybe some you don’t have to, but in terms of those two I have no comment.”
None of the presenters diluted their praise for Redford. The round up included Jane Fonda, J.C. Chandor, John Turturro, Laura Poitras, Elizabeth Moss, and via pre-recorded video, George Lucas and Quentin Tarantino. The evening featured film clips from “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” “Downhill Racer,” “All the President’s Men,” “Three Days of the Condor,” “Barefoot in the Park,” and his more recent films, “All Is Lost,” “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” and the yet to be released, “A Walk in the Woods.”
Chandor introduced a clip from Redford’s upcoming film, “Truth,” about the final days of Dan Rather at CBS News. The clip shows Redford, who plays Rather, in an airplane giving tips to another journalist. Of course Redford and Rather look nothing alike, which is a curious twist, but the film looks intriguing.
The gala began with a walk down memory lane for Jane Fonda who has worked with Redford on three films, including “Barefoot in the Park” and “The Electric Horseman.” Said Fonda, “Looking at his work, past and present, I don’t think there’s any other actor who has had a bigger influence and impact on American cinema than Bob Redford.”
George Lucas called Redford “a beacon for all independent filmmakers,” while Tarantino recalled back in 1991, at age 28 – before he had ever seen snow up close – he was accepted into the Sundance Directors Workshop with a script for a film that was to become “Reservoir Dogs.”
Elizabeth Moss, who co-stars with Redford in his upcoming movie, “Truth” spoke about how Redford launched her mini-television series, “Top of the Lake,” along with supporting several of her independent films. She recalled a trip to the Cannes Film Festival with Redford to promote another project. A photograph of Moss standing between Redford and her “Mad Men” costar Jon Hamm flashed on the screen. Said Moss, “Two thoughts came to mind when I saw that: Can I just die now? And why do they both have prettier hair than me?”
She added, “Bob is one of the kindest, most generous, most talented people in the world. It will always be one of the great accomplishments of my life that I got to work with him.”
J.C. Chandor recalled his first meeting with Redford. “I had offered him a part in ‘All Is Lost.’ In fact it was the only part in ‘All is Lost.’” A week after the meeting Redford asked the director fly across the country to discuss it in more detail. “Starring there at the Sundance Kid, I just started talking,” he said, “I just went into how I was going to make this movie and I went into as many details as I possibly could and then about 4 or 5 minutes Redford held up his hand to stop me and he said, ‘Jesus, for a guy who wrote a 31 page-script with no words in it you sure can talk a lot.”
The director recalled Redford flew to the set in Mexico on his 76th birthday with no “entourage or fanfare.” No one on the crew had even been born when Redford began making films. Chandor said his star spent the next couple months “getting the physical and mental crap beat out of him.”
Chandor said he learned many things from that experience, especially “how to make a career in this business while trying to remain a devoted, responsible father and husband, how to balance and protect what it is that’s meaningful in your work and most importantly how to handle several shots of tequila while under large doses of Mexican antibiotics, which he was on for an ear infection.”
Finally he saluted Redford for his work inspiring filmmakers and lifting them up through Sundance by taking the non-conventional path, “because you never gave in and you still haven’t.”
The high point of the evening was the reunion of Katie Morosky Gardner and Hubbell Gardner; Barbra Streisand, 73, who played Katie in “The Way We Were,” presented Robert Redford, 78, who co-starred as Hubbell, with the 42nd Chaplin Award.
To howls and cheers Streisand Barbra Streisand swept on stage, regretted she hadn’t attended the rehearsal, and tried – mainly successfully – to make out her notes. She recalled the first day on set of “The Way We Were.”
“It was a few days after ‘Funny Girl,’ and as I walked down the sound stage I could hear the crew shouting out my opening lines from, ‘Funny Girl. Hello Gorgeous!’ I was thrilled. I was flattered and then, I realized they were talking to Bob.” Ba-ba-boom. The audience ate it up.
Streisand said she first saw Redford in “Inside Daisy Clover” and thought “Who is this Man? I realized there’s a lot going on behind those crystal-blue eyes.” Straining at her notes, Streisand murmured, I can’t bear it, this son of a bitch,” as the audience cracked up.
She wanted Redford “desperately” for “The Way We Were,” but Redford turned it down “because he thought the character was too one-dimensional.” Director Sydney Pollack suggested other actors, but Streisand was even more set on casting Redford after she saw “Jeremiah Jones. “Once he washed up and cut off the beard.”
Screenwriter Arthur Laurents kept rewriting the script. When Streisand was in Africa shooting a film, she received a telegram from her agent that read, “Barbra Redford,” and “that’s when I knew that he finally said yes.”
Streisand went on to salute Redford as a “visionary” who “always believed that freedom of artistic expression is something to be nurtured and encouraged and kept alive while others talked about that concept.” She went on to call him “that rare combination, an intellectual cowboy, a charismatic star, who is one of the finest actors of our generation, and talented working both sides of the lens.” Then Streisand quoted from “The Way We Were,” where Katie says to Hubbell, “People are their principles” and that her co-star personified that maxim.
She ended with, “Dear Bob, it was such fun being married to you for a while. Too bad it didn’t work out, but we made something that will last much longer than many real marriages and I’m so proud of the work that we did together. I was thrilled to be your leading lady.”
When Redford came out on stage, Streisand tenderly touched his still curly hair and they embraced.
Redford said he was not “one to look back” but he briefly reflected on his California upbringing to his early days as a theater actor in New York. “Taking risks, for some people, that’s not an acceptable thing, but for me it’s a step along the way.”
He spoke of the meaning of success, how it was relative. “For some it’s the endgame. But For me it’s the step along the way, not to be fully embraced but maybe to be shadowboxed with.”
He spoke of how it “might be old fashioned but putting something back feels right” as he referred to the founding of Sundance as a place “for filmmakers and playwrights to develop their skills who might otherwise not have a chance to do so, and to do it in a place that’s free from the urban environment of L.A… in a place of nature and see what happens.”Adding the results could have been “horrible.”
Redford ended with, “I guess doing this is really the climb up the mountain, not so much standing at the top because at that point there’s nowhere to go, just the journey and the work, and that’s what means the most to me is the climbing.”