Robert Redford stars as the leader of an aging bank-robbing crew and Casey Affleck is a pursuing cop in the crime comedy-drama “Old Man & the Gun.’
TORONTO – It’s true. Robert Redford is holstering his gun.
The 82-year-old star leans back in his chair at Toronto International Film Festival, his hair slightly mussed, dressed casually this crisp Sunday afternoon. He’s here for “The Old Man & the Gun” (in theaters Sept. 28 in New York and Los Angeles; expands Oct. 5 to Chicago, Dallas, Boston, Phoenix, San Francisco and Washington), his self-proclaimed retirement from acting.
In it, Redford takes on the true story of charismatic, dapper 78-year-old bank robber Forrest Tucker, a tale he first read about in The New Yorker. Dressed in a three-piece suit, “the guy robs 17 banks, got caught 17 times, went to prison 17 times and escaped 17 times,” Redford says. “I thought, ‘Now, that is a great story,’ particularly since the guy had fun doing it.”
Fun is what the Sundance Kid decided his curtain call should be. His previous film, “Our Souls at Night,” co-starring Jane Fonda, “was a very sad love story about older people. It was kind of heavy,” he says. “And so I thought, ‘Gee, I’d like to do something more upbeat and positive.’ Particularly since it seems we’re living in such dark times, certainly politically.”
With accusations hitting the White House daily, it’s a fascinating time to talk to Redford about his legacy, particularly the making of 1976’s “All the President’s Men.” Sit with the movie star and he’ll rehash how he read Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein’s bylines and later invited the duo over to his New York apartment before Richard Nixon resigned.
He’s still in contact with Woodward, who is in the headlines again with “Fear: Trump in the White House,” his explosive new book about President Donald Trump. “I haven’t had a chance to read it yet. But it’s pure Woodward,” Redford says.
Redford predicts a glut of films about Trump’s White House, but “you’ve got to get some distance. We’ll have to wait for a while, when the public sees it as history, and then I think you can make a film about it that will remind people of how it was. And you’ll also be able to take chances you couldn’t take when it’s in the moment.”
In “The Old Man & the Gun,” Redford romances a new woman (Sissy Spacek), plots new marks and toys with a cop (Casey Affleck) hot on his trail. Forrest is a man who lives definitively, pushing away any twinges of regret about his lifestyle. “That’s why he’s always happy,” the actor says. “He didn’t look back.”
Does Redford live like that?
“I look both ways,” he chuckles. “You know, you get to a point where you live a career, you live a life where you’re constantly moving forward and you don’t think about looking back. And you get to be a certain age where you become more philosophical – that’s when you start to look back and go, ‘Boy, that was a mistake’ and ‘Well, that was OK.’ And I think that’s probably where I am.”
In person, Redford, whose thick hair grays just at his temples, is a man you don’t want to interrupt. The legendary actor and director has stories for days, and happily harks back to his early days, zeroing in on when he was cast in Sidney Lumet’s “The Iceman Cometh.” The 1960 TV production of Eugene O’Neill’s play starred Jason Robards, whose powerful performance overwhelmed young Redford.
“I was pretty well ignored, because I was a young actor that nobody really knew about,” he says. “But Jason was very kind to me. And he didn’t need to be.”
Redford never forgot it. Robards, who struggled with alcohol, was nearly killed in a 1972 car crash. “His face was badly damaged and had to be repaired,” Redford says. “Once it was, and he was looking back to normal, he couldn’t get work. Hollywood being Hollywood, they considered he was yesterday and damaged.
“So when ‘All the President’s Men’ came around and I had control over that project, I felt he should be Ben Bradlee,” Redford says. The studio said no. “Finally, I said ‘Look, either you let me work with him or I won’t do it.’ Then he won an Academy Award.”
He smiles. “It was a nice moment of what I call payback. It was a nice chance for me to pay back Jason, whom I had such admiration for.”
What now? Redford’s first official retirement project will be directing “109 East Palace,” a film about J. Robert Oppenheimer developing the atomic bomb.
“Moving on doesn’t mean you retire,” Redford says. “When you really, really talk about retirement, you’re talking about something stopping. … For me, (this means) going back to my artwork and directing.”
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