||It's easy to be a big name in a city.
What with clubs, independent films being shown 17 times a day at the local
theatre, and the net readily available at your local coffee shop anyone
from Ewan MacGregor (Blackhawk
Down) to Heather Donahue (The Blair Witch Project) has a
I however happen to live in a small town. This would be a town with no theatre or coffee shop. Our downtown metropolitan spread features a museum (now with four different types of butter churns!!) and a convenience store/local video rental shop/gossip central. Farmers live out here. Mechanics live out here. Hunters live out here. These would be men who think Heather Donahue is that "new girl who just moved in down the street," and barely know Ewan MacGregor as "that feller with that flashy light thingy in that space movie." Robert Redford is a different story.
I managed to miss The Last Castle in the theatre so decided to amble up to the local country store to rent it. After wading through the aisles organized in such a way as to find angel food cake mixes and 2 cycle engine oil on the same shelf, I found the blue video box I was looking for and made my way to the counter/freezer to pay. There I found the shopkeeper surrounded by four burly men in (I would guess) their late forties/early fifties. Immediately concerned for my delicate sensibilities the shopkeeper asked "Will you be OK Jen? Just us guys and you?" I assured him that I would be alright. He then inquired "How's the writing coming?" I told him of my recent assignment to write a profile piece on Robert Redford. He then replied "Oh Bob Redford.... I just saw his last one, what's it called? Something about a Spy. Anyway, I couldn't believe how OLD he looked." Mentally I made a note that I thought the man who had been voted People's sexiest man alive looked just FINE to me, and turned to go when one of the conglomeration of manly men piped up in agreement. "Yeah, pretty old, pretty wrinkly" (said in a voice that would have resulted from a sandpapered tuba). As I was attempting to side-step the bread/nails & screws section he started up again. "You know, I work out in the sun all summer long, and my skin gets pretty dry. Bob probably has that problem with all that, whatsit, California weather. Well, I went right out and got me some Noxema, and that made a world of difference. You can barely tell I had skin problems. Maybe Bob should give that a try." I assured the farmer that I would pass it along, and smiling grabbed The Last Castle, and made it outside before chuckling.
Is there a face in Hollywood more recognizable than Robert Redford? I don't think so. This particular Hollywood icon has had a career like no other, having starred in over 50 movies, produced at least 19, directed 6, appeared in countless TV shows, been voted "People's Sexiest Man Alive," and is currently riding high at number 2 on the list of the great one sided loves of my life.
Redford is known best, (at least out
here in the boondocks) for his collaborative efforts with another film
great, Paul Newman. Head off to our local country store for a movie on
a Friday night, and you'll find all the copies of Moulin Rouge you
can eat. Want to rent a copy of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
on the spur of the moment? I think not. That movie is adored out my way.
It's also been the major motivator for a consistent quantity of broken
limbs for each year, after the first major snowstorm, there's at least
one pair who decides to re-enact that particular scene from Redford and
Newman's Butch and Sundance. For those of you who have not seen it; the
outlaws are running away from a pursuing posse, and come to a dead end.
A cliff. A TALL cliff. After arguing with Sundance (Redford) for about
2 minutes, and exasperated Butch (Newman) finally gets to the root of why
Sundance doesn't want to jump off the TALL cliff into a SMALL amount of
Butch: "What's the matter with you anyway?"
1) Insert loud expletive of choice.
"I liked him in that one. You know. Whosit. "Next time I say let's go someplace like Bolivia, let's go someplace like Bolivia." What's his face. The guy."
The guy indeed.
Second only to Sundance, my little village knows Redford as Johnny Hooker from 1979's The Sting, the young con-artist learning at the feet of Newman's Henry Gondorff. While the charm of Redford's character didn't motivate any of my neighbours to change their style from orange checked coats to spats, it did let a friend of mine bent on focusing on a person who had done her wrong take a bit more humour in the situation. Joplin's musical score brought at least one gentleman who had never paid any attention to the ragtime musician to a piano lesson.
As the 600 pound gorilla who sits anywhere he wants to, Redford is kept busy these days acting alongside people like Brad Pitt in Spy Game, and James Gandolfini in The Last Castle. We are all eagerly awaiting his next directorial effort, as he has proven his mettle with some of Hollywood's A-list (Matt Damon and Will Smith in The Legend of Bagger Vance, Rob Morrow and Ralph Fiennes in Quiz Show). Not only is Redford honing his directing craft, but he's also extending his repertoire as a producer with movies like A Civil Action, and Slums of Beverly Hills. And, somewhere in the middle of all this, he is managing to be a force in environmental activism, and a role model to a zillion burgeoning filmmakers.
Redford, along with creative partners founded the Sundance Institute and Festival to encourage new filmmakers; giving them a place to learn the process involved in creating a movie, and giving them a forum so that their finished product may be seen. The Institute offers a variety of programs to boost a variety of performers. They offer everything from documentary and feature film programs, to workshops for score composers, to script writers workshops. There's even a program called 'Gen Y Studio' meant for able high school students to get involved and learn their craft, giving them an opportunity that might not have existed were it not for Redford.
As well as his awesome accomplishments as a mentor, Redford is also an aggressive crusader for the environment. He's fought for awareness of the need to protect beautiful natural sites through drawing attention to them in films like Our Biosphere: The Earth in our Hands, To Protect Mother Earth, and Yosemite: The Fate of Heaven. These documentaries are so lovely that the images of the scenery remain lodged in your memory for days after viewing them. After a career so successful in so many aspects of the movie world Redford is obviously aware of the motivating effects of his medium.
Redford also founded the Institute for Resource Management (IRM) in 1981. This agency not only handles such complex issues as the environmentally sound methods of oil exploration, and disposal of toxic waste, but also fights water and air pollution, and for appropriate fishing and hatchery rights for the proper people. Redford, not content to merely sit on the sidelines and observe, has taken on negotiations between disputing industrialists and environmentalists on such delicate matters as the future of electrical power, and offshore drilling. Not only that, but he is also an advocate for the Clean-Air Act, and the Energy Conservation and Protection Act, and was additionally awarded the NAS Aubodon medal for environmental excellence in 1997.
I find the best way to get to know an actor is to talk to those people who admire (or at least have seen) examples of their work. Redford is an interesting man to canvass people over as commentary runs from the complimentary end of the spectrum to the other. I spoke to co- workers about this legend, starting with a gentleman by the name of Vincent Perron (rabid female fans, that's pronounced "pair-on"). He expressed several extremely non flattering view points, (which for any children reading this I will not repeat here) so I asked what Redford had ever done to him. To which he replied, "He existed, and thus my girlfriend made me go see The Horse Whisperer, which was painfully boring." What did amaze me though was that for someone who proclaims his dislike for Redford, he was able to rhyme off a number of obscure titles..... Ask the ladies of my small town about the very same theatre-going experience, and you'll get a very different description that varies slightly on this theme:
1) Watch Tom Booker (Redford) onscreen.I think that Redford appeals to the women of my hometown (and everywhere else in Nova Scotia it would seem) not only because of his most obvious charm, but also because, though he has played some pretty gruff characters, he has never taken a role where he has been disrespectful of his lady co-stars. (Except perhaps for Indecent Proposal which I personally consider to be one of the funniest movies ever made. Robert Redford, unless the female gender have all recently been possessed by beings from the Planet Zoomba, doesn't now, nor ever will require money to get women to throw themselves at him.)
A co-worker has told me I may quote her on this one, as long as I don't mention that her last name. But I guess it's OK to tell you that her first name is Annia (pronounced Anne-ya). This 'ahem' anonymous person told me that she would go to work for the CIA tomorrow if it meant there was the slightest possibility that Robert might come charging in to rescue her from the evils of her boyfriend, or possibly Brad Pitt; (A la Spy Game) then whisking her off to some foreign locale. "Gunshots, Smunshots," said she. "Who's going to notice that beautiful man about?" Gillian, a co-worker, and kindred movie geek who once worked back shift at a local video chain (for privacy's sake we'll call them Retsubkcolb) said when asked what the first word was that came to mind when Redford was mentioned, "Hot." This was similar to co-worker Martine's response, "Hot in a pair of Levi's." (I suspect she may have thought about this more strenuously than Gillian.) Then there are those like co- worker Colleen who fell into Redford by accident while watching Spy Game. She told me that she likes his smarts, the way he "outwitted everybody at the end." The main theme I caught was that intelligence was a big factor in his appeal.
Among the varying members of the local Butch and Sundance Players, the women of exceptional taste, and select few men out there who enjoy his films, there are in fact people like co-worker Beth, who, when questioned had no idea who Robert Redford actually is. I sat with her in the teeny break room as she ate her lunch, and tried to jog her memory. "You must have seen Spy Game, I said. "Nope," she answered. I approached it from another angle. "You're a history major. Surely you've watched All the President's Men, or A Bridge too Far? Again a negative answer. "OK," I said as a last attempt "How about Up Close and Personal. You're a big Michelle Pfieffer fan. Surely you've seen that." Again nope.
To ensure that Beth will not miss the
fun that is Redford, I'm going to invite Beth out to my house, and we will
go get the Country Store's copy of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
and then we will watch it. That is, if it's not already reserved. It is,
after all, the weekend.
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