The career of Robert Redford is examined in this exploration of the BBC archives, which includes rarely seen interviews. Narrated by Sylvia Syms.
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In the 1970s, Robert Redford was the Hollywood superstar
who had it all.
Acting talent, a string of films that were critical
and commercial successes, and, of course, looks,
that made him one of the world's greatest heartthrobs.
Always passionate about politics and the environment,
Robert Redford starred in some of the eras most
like All The President's Men and The Candidate.
But it was one of cinema's best-loved crowd-pleasers
that catapulted him into the big league -
Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid.
Here we join him for an interview with Melvyn Bragg
that begins by examining the impact that the film had on his life.
Did you find yourself that after, particularly after,
The Sun... Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid
that it was very difficult to break away from being
the person that everybody wanted to think you were?
Er, it's not pleasant,
it's...that's a whole double-edged sword that, you know.
Um, because you are naive at the time, you are just playing a role.
And you started in the business, if you started as I did,
as an actor who liked to think he came from legitimate stage
which I did in New York. You think of yourself, first of all,
as an actor...
and then suddenly you're in, you are playing a variety of
different roles and no-one's really making too much about it.
And then suddenly you're in a particular production that's very successful.
And then the next thing you know you're kind of labelled
and as you stretch to a different role, the acceptance is less,
the credibility of being able to stretch is, uh, less
-and that's bothersome.
-And people don't want you to stretch, do they?
Well, I think you're right, I...
I suspect people don't, I'm beginning to think, more and more...
people tend to want to restrict you to a certain slot
and if they've been pleased by a performance in that slot
they'd just as soon have it stay there, but for me that's
That's for television series and I don't think it's bad,
it's perfectly fine but it's not for me.
Well, what seems to have happened is you've dug deeper and deeper
into your privacy. I mean, your place in Utah, taking time off
to do exactly what you want to do, your own private, political
and social and intellectual concerns, that sort of thing.
But you must come up against the paradox again and again that the...
being a movie star on the one hand and wanting so ferociously
to be a proud person on the other, that's quite a bit of tension.
It's almost libellous.
Erm, it's not...pleasant. It's not easy and it's not pleasant
but go and try and tell someone about it. It's like saying,
"I'm so unhappy, I'm so rich,"
and expecting people to feel sorry for you. It's like saying that
and you just can't talk about it. It's something you have to endure
in the best way you can and try to work out the space in your own life
as best you can to do what you want to do, to create the selfish time
It's very difficult, you know, to...
What frightens me more than anything is that...shrinking.
Er, the environment shrinks on you.
You... People begin to treat you more and more like an object
and the danger is that you begin to feel more and more like
an object and the chances are you will begin to act more and more
like one and the thing that made you what you are...
There's a wonderful line, incidentally,
in a book about Tom Mix, off all people.
It says, "What is it about success that makes us
"lose the thing that made us a success in the first place?"
And there's great truth to that, I think cos you fear that the
thing that made you what you are, your ability to observe...
-Your capacity to hang around, for example.
-You bet, you bet
and your... Exactly.
And your love of other people and watching behaviour
and being involved in the action of situations straight across
the country, whether it's a bar, diner...
I used to love that, I used to hitchhike back and forth across America,
here in Europe. To me that was great fuel and a great entertainment
source for me and all that's reduced by the fact
that it's difficult to watch other people when they're watching you.
And I'm awkward and self-conscious in, in crowds...
I worry about them, I fear them and I don't trust them.
Er, so you carve your own space for yourself but the danger is
that that space is usually an isolated one and you get no feedback.
You've tended to turn to nature, haven't you?
-I haven't turned...
to nature. Nature's always been there for me. I...
To me it's comfortable. It's very comfortable and I'm happy,
you say "nature", I... Yeah, I'm happy there.
-Climbing and riding...?
-Yeah, I love it.
I feel good. It's just that simple.
There's nothing heavier, really, than that.
I also happen to love a really good hard city.
I love New York City because it's... to me, it's an honest city
that makes no pretences to be anything other than what it is.
Dirty, hard, rough, you know. It's nice.
But your life has definitely been constricted by success in ways
-which you mind about?
-Yeah, I do. I do.
I can't goof off, I can't... If you goof off, you're an exhibitionist.
If you goof off, you're staging something for publicity.
I used to do a lot... I used to have more fun...years ago.
I walked to work once, in pyjamas, down Broadway.
I sat for an hour in a trash can on 57th Street and Broadway
just to see what the reaction of people was going to be.
Very few noticed.
-Er, it's hard to do that now because, "What are you trying to prove", you know.
And you become self-conscious and all that.
But that's the way it is.
But you went into the political... erm, life of America
when you did The Candidate, you went into it
on another side when you did All The President's Men.
But let's start with All The President's Men -
when did you first get interested in it?
About the time it was happening, it was 1972 and the break-in
was just three...
about three or four weeks' old.
And I was in a spot in the country where there are a lot of political
reporters and entertainment reporters, we were promoting a film -
The Candidate as a matter of fact.
And I was listening to their conversations about the break-in,
and I said, "Oh, yeah, what happened about that?"
Cos there had been a big splash when it happened
and then it went underground, it went dry, and I couldn't figure it out.
And they said that it would probably stay underground and I said,
"What do you mean, by that?" And they said, "Well, it's in the..." and there was a lot of...
sidelong glances and snickering and so forth and I said,
"What... I don't know what you're saying." And they said,
"Well, it's probably tied to Nixon."
And I said, "Well, are we going to hear that?
"Are we going to see that?" And they said, "No."
They were very cynical about the whole prospects of the truth ever coming out
and I was very depressed by their attitude, you know,
much less the fact that it could be true.
So, they said, or in many cases, implied, that Nixon was
going to be re-elected and the power of that particular administration
and the people that he... that worked for him...
was so strong that people were afraid and the idea that Washington,
the entire city of Washington could be frightened
and our whole congressional leadership could be frightened
of something, particularly one man, really fascinated me.
He had given me an award once when I was very young.
I was about 13.
And when he handed me the award...
..there was nothing happening...
And I thought, "That's really incredible",
I remembered that about him, that I had absolutely no...
no contact with the man whatsoever and then through the years
his political career and my years growing up he seemed to be
appearing from time to time and never convincing to me,
always slightly phony, slightly insincere and it bothered me,
that's all. And when I heard this story...
about him, I hoped that the truth would come out.
That was a private hope of a private citizen that really did not
care for the man.
And suspected that maybe the worst was possible from him.
Also, as a citizen, I was concerned about the truth,
the one conduit to the truth at that time being the press,
being able to perform their duty.
So when they told me this I got quite upset about it and I said,
"What are you going to do? Just sit around and drink free booze
"and laugh about it? Or are you going to do anything about it?"
And they said, "Well, it isn't a question of that.
"You're pretty naive... the fact of the matter is the paper,
"one, has to support you, the editors have to support you,
"they have to have the money...
"to be able to put reporters on the story for great lengths of time.
"It takes a lot of hard work.
"And plus the fact, the man, probably, is going to be re-elected
"and people don't want to take the chance of being out on the line
"if he comes in to office, having criticised him, cos he's a very
-But all this did happen - the two reporters from the Washington Post...
..were backed by the editor, Bradlee and by the owner Katharine Graham
and they tracked the story down. It's significant that they weren't
-political reporters but outside that.
-No, they weren't.
But you did get interested in the story, four weeks after
the story broke, did you then go instantly up to see Woodward?
No, I... That was in the summer and I was tired of...of making films.
And I was tired after The Candidate and I wanted to go away.
I wanted to go the mountains.
So I did and I just watched the papers very carefully that
summer to see if this was going to be true and it was for the most part,
except every now and then there was this blurb.
It seemed as though there was this force trying to emerge against
a very heavy ceiling and, obviously, I was cheering the stories along
but they would disappear and go underground again
so when I went back to New York in...
er, the big news broke about the dirty tricks campaign,
the fact that there was sabotage tactics and dirty tricks and
a slush fund, illegal. All of it leading to, supposedly,
inside the White House. And that was Woodward and Bernstein
and that's when I became aware of them being the two reporters
that had been breaking these stories all the way along.
Now, that's not to say that no-one else was doing anything, in fact,
there were other newspapers that were trying
but the important thing was that the big newspapers, the powerful
newspapers and the majority of the press was doing nothing.
But, in fact, you pushed in, didn't you? And went to see them and in,
er, bought the rights before they had written the book?
-I went to see them shortly after Nixon was re-elected.
And they were at their lowest, they had bottomed-out and everyone felt
that they were wrong and they were getting castigated pretty well,
by, not only, the administration but by the public and so on.
So, that interested me, that interested me most.
Up to that point I had been mostly interested as a private citizen.
Then I became interested from the standpoint of it being
possible film material because of the two... the difference of
the two characters, they were such contrasting types,
it seemed good material to me for film, so I contacted them,
had difficulty at first, they didn't want to talk to me.
I don't think they believed I was calling.
And they were frightened at the time, also, it was not a...
not an easy place to be in Washington
in those days, there was a great deal of fear that prevailed.
And so when I finally was able to make the contact, it was with Woodward.
And I said, "Look, I don't want to go through this back and forth.
"I sense you don't trust me and you don't know who I am.
"Let me come to Washington and I'll... In ten minutes, I'll
"tell you what I have in mind."
So I did and when he was...
when I did that, he seemed slightly interested and it took months,
it took three months before we finally all sat down
and came together and I said,
"what I'm interested in doing and if you say 'yes', fine, if not, fine."
And they said, "Fine."
-But you, at the start, were going to make a low-budget film.
-And you weren't even going to appear...
-In black and white.
-And you weren't going to appear in it yourself.
When did it change, when did you decide that you had to appear in it?
When Warner Bros paid so much money for the film, they said -
"Of course, you're going to appear in it, aren't you?"
-And that was that?
-That was that. That was that.
And then you came across Dustin Hoffman after quite a while, it turns out,
he was rather surprised you didn't get there earlier.
Well, we wanted to give him... His career was sagging and we wanted to give it a boost.
-What are you doing?
-Polishing a little.
-What's wrong with it?
-Nothing, nothing, it's good.
-Then what are you doing with it?
I'm just helping, it's a little fuzzy.
-May I have it?
-I don't think you're saying what you mean.
-I know exactly what I mean.
-Not here, I can't tell from this
whether Hunt works for Colson or Colson works for him.
-May I have it, please?
-And some of your conclusions aren't...
-Yes, I'm not looking for a fight.
-I'm not looking for a fight either.
-I'm just aware of the fact that you only been here nine months.
What has that got to do with anything?
-I've been in the business since I'm 16.
-What are you saying?
Well, I'm trying to tell you that if you'd read mine and
-then read yours...
-May I read yours?
I walked by, gave yours a glance, didn't look right
so I figured I'd refine it a little. The first paragraph
has to have more clarity. The reader's got to understand,
you don't mention Colson's name till the third paragraph.
I think mine's better but you go ahead and read it,
if you think yours is better we'll give yours to the desk. I got Colson's name up front.
-He's a White House consultant and nobody knows it.
Yours is better.
MUSIC: "Parkinson Theme"
Four years later, Robert Redford was back in Britain
for an appearance on Parkinson that he almost missed.
A security guard didn't want to let him into the studios because
he didn't have a pass.
When he said, "But I'm Robert Redford,"
the guard answered, "They all say that."
And that wasn't the only rough ride that he got on that visit.
I said, "Welcome," to you but you must have thought, actually,
that not everybody here welcomed you,
when you read this extraordinary bitchy article in a
newspaper today - I won't even give the writer a name but it's...
I have a name you can give him.
I don't want to say.
Erm, it's all a based on the theme that you, I suppose,
wouldn't give them an interview. It says here - it's extraordinary -
it said that the reason why you don't have any press photographs
is you don't want anyone to see how,
"In the wrong light, his face is a little lumpy, these days."
Well... I've taken my lumps but er...
I don't know... I couldn't understand it, I...
-it was like, "Welcome to London."
-Yeah, wasn't it?
Yeah, I couldn't understand why, I'd never met the person.
I didn't... I wasn't familiar with the paper.
I'm kind of used to those things being done but not
to that degree, that was...
He also says of me that I won't ask the question that millions of viewers -
who are undoubtedly now, sitting in his backroom at home -
would like to put, and it's this.
And I don't understand it, perhaps you do?
"Mr Redford, why is it that you the actor who projects himself
"as an establishment outcast, as the star who won't toe the line
"and play the Hollywood game according to studio rules,
"always cast yourself as the hero in every picture you make?
"And never in a role that will engender anything less than
"the audience's total sympathy?"
Well, it's... first of all I never had that option when I first started.
When I first started as an actor I was just an actor for hire
and I had no option as to what roles I could play, really.
I didn't choose the roles, I certainly didn't cast myself,
my career would have started a lot longer ago.
As far as playing the good guy, I don't think the person who
wrote that article researched it very well. I think the emotions run...
-run the line.
-And you've turned down, in fact, roles that
-would have enhanced that image of the good guy.
You've turned down, what, The Graduate, didn't you?
-Yes, that's true.
-And Love Story?
-You made a wise choice there, actually, but anyway...
Also, just one other point before we throw this away.
The allegation here too, in the article is that you don't have
a sense of humour at all. "You are a very sombre man without humour."
And the example here is of a practical joke that, Robert...
Paul Newman played on you, which, apparently,
you did not see the humour of.
Now, I know, in fact, the opposite to be true so could you tell us that story?
The story behind that is that...
Paul and I have done a couple of films together and we...
played jokes on one another and he's obsessed with racing.
And, he would get so boring talking about racing
that...sometimes I just couldn't take it.
And so on his 50th birthday in Connecticut, we had
homes that weren't so far from each other,
I was running a home in Connecticut.
And he had lived there for quite a few years.
I found an old, wrecked Porsche,
a 1964 Porsche that had been completely demolished
and so I had the thing wrapped up. I bought it, had it wrapped up
and delivered to his backdoor as a 50th-birthday present.
And then walked away from it and then waited to hear. OK?
Uh... About... And he didn't say anything.
About three weeks later I came to my house and in the foyer
of the house was this huge package, I mean, huge, really huge.
And I opened it, I un-crated it and it was this gigantic...
block of metal that had been melted down from an old, wrecked car.
And so I thought, "OK, now I like that." I though that was really good.
So I didn't mention it to him.
I couldn't get it out of the house either and...
so I just let it sit there for weeks on end, finally he couldn't take it -
and I would see him from time to time, we'd see each other socially,
our families would get together.
And finally he couldn't take it any more, he said,
"Say, you have been to the house?"
"I've been to the house." And he said, "Anything different there?"
And I said, "No, why? Oh, the basement was leaking."
And he said, "Nothing else...?" And I said, "No, no." And it drove him crazy.
So he went to the people who had delivered the thing,
at some great cost it cost, like, 75 just to deliver this thing.
I then made arrangements to have this wrecking company come and take it
out of the house. I then had it melted down further
and hired a sculptor to do a piece of garden sculpture
and had it delivered back to his garden.
As far as I know that's where it still is now.
It may end up as a ring on somebody's finger.
But that's the true story behind it, I don't what...
Let's talk a little about the contradictions that seem to me to be
in your story when you look at it.
You had what would seem to be a very secure middle-class upbringing
and yet you dropped out of university. Why?
Well, I wasn't a good student
and it seemed like a good reason to drop out and, uh,
I was also not interested, I was not ready to be educated, at least,
in the formal, normal academic manner.
Uh, I felt that - and I had for some time, since I was very young -
that I learned more from travel and experience than by sitting in a
classroom, particularly in the school system that
I was raised in which was very poor, in the state of California.
It was a lower-middle-class upbringing in an...
area that wasn't...
that wasn't privileged at all and so there was no real
stimulation to my background and education.
I spent most of my time looking out windows and doodling and sketching
and cutting class and things of that sort.
So it was never really meant to be, me and the academic institutions.
I really was meant to leave it early or start later,
so I left it early.
And you went on what one newspaper called a "drunken spree"
driving around America.
Was it very drunken?
Well, it was... It was quite long.
Quite a few years. I didn't...
There was not any one continual drive under...
I was just in and out of...
I was inebriated on a few occasions when I was younger
but no more so than anybody my age in that condition.
I was not happy in the condition that I grew up in, the environment.
It wasn't an environment that was... It wasn't Oliver Twist
-by any means.
It was an environment that was oppressively conventional.
And normal to the point of distraction.
And I guess I had impulses and desires that wanted to
go out and do other things and I didn't feel that
I had the opportunity or the support to do that.
And I seemed to be moving in this direction
and the tide seemed to be moving in that direction.
It was a place in those days where the ethic was -
not so much whether you - particularly in athletics,
where I centred myself - not so much whether you won or lost
but how you played the game and I felt, I found out,
that that was a false legacy.
Uh, you had that. You had a very, very strong impression created that
life was wonderful. It had a lot to do with growing up in
-California where the sun did always shine.
And the... There was this tremendous post-war boom
that was going on that had this multiplication
of appliance stores and fast-food chains and supermarkets.
And all this thrust towards centralisation
And there wasn't, for me, at that age, much of a sign of real
quality of life until I moved outside into the mountains
or the desert and so I wanted to leave.
You, in fact, were down and out in Paris for a while as well, weren't you?
-Tell us how down and out you were.
Well, I was down... That was about the only thing, by the way,
this guy mentions in this article, that had a modicum of real truth to it.
He talks about standing in manure, uh, up to my neck.
Now, that's not true, I was up to my waist.
It was in a little town called Troyes just outside of Paris and I was
hitchhiking to the South of France.
And it was so cold...
and I had no way to get warm, I had no place to go, I had
very little money and I was running back and forth on the street corner
waiting for a ride and it didn't come.
And it was the middle of the night and the town had closed up
and finally I just got tired of running and I started to get
worried that I wasn't going to be able to really get warm.
And across the street was this mound of manure.
And so I went over there and just planted myself in it
and stayed there for a while until dawn came
and I could go into a pastry shop...
Needless to say, it was tough to get a piece of pastry.
The time in Paris was... You know,
you look back on it in retrospect and you wonder how much of it was
romanticised and how much of it was really fact.
It seemed to me,
at the time, the time was rough, the going was rough
but I don't know how much of that was induced
because of the sheer romance of going to Paris, getting out of California,
getting out of the United States and really beginning
to feel like I was learning, which I never felt before.
Well, let's move on in your career now to a point
where you are making movies and I suppose the film that did,
in fact, make it for you was Butch Cassidy, wasn't it?
That was the film that really started it.
Yeah, that was the film that went out of whack.
-I had made films before...
-There was one film that was
successful before that, in America anyway,
-but nothing to that degree where it got outsized.
That film was a film that, for me, was very comfortable.
The studio didn't want me in that film, because I was not known.
They were trying to have a star comparable to Paul to be with him.
And, I practically did it for nothing, that film,
because I just felt comfortable playing that role.
So, it was an enjoyable... I probably had more fun making that film
than any film that I've made.
Have you got any other films that you've got in the pipeline?
A film called Brubaker which comes out in June in America.
About a prison-reform warden.
It's too long and complicated, probably, to go into here,
and a film that I directed, the first film that I directed
called Ordinary People, which I'm editing right now.
Is that a direction that you more and more want to go into?
-Yes, I think so.
It was very fulfilling, more than I expected.
And, acting is not going to last for ever, if for very long, so...
-Why shouldn't it last for ever?
-I just don't think it will.
I don't know why, really. I guess I don't have an answer for that.
It's just something in me
that says I don't think it will, I-I think.
I've been treated well by a career and I've enjoyed it.
I think it's time to move on.
I don't know when that will be or how radical,
but I don't think I'll act for...
Do you think that actors like some athletes, perhaps,
tend to hang on for too long?
-Yeah, I do.
-Yes, I do. It seems to be an irrevocable
situation, something that can't be helped.
I think of the athletes in my country, I think of Willie Mays,
I think of Joe Louis, I think of Joe Namath,
I think of all these... and now Muhammad Ali...
it will be interesting to see what he does.
Really wonderful athletes.
Very few of them had the...
..had the disposition to quit when the time was right.
Very few people I ever know of have been able to quit
when the time was right to quit and either move onto something else
-Who was the... Was there an actor that you admire
who did quit at the right time, do you think?
-Or you admire for quitting when he was at the top?
-Yeah, Jimmy Cagney.
-Jimmy Cagney is the only actor that I can think of...
who did it right. I have great admiration for him.
Not only as a talent, I think he's one of the greatest talents
that our country ever produced. As a matter of fact,
-I patterned the character I played in The Sting after Jimmy Cagney.
Uh-hm. And um...
I just admire the fact that he had so much talent, used it wisely, fully,
let his work speak for him. I don't think that Jimmy Cagney ever
had to do a lot of publicity. I think he let his work speak for him,
that's what I believe in doing for myself.
I think it's the best, the best spokesman for yourself
is your work. It's like a painting, if you don't,
if you don't understand it, you don't understand it.
The artist standing there explaining what the diagonals mean
isn't going to help your emotional reaction to the painting.
You either respond to a performance on the screen or a film or you don't
and I'm happy to live with that condition.
And don't feel the need, really, to explain myself.
I don't think Cagney did.
And I think, his work and his career stands as a testimony to the kind
of man he was and he quit, when it was time to quit, I admire that.
Of course, Robert Redford didn't stop acting.
There were more hits, notably Out Of Africa but he did branch out.
Ordinary People, that directorial debut he mentioned to Mike Parkinson
won him an Oscar and more acclaimed films would follow.
MUSIC: "Film 93 Theme"
One of those was A River Runs Through It, starring a young Brad Pitt.
Which led to a Film 93 special with Barry Norman.
They're both marvellous.
I'd say the Lord has blessed us all today.
CLEARS HIS THROAT
It's just that he's been particularly good to me.
It must be, particularly gratifying for you to see a
River Runs Through It not only on and made but doing well,
because I gather you had great trouble, first of all, acquiring
the screen rights and then, even more trouble, raising the money.
-Is that right?
-Yes, it's true.
Difficulty obtaining the rights because the author,
first of all he was in his 80s. It took him 40 years to write the book
and it took him 40 years to cough up this deeply-personal story.
Because of the pain and the burden he was carrying,
that created a certain ambivalence
that he didn't give up easily.
And so there was that sort of courtship period that
went on for, well, five years, really, about five years.
So, it was tough, it also was a project because of its nature
that didn't fit the current formula of films that are, essentially,
I mean, Hollywood is a business, it's... That's what it is,
make no mistake about it so, since that's what it is, you can imagine
the reaction to that storyline. And the tough thing about it was
that all the themes that are in the film...
the core of it, it's strength, dramatic strength - very, very hard to explain.
-So, I thought, "This is going to be tough, because
"really the best way to explain this film is going to be to see it."
You seem, as a director anyway, almost perversely, to have chosen
subjects that are not obviously commercial.
If you're going to commit a year and a half of your life,
which is what it takes to direct, conceive and direct and edit a film,
then you'd better pick something that really is going to have a full
commitment and a lot of passion. I'm just not
the kind of director that can just phone it in or do only a part of it.
And so I just happened to be very intrigued by the idea of trying
something that's either impossible or appears to be impossible or just plain tough.
So the idea of taking something that appears not to work
and finding the human element in it that you can work
and get at if you can do it, sometimes it doesn't work
but if you can do it and bring it out so that
the audiences have a...
a kind of an emotional accessibility to the subject,
that's very appealing to me.
Ordinary People, after all, was your first film as a director and you won the Oscar
and that was in 1980. And you've only directed two more since.
Now, that... Why is that? That's kind of puzzling.
Well, I know, it's... largely because I chose to do other things
for half of the '80s - when I finished Ordinary People,
that sort of
capped a...a chapter in my life, a section of my life
that was full of a lot of hard work. The whole '70s was just one...
one project after the next.
And since I'd sort of set a goal to direct at the end of that,
I thought, "Well, I've done that.
"There was a lot of satisfaction in it,
"now it's time to take some time because you can just keep working,
"keep working and pretty soon you don't see the forest from the trees."
And beyond that I wanted to put something back
in my industry. I have a, sort of, old-fashioned sensibility
about that being a good idea.
And I thought the way to do that was to start this institute out at
Sundance, at my place, sponsoring independent film-makers.
Trying to keep diversity alive on the idea that that's a valuable part of
our industry, the diversity of it.
And, as films were getting more central and more expensive
and tending to get more of a formula I thought, "Well, this is good,
"cos we'll keep..." you know, more diverse storytelling alive
and new talent which Hollywood always needs so
the film-maker will come through the institute which is
a development place.
Develop their skills and take their project wherever they want to
take it, that's what independence is, it is not saying anti-Hollywood
cos I'm not anti-Hollywood, I work within Hollywood but I'm
an independent person working within the system.
During that... During the '80s when you were not only establishing
the Sundance Institute but
you got very heavily involved in environmental work
in the United States.
A kind of image of a split personality comes across.
On the one hand there's Robert Redford, the megastar
and on the other hand there's this other Redford who, I think, you said yourself,
"seems to have acquired an Eagle Scout badge somewhere."
Was the Eagle Scout there all the time or did
you suddenly wake up one day to find him lurking within you?
God, no. First of all I was...kicked out of the boy scouts as a kid.
BARRY LAUGHS We should all reveal that right now.
And it was especially tough because my father was the scout master.
-So that tells you how bad...
It's like your father being the umpire in a game when they eject you.
I was not made for group activity, I just wasn't
and so I never made it in the scouts, I also got very impatient with it...
So, I hardly thought of myself as a boy scout.
And it did just sort of appear out of nowhere.
I spent a good deal of my early life getting over the idea that
I was bad, you know,
and trying to get around the notion I was doing a lot of bad things,
at least a lot of wrong things
so suddenly to find this sort of image emerging, it was, it was...
It was puzzling, it was, first of all, kind of humorous
and a lot of my close,
a lot of my close friends got a big kick out of it and then it got
-disturbing because of the tendency, you know, to stereotype.
And sometimes the stereotyping can become like barnacles on a ship
or can sort of calcify your work.
And because of the political work I was doing
there seemed to be this image that was brought about by -
I think it was more by lazy journalism than anything,
-cos there was a whole lot...
-There's a lot of that about.
Yeah, there is and...
But there was lot of opposition to what I was doing too,
you could talk to a lot of the opposing sides of some of the stands
I was taking
and they would hardly consider me, you know, a do-gooder
or a boy scout. They thought...
-In fact, I heard the word "evil".
-Yeah, I did.
-Really? You? I can't believe it.
The old boy scout.
You had a marvellous spell between, what, 1969 and 1979
when you made 15 movies and there was Butch and Sundance,
-which must be a big film in your career?
it was the most fun of anything I've ever done.
And that was really... I suppose that was the one
-that boosted you to big, big stardom?
-Yeah, it was.
-So, I imagine you're grateful to it for that.
And then you went on, of course, after that to act again with Paul
Newman in The Sting, have you ever thought of working with him again?
I have. You know, it beats me since Hollywood is so formula-oriented,
you would have thought that somebody would have come up with a script
that we could do but no-one ever has and we have always wanted to do
something together, I mean, we're friends and we like working together.
But it's never come around.
Of those films, those two that I mentioned, All The President's Men,
are they also, kind of, milestone films in your career.
I mean, would you look back on those with particular pride?
Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. That was a tremendous milestone cos it
was so hard to... again you were going against such odds
because everyone thought, no-one wants to hear about Watergate.
It's a dead issue and you're tackling
the issue of investigative journalism which is even worse so...
and it took three years to make, I mean, to really get to the screen
and you were dealing with historical fact
and you had to be very careful and...
So that was a big milestone, yeah.
But what kind of film roles are you going to be
looking for in the future?
Are you still going to be the romantic leading man?
I don't know. I mean, that's not been a reason for choosing a role,
I choose the role in terms of the character and what
the framework that the character is in in terms of the situation.
Erm, I don't think there's anything wrong with heroes, mind you.
I remember reading once - "Well, Redford only plays heroes."
That wasn't quite true, but on the other hand, if it was true,
so what? What's the matter with that?
There's nothing wrong with that, some people only play villains.
There's nothing wrong with playing characters that might inspire
people to do better in their lives
or to have a little bit more courage about something or whatever.
It just... It was another distortion, I think,
that came because there were a lot of parts I played that were...
villainous and downright heels.
As you get older and, alas, the looks will fade,
I'm afraid they do eventually. Will that make life easier for you
or does it make life, will it make life harder?
Well, I hope not, I mean, obviously...
I like the idea of just going the way I'm going to go
and having it be all right.
What doesn't interest me is trying to...
in any way freeze myself in time.
that would just be too exhausting, I wouldn't want to have to live with that.
Also, I like the idea of what happens to people as they get older
because they carry with them their life's experience.
When you start surgically altering it too much you remove...
what your life is, that doesn't appeal to me very much.
And again, if it hurt the work, sure I would be disappointed in that.
I think America's pretty much of a youth culture
and there's an obsession with youth and looks which
is disturbing, maybe it will just take having to get older?
Before it'll get out of it, I don't know.
Well, getting older hasn't harmed Paul Newman a great deal,
has it, for instance?
Well, Paul is senile.
-I'd heard that.
-He's completely gone.
It's very sad, he looks OK but don't try to talk to him.
Aww! I'm glad you warned me, I was thinking I might...
-Don't try to talk to him, you'll look bad.
-He speaks well of you too, of course.
-He can remember?
-Yeah, Paul's doing great.
-Your next project that we're
going to see here...
is Indecent Proposal...
and in that you play what...?
I play a very wealthy man who has everything and...
challenges a young couple who are upward mobile...
..out of money for the moment and trying to get it the easy way,
trying to get money the easy way.
Challenges them on the issue of love.
Is that a one-off or is it...
have you got a whole slate of things lined-up for the moment?
There are a lot of things I'd like to do.
You know, sometimes what you want to do and what you can do
there is a big gulf in between but there are a lot of things I have in development.
You know, there's a Western, there's a political comedy, there's...
there's a whole series to produce and direct involving the
Tony Hillerman books about two Native American detectives on the
Indian Reservation. Erm, and there's a film about a man's effort to...
an editor's effort in a newspaper to...
to fight the tide of newspapers turning into
straight business... market-share mentality.
There's a thriller, I mean, there's a lot.
It sounds as if this could be a very productive few years coming up.
It depends if they get developed in the right way and get done, you know.
River Runs Through It was a ten-year experience from the time I read
the book to getting it on the screen.
a lot of the films I've done have taken a long time to
get to the screen so it really depends on how quickly that can be done.
-Thank you very much indeed.
MUSIC: "Raindrops Keep Fallin' On My Head"
More than 20 years after that interview Robert Redford shows
no signs of quitting for the quiet life.
"I love making films more than anything else" he once said,
"but it's tough."
With his love of a challenge perhaps it's that toughness that
keeps him at it today?
Still acting, and directing like a man half his age,
and there's no escaping from it, looking a whole lot
better than most men half his age do.
The career of Robert Redford, one of the big screen's greatest heartthrobs, is examined in this exploration of the BBC archives, with rarely seen interviews showing that he was always much more than just a pin-up. Narrated by Sylvia Syms.