By Steve Persall
Times Movie Critic
For 35 years Robert Redford championed countless filmmakers through his Sundance festival and institute. None ever asked if he'd like to make a movie until J.C. Chandor walked in with All Is Lost.
"I probably would've accepted his offer just because he came to me," Redford, 77, said at the Telluride Film Festival over the Labor Day weekend, where he picked up a career achievement award and chatted onstage with Los Angeles Times writer John Horn.
As a lone mariner in life crisis, Redford rarely speaks in All Is Lost. He spoke volumes at Telluride, where Horn quizzed the Sundance Kid on:
His decision to make All Is Lost:
When I realized it had no dialogue, I was almost tempted to do it just because of that. I thought that was really interesting and bold.
The more time I spent with J.C., I realized he had a vision, and that really excited me, to work with someone I could give myself over to as an actor, just let myself go as an actor and be completely in his hands. … I felt these are hands I'd be happy to be in.
The physical demands of making All Is Lost:
I needed to know what (Chandor) wanted from me physically. … I'm pretty good at sports, you know, athletic. I like movement, I like being physical. But as you get older you do less. So this film was also a chance for me to see what I could do.
J.C. said, well, we're going to have some (stunt) doubles. When we got there on the set, I'd say, ehh, let me try this. Then he'd get all fired up, saying yeah, yeah, go ahead and do it.
A career creating quintessentially American characters:
It took me a while to realize what I was doing, because I was doing it so unconsciously. But I think America is my subject. All the work I've done has been about the country I grew up in, but not the country that was propagandized.
When I came of age as a kid in the second World War there was a lot of propagandizing, sloganeering. One of the slogans I kept hearing was that it didn't matter whether you won or lost but how you played the game. And because I was playing the game I realized that was a lie, and everything mattered as to whether you won or lost. Now we see politicians affirming that. … The red, white and blue America to me had a big gray zone in the middle, and that's where I wanted to tell the story about the complexity of the country I loved. But I also wanted to get to the truth of what the country really was about … the incongruities, the complexities, and sometimes the hypocrisy of what we say we're about, what we say we want to do, and what we do. Where's the truth in what our country says about itself?