Two weeks ago we had a little excitement on the west side of town. A street and two houses were borrowed for a Netflix production called Our Souls At Night. For ten days cast and crew were hard at work while a few locals kept watch from lawn chairs across the street. Maybe I too would have grabbed a lawn chair if I’d known the film’s stars were Robert Redford and Jane Fonda.
I claim to be a Jane Fonda fan but really only for a handful of films; all between 1979 and 1981. In those years you had The China Syndrome, The Electric Horseman, On Golden Pond, and 9 to 5. On the other hand Robert Redford won me over for virtually every film he has acted in, produced, or directed. I would be hard-pressed to come up with a Redford movie I didn’t care for (and he’s made well over a hundred of them).
Robert Redford has worked with many of Hollywood’s greats. He made several films with Paul Newman for instance, including Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, the earliest of Redford’s performances I can remember. When I consider how many Redford movies I’ve seen since his turn as the Sundance Kid, it’s remarkable I somehow missed The Sting – also with Newman and considered one of Redford’s best. Perhaps The Sting should be my “homework” for writing this blog.
Redford acted with Barbara Streisand in The Way We Were, with Dustin Hoffman in All The President’s Men, with Meryl Streep in Out of Africa, and with Brad Pitt in Spy Game. His leading ladies included Glenn Close in The Natural, Demi Moore in Indecent Proposal, Kristin Scott Thomas in The Horse Whisperer, Debra Winger in Legal Eagles, and Fonda in several other movies (including Barefoot in the Park, one of Redford’s first films).
Remarkably, three of my favorite Redford films are ones where he’s behind the camera instead of in front of it. in 1980 Redford directed Ordinary People, which won him the Oscar for Best Director (as well as Best Picture). In 1992 Redford directed A River Runs Through It and also narrated a good portion of the film. And in 2000 Redford produced The Legend of Bagger Vance, which proves that golf occasionally does make for good entertainment.
Redford is described as an “intelligent, reliable, sometimes sardonic good guy”. Nice to know he can laugh at himself. I also find it interesting he grew up in Van Nuys, CA (15 miles from my childhood home) and attended the University of Colorado (90 miles from my current home). Redford now lives near Park City, Utah, on several hundred acres he calls Sundance Ranch (home of the film festival by the same name). Redford once said, “I often feel I’ll just opt out of this rat race and buy another hunk of Utah”. I can relate to that.
Last week Robert Redford was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian award. When asked to describe his body of work Redford said, “storytellers broaden our minds: engage, provoke, inspire, and ultimately, connect us.” Redford will soon be done with acting, but thankfully he will continue to direct. With that in mind I eagerly anticipate Our Souls At Night, and any other stories the man has yet to tell.