_ Many rivers to cross
For three decades, Robert Redford has been at the top of the Hollywood ladder as an actor, producer and'Oscar-winning director. He talks to Alan Morrison about his latest turn behind the camera, A River Runs Through It.
It could almost be subtitled ‘Fly Fishing by CR. Redford’. A deceptively simple tale of two brothers discovering love, loyalty and the an of the rod in rural Montana during the early 201h century, A River Runs Through It is (Charles) Robert Redford‘s third outing as director. Craig Sheffer and Brad Pitt (looking disarmineg like a young Redford) play the boys — one a bookish English student, the other a live-on-the-edge journalist — united by a passion for fly ﬁshing installed in them from an early age by their minister father (Tom Skerritt). As in the Oscar- winning Ordinary People, Redford dissects complex human relationships with warmth and genuine insight, but here lets his drama unfold against the stunning backdrop of Montana’s woods and rivers during a period when America was still ﬁnding its feet as a modern country. This lyrical ﬁlm is based on a semi-autobiographical novel by the late Norman Maclean, a former professor of English at the University of Chicago who, like his characters, grew up in the shadow of his Scots Presbyterian father.
‘The writer didn’t trust Hollywood and was afraid somebody wouldn’t understand Scotland and fly iisning.’
‘When I met Norman Maclean,’ begins Redford, ‘he was a tough guy, very chauvinistic about his Scots heritage. It took me ﬁve years to get him to agree to give up the rights. He didn‘t trust Hollywood and was afraid somebody wouldn‘t understand Scotland and ﬂy ﬁshing, and when you added all those up, he didn‘t trust much of anything. He was constantly testing my ground, and pan of that was how much did I understand of Scots nature.’
Redford's own Scottish connections ﬁnally won Maclean over. His father‘s family come from the Hebrides, his mother's from Ireland — ‘My tartan is the Stooart,‘ he claims — although on the surface he would appear to be the archetypal golden Californian boy. Born in Santa Monica on IS August I937, Redford entered the University of Colorado on a baseball scholarship before studying an in Europe. A run of success on the Broadway stage saw him break
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through in the early 60s with the ﬁlm version of Barefoot in the Park, only to ﬁnd himself immediately tagged ‘another Malibu Beach bum'.
‘What I was met with was that I was blond,‘ he remembers, ‘and that kind of discrimination really bothered me, that actors who go anywhere in the industry were dark. As for Malibu Beach, yeah, I did grow up in California, yes, I did spend time at the beach, but I resented any kind of stereotyping, so it made me push a little harder to break through. I‘ve learned that the most valuable thing you can keep is your ability to pay attention, to observe, and the threat that success brings is that you become insulated.’
This is straying away from Redford the actor towards Redford the board member of the Environment Defence Fund and Redford the president of the Sundance Institute. His absence from the big screen for long periods during the 70s and 80s was due to the combination of his work on environmental issues and the setting up of Sundance, a non-proﬁt organisation that nurtures new ﬁlmmaking talent.
‘Up until eighteen months ago, I was still really involved with the Institute,’ he explains, ‘raising money, keeping control of the programme. Also trying to keep it small because, as soon as we started the independent ﬁlm festival, it became so successful so quickly, it threatened to throw the whole thing out of whack. I stayed involved to keep the scale down, to stop the thing turning into a circus or seeing Hollywood get its hands on it and reshape it.‘
Now that Sundance is up and running, the 90s see Redford resuming his acting career. His ageing card- sharp in Havana may not have been the ace up the sleeve that he had hoped, but he introduced himself to a new generation with the computer information comedy thriller Sneakers and will follow that success later this year when he stars opposite Demi Moore in Adrian Lyne's Indecent Proposal. He does, however, quickly quash any rumours of starring in a sequel to
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A River Runs Through It: Rev Maclean (Tom Skonitt
) teaches his sons the art of ﬂy ﬁshing
Buteh Cassidv and the Sundance K id, which, given the end of the original, would have to be one of the shortest sequels in movie history.
As the man who achieved fame in All The President's Men and The Candidate, the politically active Redford expresses relief at the ‘sense of change‘ ushered in by the Clinton administration. But what about the allegation that ex-VP Dan Quayle was inspired to get into politics by the somewhat cynical character in The Candidate? ‘All it did to me was illustrate what he actually knew,’ he smiles. ‘lf he‘d really got the point of the ﬁlm, he wouldn't have gone near politics. 80 the idea that he was inspired by that ﬁlm . . . Well, I'd feel like I’d have to make this massive national apology if that were true.’
A River Runs Through It opens in Scotland on Friday I 9 February.
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18 Thc'Eisi 12—25 February I993