You could argue that the only person who has done more for American independent film than Bob Redford is John Cassavetes, and that’s because Cassavetes practically invented it with great actors shooting on a shoestring budget and dealing with all the subject matters that Hollywood wanted to ignore because of their lack of commerciality. That was Cassavetes: just go out in the middle of the night and shoot the damn thing.
Redford, on the other hand, created a utopia in the middle of conservative Utah for successful filmmakers to interact with young filmmakers, and thus Sundance — the laboratory and festival — was born. Take Bob Redford out of the equation and Steven Soderbergh, Quentin Tarantino, Kevin Smith, David O. Russell, Paul Thomas Anderson and other top filmmakers might have had a much rockier road.
This year we were reminded of the consummate actor Bob Redford is. In All Is Lost, he gave an Academy-worthy performance that epitomized not only his dramatic dexterity but also who he is as a man: ornery, resourceful and indomitable. He’s the only person in the movie, and if you think that’s easy, you need a psychiatrist. It is a titanic performance (using a seafaring reference purposefully) in an edge-of-your-seat movie, and it makes me think of his other great roles: The Candidate, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Sting and All the President’s Men. He went where very few dared to go and continues to do so.
He’s a renaissance man dressed like a cowboy, and he had the balls to go round for round with Paul Newman on a series of practical jokes that my word limitation and TIME won’t permit me to include, but they were as hilarious as they were historic.
He has only one fault. Over the past 20 years, we’ve been going out to lunch. Bob always gets away without paying the bill. I saw him a couple of months ago and reminded him of that, and he said, “You pick the place and the expensive wine and I’m in.” We dined for 31⁄2 hours, drank expensive wine and told some whoppers of stories. As we walked out of Graydon Carter’s Monkey Bar, the woman came for the check. Bob patted his pants and sport jacket and said he didn’t have his wallet. It was as good a performance as I’ve seen, and made me laugh so hard that I put it on my account.
If you’re lucky enough to hang out with Bob Redford, get ready for an opinionated, brilliant, insightful discussion of moviemaking from the point of view of a legendary actor and pioneering director-producer. Just prepare to pay the check.
Weinstein is a co-chairman of the Weinstein Co.