ROBERT REDFORD AT THE SAN FRANCISCO FILM FESTIVAL

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FROM THE HUFFINGTON POST

This article was authored by PHIL BRONSTEIN, who is the editor of the SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE and the ex husband of actor SHARON STONE.

In a very tight, tented off square upstairs at the CASTRO THEATER, a photographer had handed ROBERT REDFORD the small pyramid crystal award he’d be getting the next night from the SAN FRANCISCO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL.

“Just do something with it,” the shooter said a little gruffly to the man who for years was the biggest movie star in Hollywood, a respected ACADEMY AWARD winning director and the founder of the indie film mecca/filmmaking student’s holy grail, the SUNDANCE FESTIVAL & INSTITUTE. Even today, he drew a line far around the block to get to hear him for 45 minutes and filled every seat to watch a remastered version of BUTCH CASSIDY & THE SUNDANCE KID.

“Sounds like I better leave the room for that,” I said. He looked momentarily awkward and unsure of what, exactly, to do with the shining thing except hold it and smile. But, in another split second, he was transformed for the camera into the presence that caused one of his directors IVAN REITMAN to say, “The light just goes into his body and shines out!”

We were supposed to be talking before we went out for the on stage interview. Instead, while he was going through his award photo/celebrity waterboarding, on the CASTRO mezzanine I met his girlfriend, artist SIBYLLE SZAGGARS (they’re getting married soon, she said), who was gracious and relaxed and his two good looking and polite grandkids.

The last time I’d seen ROBERT REDFORD was some time in the mid 70s when he was at the now deceased SAN FRANCISCO PRESS CLUB for a press conference about environmental issues. We talked for awhile and took a little stroll down Post St. One of the topics was my cousin, JEREMY LARNER, who’d won an OSCAR for writing Mr. Redford’s film THE CANDIDATE.

Then freelance (now CHRONICLE veteran) photographer FRED LARSON snapped a few pictures, one of which was briefly projected onto the CASTRO screen during our Q & A. Mr. Redford looked easily recognizable as the same person today. It was a long time ago.

Backstage, after they ran some of his film clips, he grumbled a little about Festival chief GRAHAM LEGGATT’S second reference in his intro to “40 years ago” about the film. Still, Mr. Redford told one young woman without hesitation that he’d actually starred in his first film 47 years ago.

We also talked about our respective ruined academic careers, the passing of his old friend and director SYDNEY POLLACK and how Mr. Pollack and my favourite, WILFORD BRIMLEY, who acted in THE NATURAL, were such eerily natural actors, so comfortable in their characters.

In the official interview, he was more candid than I’d seen him in some other settings. Everything from BOB WOODWARD’S pyromania to Mr. Redford’s dog getting hit and killed by a car right in front of him when he was a kid.

But one of the most interesting comments was about celebrity. I repeated a quote from SYDNEY POLLACK: “There’s part of him that likes being worshipped and part of him that’s self conscious and embarrassed about it.”

ROBERT REDFORD conceded that some parts of being famous made him feel good, that he liked them. Then, at the Festival dinner, I sat next to him as he fielded a lot of worshippers. He was charming, like many of his screen characters, but clearly in watching him, he does not seem to be a real fan of public adulation deep under his skin.

During the long night’s ceremonies, both he and his girlfriend talked about how they kept from being consumed by what he once said was “a business that will eat you alive.” To prep for the interview I’d watched his daughter AMY’S film, THE GUITAR, her first directing job. Pretty interesting and provocative, but I wondered if he worried about Hollywood cannibalism in her case even though he’d clearly managed it fairly well himself.

Another thing I did to get ready was call CARL BERNSTEIN and ask about Mr. Redford during ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN. Carl said he and BOB WOODWORD were originally planning on writing about the Watergate burglary, including an early opening chapter where MARTHA MITCHELL was held captive and shot up with tranquilizers to keep her quiet about what she knew after the break in.

“ROBERT REDFORD contacted us before the Watergate hearing” where all the facts came out. “He did understand the narrative appeal very early on, before we did.”

ROBERT REDFORD’S career has been called charmed and SYDNEY POLLACK had said he has a really “smart nose.”

At the Film Festival dinner, in his tux, he was clearly sniffing the air for sincerity.

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