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LONDON — As screenwriter and best-selling novelist Nick Hornby put it, it is customary on opening nights to say that the guests of honor “need no introduction.”
But for the pre-amble of the first event of the inaugural Sundance London film and music in the company of main attractions Robert Redford and T-Bone Burnett, Hornby went further.
“I will say that if you need an introduction or indeed know nothing about the guests I am about to welcome then please, leave now and give your ticket to someone more deserving because they’re are plenty of people who want to get in.”
Hornby’s introduction of Redford and Burnett to the packed house as the Indigo 2 theater in the sprawling 02 arena where Sundance London will be housed over the next three days followed a brace of songs performance by Oscar-winning songwriter and performer Glen Hansard.
The Irish troubadour charmed and cajoled the audience by singing unplugged his first folk-infused number asking if the enormous auditorium could hear him without an amp.
For his second number Hansard opted for some electronic amplification to perform a song written for The Hunger Games soundtrack produced by Burnett.
But this time it was his equipment that let him down with his small $80 guitar bought in Brooklyn living up to its face value and refusing to tune properly.
With Irish panache, Hansard ditched the gear and the song attempt and sang a traditional rover’s folk song with just his voice and the mike to carry the tune. It wouldn’t be the last musical snafu of the evening.
After seeing Hansard exit to loud applause, Hornby then got down to the main order of the evening which was to discuss music, film and their interaction on film with Burnett and Redford.
Redford discussed the musical choices made by others in three of his most iconic roles in The Sting, The Way We Were and Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid while Burnett talked about his invovlement with the Coen Brothers and the movies The Big Lebowski and O Brother, Where Art Thou?
Redford declared how little he knew about the importance of music in his early days of film.
He revealed how he asked Sydney Pollack not to let Barbra Streisand sing in The Way We Were.
“I was wrong on that one, not for the first time,” Redford said before saying he had never heard of Scott Joplin until The Sting‘s director George Roy Hill summoned him to his house to play “The Entertainer” while explaining to the actor he felt the ragtime song would provide the basis for the film’s sound.
His call for recognition of what Hill did with the film and the music garnered a robust round of applause from the audience.
Then Redford raised a laugh by telling the audience that when he first saw a rough cut of Butch Cassidy, he was aghast.
“I thought, well, it didn’t even rain in the movie,” as the film’s iconic song “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head.”
For Burnett, who like Redford professed to growing up listening and being informed by his parents old 78s collection, his film and music career came down to a desire to produce rather than perform music.
Despite being in bands from an early age, the Texan told Sundance London he “told his friends he wanted to be a producer.”
He said his first collaboration with Joel and Ethan Coen, on The Big Lebowski, came about because he asked them.
“They [the Coens] just wanted me to put together, well if you were to say it in today’s speak, put together the Dude’s ipod playlist,” Burnett said. “The songs in the film were character-driven choices, that is, what would he listen to.”
The evening also saw British indie rock maestros the Guillemots take to the stage and bravely take on two of the evening’s much discussed numbers.
The band cantered through “A Man Of Constant Sorrow”, from O Brother, Where Art Thou before lead singer Fyfe Dangerfield found it hard plugging his steel-string acoustic in.
“Oh, there’s a bit of tape over the hole,” he said. “You don’t get this in the movies.”
If Sundance London wanted to bring a bit of the indie, edgy feel to this part of the British capital, the opening night, complete with laughs, equipment failures and audiences made up of enthusiasts seems to be setting the right tone.
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