Telluride: Robert Redford Feted With Career Tribute

THR's Todd McCarthy moderated a Q&A with the 77-year-old legend after the festival screened an extended reel of highlights from his acting career.
Courtesy of Natural Resources Defense Council

TELLURIDE, Colo. -- Robert Redford, one of the all-time great movie stars -- and, as demonstrated most recently in J.C. Chandor's All Is Lost (a one-man show with only a word of dialogue that had its North American premiere here on Thursday afternoon), a heck of an actor -- was honored on Thursday evening in one of the four career tributes dispensed annually by the Telluride Film Festival.

The 77-year-old was greeted by a full house at the Palm Theatre with a prolonged standing ovation when he was introduced following a screening of extended clips from some of his most famous films, each of which were also followed by applause.

After all, this is a man whose filmography as an actor -- and it must be noted that he was being honored specifically for his acting, as opposed to his directing, as he guns for his first acting Oscar nom in 40 years -- includes the classics Barefoot in the Park (1967), Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969), The Candidate (1972), Jeremiah Johnson (1972), The Sting (1973), The Way We Were (1973), Three Days of the Condor (1975), All the President's Men (1976), The Natural (1984) and Out of Africa (1985). Even his relative duds, such as The Electric Horseman (1979) and Brubaker (1980), were cheered.

After taking the stage, Redford, donning jeans and a black long-sleeve shirt, was presented with a medal from the festival by Ralph Fiennes, who starred in Redford's film Quiz Show (1994) and who is in town to promote his own Oscar hopeful, The Invisible Woman. Fiennes, appearing to become emotional during his brief remarks, concluded by telling Redford: "I just want to say thank you -- and please don't stop!"

Redford then addressed the crowd, thanking them for their reception and telling them, "What an honor this is." He said, "Having this tribute for me as an actor takes me back to my roots, because that's what I started as. It's really been my life." (Earlier in the day, Redford told me that he is always reluctant to be feted, since he's actually rather "shy," but that this was too great an honor to pass up.)

Redford then introduced THR's chief film critic Todd McCarthy, who took the stage and moderated a lively Q&A with the legend.

Redford revealed that the film on which he had the most fun was Butch Cassidy, "because growing up I identified with the outlaw, and it was the beginning of my friendship with [the late] Paul Newman," which, he said, "is something I will cherish for the rest of my life."

He said that the film that he found the most demanding was Out of Africa, which he made with his [late] frequent collaborator Sydney Pollack, because he "began to feel that I was being used more as a symbol, rather than a person who had a job and feelings of his own."

For the handsome actor, being seen as a serious actor, as opposed to a "pretty boy," to borrow McCarthy's phrase, was often a challenge. But through studies at the Academy of Dramatic Arts and learning to listen and watch others by traveling alone through European countries in which people did not speak English, he became a first-rate thesp -- initially on the stage, then on TV and eventually on the big screen, where he has reigned as an A-lister for the better part of the last 50 years.

Follow Scott on Twitter @ScottFeinberg for additional news and analysis.