Robert Redford, Stanley Tucci, Brit Marling, and Jackie Evancho held a press conference in New York on April 1, 2013 to talk about their new film, “The Company You Keep.” Redford directs and also stars in the movie. Evancho plays his daughter, and Brit Marling plays the daughter of Brendan Gleeson.
Redford portrays Jim Grant, a former member of the Weather Underground, who has been living under an assumed name to escape false murder charges from his years as an activist. Shia LaBeouf plays the ambitious reporter who uncovers Grant’s secret.
The rest of the cast is a veritable who’s who, including Stanley Tucci, Julie Christie, Terrence Howard, Nick Nolte, Susan Sarandon, Chris Cooper, Brendan Gleeson, Richard Jenkins, and Sam Elliott.
During the press conference, someone asked Redford about his use of old photos of himself in the film. Now 76, the actor admitted that looking at the photos made him feel “depressed.” No one is immune to the frustrations of aging, but he’s still handsome. And as he walked into the press conference, he strolled right past me and gave me a little grin.
Here are some of the highlights from the conference:
Robert Redford on the activism of the 1960’s:
When this happened, I was of that age, I was of them in spirit. But because I was starting a career in the New York theater as an actor at that time, and I was also starting to have a family, I was obligated to that task. So, I wasn’t a part of it, but I was certainly empathetic to what they were doing because I also thought it [the Vietnam War] was a wrong war. I thought it was a war that was going to cost unnecessary lives.
Redford on what he sees as a problem in America:
I don’t think we’re very good at looking at history as a lesson to be learned so that we don’t repeat a negative historical experience.
Redford on the challenges of making a film that depicts the state of journalism:
Because I consider journalism so valuable – I don’t want to have too much ego here – but I would almost take it personally if journalism failed itself because that’s the one avenue we have to the truth. So, if I’m going to portray journalism in a film, it’s tricky business. Then, you want to at least give it its due and maybe describe the threats that are against it.
Redford on his two favorite stories and how one is similar to “The Company You Keep”:
There are two stories I loved as a kid – “Phantom of the Opera” – I always wanted to play that part. [Laughter] No, I really did! And Les Miserables…. I saw similarities. Shia’s character is Inspector Javert, and I was Jean Valjean [in the film] in a sense.
Brit Marling on what interested her in working on the film:
When I read this script, I was really moved by the idea of going underground and how it’s not set back then but set in the present day.… They’re looking back and wondering about the wisdom of their youth, and did they make the right choices and would they do it differently now. I think my generation is grappling with a lot of the same ideas.
Stanley Tucci on his “hard-boiled newspaper man” character:
He’s the sort of classic, curmudgeonly, exhausted editor. I think particularly in this day and age, he’s an interesting character because he’s the last of a dying breed.
Redford on working with Stanley Tucci and the challenges of filmmaking in the 21st century:
I want to just add a few words about [pause] Stanley! My dear friend, what’s his name. [Laughter] Stanley and I have some history together. We go a ways back, and like Brit, obviously I’m very indebted to people who come in for no money at all and volunteer their services to help me with a non-profit…. There’s no money in film these days. It’s shrunk down to a nub, and you have to depend on the kindness of, not strangers, but colleagues to come in and help you. And I was blessed by having a wonderful cast…. Stanley coming in – he didn’t have to. There was nothing in it for him except the joy of working with me. [Laughter]
Redford on casting Julie Christie, including whether he would help her get an Oscar nomination for her work in the film:
I would never try to get somebody an Oscar nomination. Awards are not my business. But Julie became my business…. We both had film exposure around the same time, and I realized she was radical then and assumed she might stay that way. And that might be something to draw on…. It took two months of conversations – first of all, trying to find her and secondly, listening to her tell me why she shouldn’t do it, didn’t want to do it, didn’t think she could do it. But perseverance ruled the day.
An exchange between Redford, Tucci, and Jackie Evancho about finding Evancho, who plays Redford’s 11-year-old daughter in the film:
Redford: I was in Vancouver getting ready to film, and I couldn’t find the young actress, the 11-year-old to play my new daughter. And kids in films to me have always been a pretty big deal because I always want to see a child who can just be and not act. And so, I was frustrated in the interview process because I was interviewing girls who were lovely, they were fine. And their mothers would dress like they wanted a part in the movie, so there’s that….
I was sitting in a hotel room, depressed, kind of mindlessly surfing, and suddenly – boom! There’s this vision on the screen, this angelic creature that was 11 years old…. She’s singing Puccini. I’m thinking, “Wait a minute! How does that work?” So, the camera pulls back, and there’s this symphony hall. And there’s this huge orchestra, and this creature was standing there just belting this music out. It was so powerful, and right away, something just clicked into gear….
Somebody who has that composure, who can do that in front of that kind of audience with that kind of register, with that kind of complexity, maybe that could work…. From that point on, I figured I’m one lucky man because she turned out to be absolutely lovely. We just played together and had fun together.
Evancho: All I can say is that I was extremely honored to have the chance to actually act with you guys. I was really, really excited that I got the role. I just really had a lot of fun. So, thank you.
Redford: Thank you!
Tucci: Were you nervous the first day?
Evancho: I was extremely nervous. I didn’t know what to think.
Redford: But you know what? She was nervous, but she was so busy having fun that it disguised her nervousness. She had fun, and that made me have fun.