Next year will mark the 40th anniversary of the book All The President’s Men detailing the Watergate scandal, which inspired the Academy Award®-winning film starring Robert Redford. On Friday night at the MPAA, Redford spoke about the his role in that film while discussing his distinguished career as an actor, director, and producer and the roots of the prestigious Sundance Institute. Bob Woodward, former Washington Post reporter and co-author of All The President’s Men, was in attendance, as was current Post Film Critic Ann Hornaday who moderated a discussion with Redford and MPAA Chairman and CEO Senator Chris Dodd.
Redford recalled his interest in the Watergate scandal began even before President Nixon had left office, having read initial stories by Woodward and Carl Bernstein. Speaking about All the President’s Men, Hornaday remarked that she “could not think of a film that has fused so well with the actual event.” Redford, who was an Executive Producer in addition to starring in the film, said his initial goal before casting himself and Dustin Hoffman was to “film it with two unknowns” so the audience focus would be on the film's story and not the actors.
Senator Dodd later acknowledged that Redford’s greatest contribution to the film community is arguably not his on-screen accomplishments, but rather his off-screen achievement in establishing the Sundance Institute. Redford created Sundance, in 1981 to “foster independence, discovery, and new voices in American film.” Senator Dodd, who was a newly elected Senator from Connecticut in 1981, served on the first Board of Trustees for the Institute and has supported its growth ever since.
In his own words, Redford commented Friday night on why he started the organization:
Success for me has a dark side. I wanted to appreciate it, it’s an honor. But I didn’t want to embrace it for too long. I’ve always wanted to be moving and trying new things. When I had success at the Oscars (in the early 1980s), rather than ride this horse, I'm going to do something else. That led to the idea of starting an independent film lab.
Redford added that once it appeared the venture would be successful, it became obvious they needed a way to disseminate their independent product out into the world. “We need a festival,” he said. “We need to create a community, to get everyone together and create opportunities.” In 1985, Redford’s group held the first annual Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, which is now one of the premier gatherings of filmmakers and emerging artists in the world.
From Left to Right: Ann Hornaday, Senator Chris Dodd, and Robert Redford
Photo Credit: Kris Connor