April 27, 2015, Robert Redford was honored with the 42nd Chaplin Award by the Film Society of Lincoln Center at Alice Tully Hall. The award ceremony was a touching tribute to the celebrated actor, featuring speeches from his fellow artists and close friends in the business and showing montages from his diverse body of work. The speeches given were poignant insights about what it was like to work with Redford, and how he had impacted their lives. Laura Poitras, one of the first to speak in the night, talked about how he had changed her life by creating the Sundance Institute, without which her Oscar-winning documentary, “Citizenfour” might never have been made.
Quentin Tarantino also gave a speech in a pre-filmed clip in which he thanked Redford for allowing him a chance to make movies when he was accepted to the Sundance program, where he learned things he still uses in his iconic filmmaking style to this day. Also giving speeches were Jane Fonda and Barbara Streisand, who was awarded a Chaplin herself two years ago. Jane Fonda has starred in three movies with Redford, the first of which was made in 1966. The two have maintained a great friendship throughout the years. Fonda, in her speech, admitted that she had always loved Redford. Jokingly, she said, “I was in love with him for every movie that we did together. But we were both always married. … It was good that we were married. It wouldn’t have worked. We’re too much alike. We’re basically people whose preference is being alone, away from it all.”
Streisand presented Redford with the award at the end of the night. In her speech, she reminisced about the making of the movie she and Redford did together, “The Way We Were.” She confessed that she wanted him to star in the movie with her from the beginning. When Redford said no to the movie, because he thought the character was too one-dimensional, she had the screenwriter rework the movie until he agreed to do it. Which in the end, she admitted, made the movie better. When Redford accepted the award, he gave a brief but gratitude filled speech. He revealed that when he was reflecting on his career, what he really loved about it all was the process. He explained, “Not so much standing at the top because at that point, there’s nowhere to go. It’s the journey, and the work.” He left the audience with a quote by T.S. Eliot: “There’s only the trying. The rest is not our business.”
Read our exclusive red carpet interviews below:
How has Robert inspired you as a filmmaker?
LP: Robert … in every way there is that you can inspire somebody. Both in terms of the performances that he’s given, and people that he’s chosen to focus his career on, which are often outsiders and rebels and people who are questioning power. What he’s created at the Sundance Institute is one of the greatest gifts to American filmmaking that exists, it’s supported countless artists and independent cinema, and documentary. I mean, he’s put documentary front and center of the institute. And I’ve also worked at the Sundance Labs where you work on creative … you bring in projects while they’re in progress, which is an amazing time to come together and trust other people. So he’s just done so much for filmmaking. And on a personal level, I talked to Glenn Greenwald, who I did the NSA reporting with, and he attributes All The President’s Men as the inspiration for him to become a journalist. So that’s great.
What is your favorite Robert Redford movie?
LP: I have to say it’s “All The President’s Men” and “Three Days of the Condor.” They both speak to me in obvious ways.
And do you have any upcoming projects you want to share?
LP: I’m working on a show, a museum show at the Whitney Museum downtown. It will happen next February so that’s why I’m in New York, working on that. And the new space is really amazing. The museum opens this Friday to the general public and the space is really exciting.
What’s something surprising about Robert Redford?
JCC: He’s an insanely good swimmer. We would be shooting in the water for an eight hour day, and we were all staying in the same hotel, and we would all wake up, and look out. There was a pool that all the windows looked out on in Mexico, we all knew he would be in the water for the next 8 hours, but he’d be up early and he was swimming laps back and forth every morning before he was about to get in the water again.
Is that method acting?
JCC: I don’t know what it was. He’s a tremendous athlete, so I think that’s what he uses now as his main form of exercise. But we’d be come down there in the elevator in the morning, and he’d be standing there in his bathrobe heading up to his room. That’s my [surprising fact].
What’s your first memory of him?
JCC: My first memory of him was “The Natural.” My mom brought me in 1984, I was 10 years old, and she brought me to see “The Natural” in a movie theater, which was where he played this amazing fable of a baseball player. And so I think that was my first memory of him. My first memory of meeting him was just I was very, very nervous. He read the script of the movie we did together, and he walked into the room, and I was just standing there alone with him, and then I was sitting in a room alone with him, and it was kind of intense.
What does receiving his award mean to you?
RR: It was the culmination of a journey I guess I wasn’t looking back on. And suddenly I’m forced to look back on it. It’ll be interesting.
Given everything you’ve done in your career, tell me some poignant moments that meant the most to you?
RR: Well, I enjoy being in front of the camera but equally behind the camera. What is not so comfortable is coordinating to the two. That’s tough. But I like each one.
Support for the 42nd Chaplin Award Gala was generously provided by presenting sponsor Royal Bank of Canada and major sponsor Jaeger-LeCoultre. FSLC’s annual Gala began in 1972 and honored Charlie Chaplin who returned to the USA from exile to accept the commendation. Recent honorees have included Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, Michael Douglas, Sidney Poitier, Catherine Deneuve, and Barbra Streisand.