This past Sunday at the Hollywood Renaissance Hotel in Los Angeles, California, Redford held a press conference for his new film “The Conspirator” which had a special screening the day before. Redford directed the film which opens nationwide April 15th.
“The Conspirator” is a period/legal/war drama focused on the trials of Abraham Lincoln’s assassin and his conspirators. The storyline revolves around a union war hero, Frederick Aiken (James McAvoy) who must defend Mary Surratt (Robin Wright) accused of helping to plan the president’s assassination.
The film depicts a corrupt courtroom and a government that is willing to do anything to keep the peace within the country, even if that means convicting an innocent person. As Redford notes, there are many parallels to this issue within current events, politics, attitudes, and prejudices.
“Nothing’s really changed,” said Redford. He spoke of those times in America’s history when the law was sacrificed during times of war. The film poses the question: Is the law always of the most importance, or can it be discarded when it’s advantageous to do so?
Redford illuminates a story in American history that everyone thinks they know. “What is the story underneath the story that you think you know?” Redford said when describing his favorite part of storytelling. “Nothing is more satisfying than informing the same time of entertaining.”
The movie was a low budget film which needed to be finished in a timely manner. This was an exceptional challenge and Redford admitted that at times it appeared that the film was going to be impossible to shoot.
The small budget made the period aspect of the film “killer” according to Redford. Due to the fact that America is always changing, he claimed it is getting harder and harder to do a period piece. Redford discussed the tricks with camera angles he utilized to make spaces larger and more realistic than they actually were.
As an actor himself, Redford is heavily involved with the casting of his films.
“You can only do so much with the page and that is where good acting and casting comes in,” said Redford.
Redford knew that he wanted Wright “right off the bat” to portray Mary Suratt and he appreciated McAvoy’s energy and passion that he brought to the role.
“Many actors become famous for personality other than craft,” said Redford. “I tend to go towards actors who can act.”
Redford started off as an actor, but did not have an ideal beginning. He grew up in a rough Hispanic neighborhood in Los Angeles. He escaped that life through athletics, but was kicked out of college or “asked to leave,” as Redford puts it. This led him to his successful career in the film industry.
“It becomes a journey. I don’t look back, I’m always looking forward,” said Redford. He advised that one should always hold on to their mission statement and keep the rest of themselves fluid.
Redford also emphasized the importance and need for truth in his life. His theme of illuminating the truth in his films shows his dedication to this idea.
“There’s so much bullshit around that it is becoming more and more important to be accurate,” as he addressed the room full of journalists. He talked about how the coaches in his youth constantly told him it didn’t matter if you win or lose, it’s how you play the game. Redford discovered later that this was all a lie and that America is a country where winning is everything. His urge to start directing movies derived from his curiosity of America.
“I was attracted to the complexity of this country. I wanted to tell my own stories about how I see my own country,” said Redford. Redford has a strong passion for both acting and directing and will not be willing to give up either for the other.
Redford’s newly directed film “The Conspirator” will have audiences wondering how much they actually know about American history as they come to the realization of how important truth really is.
To watch Robert Redford’s press conference, click here to go to our Multimedia page.