Celebrity Profile

Robert Redford practically gagged on his airplane food.

The actor-director was watching an in-flight movie he won’t name and winced at its relentless cuts and minimal character development. It was ‘a fast, assaultive ride’ of a movie that left him with a headache. The experience also left Redford, who’d just wrapped his latest directorial effort, the stately golf parable ‘The Legend of Bagger Vance,’ feeling out of touch.

‘A little bit,’ he admits. ‘I believe firmly that there will always be a market not just for (‘Bagger Vance’), but for a lot of films that are not high-concept, high-formula films that are reliant on (fast editing, loud music and elaborate effects). There’s still a wide berth out there for options. There are still a whole lot of different kinds of films to be made, that are about something, and that are quieter and more reflective.

‘I believe there will always be an audience for it. It doesn’t appear that the younger audience is there, because they’re not inspired. It’s the older people. If I had any worry about the future it would be that one or two more generations of this kind of (formula) fare will bring an audience out that doesn’t know any different, doesn’t expect any different and won’t accept anything different.’

Though it features marquee names – Matt Damon, Will Smith and Charlize Theron – ‘Bagger Vance’ is definitely a thinking person’s movie. The story centers on Rannulph Junuh (Damon), a golfing wunderkind whose promise goes up in smoke after he returns from military service during WWI. Junuh gets a shot at redemption, however, when Depression-wracked Savannah turns to its former favorite son to play Bobby Jones and Walter Hagen in a high stakes match. As he struggles to regain his magic stroke, Junuh crosses path with his former lady (Theron), a mysterious black caddy (Smith) and a boy (J. Michael Moncrief) who idolizes the man Junuh once was and might be again.

If you’re thinking ‘The Natural’ meets ‘Tin Cup,’ you scored an eagle.

‘As you can tell, I think sport is a great tool for metaphor,’ soft-spoken Redford says during a conversation at the Drake Hotel in New York City. ‘Using sport as a metaphor is interesting to me. I think it allows you to touch higher things and put sport in a deeper context. And it has to do with a person’s personal journey of the soul. Golf was the best metaphor because it’s about a character’s battle with himself . There’s no sport that carries that battle better than golf because what are you playing against? Yourself. And the only element you’re really dealing with outside of a ball and a club is nature. I liked that and thought it contributed to the strength of the story, which is really a mythological story in the classic sense. It’s the hero’s journey, falling into darkness and returning to the light with the help of a spiritual guide.

‘I think sport is a wonderful tool to use in film, but I don’t have a lot of interest in just a literal translation of a sport on film. I’m not interested in turning on the television to see golf, The Golf Channel, commercials. To use it as a metaphor somehow, then I get interested. It’s the same with baseball. It’s the same with fly fishing.’

Redford fought long and hard to get ‘Bagger Vance’ made. Just as nobody wanted to finance ‘A River Runs Through It’ or ‘Ordinary People,’ nobody wanted to put up money for ‘Bagger Vance.’ He got it made, however, and he’s ready to fight again when he comes across another story that compels him to do so.

‘There’s just so much to do,’ he says. ‘There are so many stories to be told. In three lifetimes I couldn’t cover everything that interests me. I see no reason to go back. I see no reason to do a sequel. I see no reason to do a remake. That feels like a waste of time, no matter how well it’s done.’

And that don’t-look-back philosophy applies to his career as a whole, too.

‘I have a very hard time with retrospectives, with lifetime achievement awards,’ he says in closing. ‘I’m very honored, but I’m uneasy about them. There’s a lot of stuff I want to do. I’m not ready to sit, put my feet up and look back. It’s like you’ve got grandkids, so you should start knitting. I’ll know when it’s time to do that.’