Robert Redford on His Chaplin Award: ‘It’s the Journey and the Work That Means the Most to Me’

All eyes were on the Sundance Kid, aka Robert Redfordat the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s 42nd annual Chaplin Award Gala on Monday at Alice Tully Hall.

Jane Fonda, Barbra Streisand, J.C. Chandor, Elisabeth Moss and John Turturro praised Redford for a career that has included iconic acting work, a string of films as a director, Broadway credits and staunch support of independent cinema as the founder of the Sundance Institute and its influential film festival.

Streisand, 2013’s Chaplin recipient and Redford’s “The Way We Were” co-star, reminisced about convincing him to take the part of carefree and handsome, Hubbell Gardiner in the 1973 Sydney Pollack pic.

Streisand said he turned it down at first “because he thought the part was too one-dimensional. (So) Sydney kept having the part rewritten to persuade him, but to no avail.” Streisand felt they needed a strong leading man, and was sure that Redford was the right actor especially after seeing “Jeremiah Johnson.” “Well, after he washed up and cut off the beard,” she clarified. “I was filming in Africa and I got a telegram from my agent at the time, Sue Mengers, and it said ‘Barbra Redford?’ I knew he
had finally signed on. I was so happy Bob had been able to convince them to make his character richer and more interesting.”

A nervous Laura Poitras, who recently won the Oscar for “Citizenfour” also took the stage to thank Redford for his help with her Oscar-nominated 2006 docu, “My Country, My Country.”

“In 2005, I’d just returned from eight months in Baghdad documenting the Iraq War. I was pretty much an emotional trainwreck. (Then) I was invited to attend the Sundance lab and edit 200 hours of footage from the Iraq War. The experience transformed my life. The lab provided a safe space to articulate my film and develop some of the most meaningful artistic collaborations of my life.”

Via a pre-recorded video message, Quentin Tarantino talked about developing his breakout hit “Reservoir Dogs” at the Sundance Institute.

“I can honestly say at that time it was hands down the most encouragement I’d ever got from anybody in the industry or on the planet Earth when it came to what it is I wanted to do. So Mr. Redford, thank you very much for giving me that opportunity to experiment and help find my voice.”

After receiving a standing ovation, Redford commented on his career, success and Sundance.

“To me, not taking a risk is a risk,” he said. “Money isn’t everything, you know. It helps, but it is not everything. In my case, it was about creating a non-profit mechanism for developing new filmmakers and playwrights — to develop their skills — who might not otherwise have a chance to do so, and do it in a place that’s free from urban environments — New York and L.A. Put it in a place that’s in nature and see what happens when that program coincides with nature. Maybe something surprising, maybe something good could happen. So all in all for me it’s the climb up the mountain, not so much standing at the top, because at that point there is nowhere to go. It’s the journey and the work. That’s what means most to me. The trying.”

Redford recently wrapped “A Walk in the Woods,” based on the Bill Bryson memoir, and “Truth,” in which he stars as Dan Rather opposite Cate Blanchett.

(Pictured: Robert Redford and Barbra Streisand at the Chaplin Award Gala)

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