Regina Scruggs, producer and host of Music from the Movies on KUHF-FM, met and interviewed Robert Redford in Houston just a few months ago. When she heard we would be playing Grand Canyon Adventure – which the Sundance Kid narrates – in our IMAX theater, she was kind enough share her story:
I grew up in New York City, and I also spent a couple of years living in Los Angeles (Venice Beach, in particular). Anyone who lives in either city is used to seeing movie stars and celebrities around town. It’s easier to do in New York, because it’s a walking city, and you just have more personal encounters with people in general. (L.A. has a different vibe. It’s considered not cool to acknowledge that a celebrity is sitting at the next table to you in a restaurant; gushing is only done by the tourists.)
So I’ve seen or met a lot of famous folks, but it was a particular thrill to meet and interview Robert Redford…I’ve had a 40-year-long crush on him. I’ve been enjoying his movies ever since 1967 and “Barefoot in the Park” through “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” “The Sting,” “The Way We Were,” “The Hot Rock,” “Three Days of the Condor,” and even “Legal Eagles” where he convincingly plays a klutz with insomnia who likes to tap-dance when he can’t sleep. When he turned his talents to directing in 1980, he won the Oscar for his first effort, “Ordinary People.” He’s also directed such fine films as “Quiz Show” and “A River Runs Through It.”
A documentary his Sundance Center had commissioned, “Fighting Goliath: Texas Coal Wars,” was having its Texas premiere, and he was making his first Houston visit ever to introduce the film and participate in a panel discussion afterwards with Mayor Bill White and other dignitaries. I had the distinction of having been granted the only one-on-one interview with Redford while he was in town. My time with him was after his working lunch and before a scheduled press conference where he would meet the rest of the media.
Brad Sayles, KUHF’s Senior Recording Engineer, agreed to handle the taping. So he and I (mostly he) hauled audio equipment to the designated downtown hotel where The Sundance Kid, no kid any more at 71 years old, would be waiting for us. I waited for Brad on the street while he parked the car, and watched a FedEx van run a red light, slam into a pickup truck and take off most of the pickup’s left front end. (Fortunately neither driver was hurt; both pulled over and talked on their cell phones before they talked to each other.) I was hoping that it wasn’t a bad sign.
Inside the hotel, the room where we were to set up was very small, freezing cold, and strewn with the remains of some group’s breakfast. I cleared off the table and put everything on the sideboard. Fortunately a waiter came soon after, and cleaned up, then brought us water and cookies. I ascertained that R. Redford was in a room next door having his lunch with a group of other folks.
Then Eric Mayer from the Susman Godfrey law firm, who was also participating in the interview, came in and I was talking to him while looking down at my notes, and so didn’t even notice when RR entered the room. “Hi, how are you…” Well, at least he didn’t see me clearing tables.
I ask if I can call him Bob. “Of cooouuurse” he says. His first name is really Charles (the dominant male name in my family, by coincidence), but he’s always gone by his middle name. He looks awfully good for a “mature” individual, even up close. Still maintains the mop of blonde hair, accented by grey at the temples. Lovely blue eyes, great smile, wonderful presence and engaging personality when he turns it on. He’s really a star, he knows it, but doesn’t seem to be a jerk about it. Before we roll tape I announce to the room, “Please silence your cell phones and other ringing devices.” Redford laughs, pulls out his phone and checks it, then says, “No one ever calls me, and when someone did once, I was on stage.”
We tape for about 15 minutes, and he’s pretty serious, focused, and on topic. Then as soon as we’re off mike, he’s relaxed and chatty. He asks me about my show “Music From The Movies” (he actually looked at my business card) and I give him a 2-CD set that I’d made up a couple of days ago. It had musical selections from a number of his films. He seemed to appreciate it, and started talking about how he’d spent 3 or 4 months filming “The Great Waldo Pepper” (my first selection on the CD) in Texas back in the early 70s. He mentioned that his mother’s side of the family are longtime Texans: five generations in fact. As a boy he would spend summers in Austin and San Marcos. His grandfather built one of the first houses on Lake Travis.
I told Bob that KUHF was in the first day of its spring pledge drive, and would he mind taping a testimonial (which I had written mere moments before). He asks me where I’m from, then starts talking about New York and how he’d gone there from California in the early 1950s to study art, but gave it up because he was “on the bum” as he put it; then he turned to acting and stayed broke, at least for a while until he started getting some parts on live television. Then he was slightly less broke. I’m guessing he’s not broke now.
He was great about everything. Brad, who had brought his camera, took some pictures while we were talking.
Redford’s gabbing away (no prompting from me), and just as he was warming to the subject of his movies, one of his minders came in and dragged him away so he could get to his press conference. I did get a hug, though (I’m currently in recovery from that), some pictures, and some too-short-yet-memorable time with my new pal Bob. The interview was aired on KUHF’s arts magazine show, “The Front Row,” on Thursday March 27th. I featured some of his film scores on my Friday night March 28th program “Music From The Movies.”
In case you, like Regina, just can’t get enough of Robert Redford, you can catch him narrating our newest 3D IMAX, Grand Canyon Adventure, when it opens here on May 30.
If you just can’t get enough of adventure in general – let us know by entering our Blog Contest, “What’s YOUR Greatest Adventure?” All you’ve got to do is send an essay, photo slideshow or video that shows us your adventure – and what it taught you – to email@example.com. Winners score a $300 REI gift card or a private IMAX screening of Grand Canyon Adventure.