by C.J. Hirschfield, Oakland Local Telluride Correspondent

Proudly celebrating its 40th anniversary this year with an additional day of programming and a new theater dedicated to indie director Werner Herzog, the Telluride Film Festival continues to offer the most eclectic and exciting mix of films from around the globe. It is the only international film festival that doesn’t announce any of its films or honorees in advance.

This year the festival’s co-directors—East Bay residents Julie Huntsinger, Tom Luddy and Gary Meyer—again brought together some of the industry’s greatest talents from behind in and in front of the camera. Here are a few quotes from two veteran actors honored by the festival. (At the time of this writing, there are still two full days of programming to go.)

Robert Redford, who stars in the adventure film “All Is Lost,” which was screened at the festival:

His favorite role was Butch Cassidy. “As a kid, I identified with the outlaws,” said Redford. “And it was the beginning of my relationship with Paul Newman.” Redford told the festival audience that the studio didn’t want him in the movie, but that he finally convinced director George Roy Hill that he’d be great for the part of the Sundance Kid, the role originally assigned to Newman, who was already a big star at the time. They ultimately changed the title from “The Sundance Kid and Butch Cassidy” to reflect Newman’s greater box-office appeal.

His most demanding role, he said, was Denys in “Out of Africa.” In this 1985 film, said Redford, “I felt like I was a symbol, not a person who had a job and feelings.”

Roles he turned down? Nick in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”—the role that eventually went to George Segal. “I always thought the character was false.” And the lead in “The Day of the Jackal,” because “I didn’t know what motivated him.”

Fun behind-the-scenes revelations:  Redford described his longtime partnership with director Sydney Pollack and the story of how their collaboration on one political thriller led to a title change. The plot seemed to have too much going on, so the team stripped down and simplified the script. As a result, “Six Days of the Condor” became three days.

A recurring theme in his movies? “I’m interested in the concept of winning at any cost—in politics, sports, business. Stories that are more in the gray zone than the red, white and blue zone.”

Redford said he believes it’s his civic duty to be politically active and to create opportunities for others.

His favorite living president? “Nobody.”

Multifaceted actor Bruce Dern stars in the new film “Nebraska,” which probably generated the festival’s most positive buzz. In an interview with film critic Leonard Maltin, Dern told stories spanning his half century-plus in movies.

As a young actor he played roles in many westerns. And yet: “I’m actually terrified when I get on a horse,” Dern said, adding: “I miss the genre. It stood for a lot of good values.”

Something you probably didn’t know about him: His grandfather George Henry Dern was the first non- Mormon governor of Utah. George Henry Dern ran against a man named Charles Mabey with the campaign slogan: “We want a Dern good governor, and we don’t mean Mabey.”

On what he wants from a director: “A teammate who has his arm around me—who dares me to risk, and to fail.”

On his relationship with “Nebraska” director Alexander Payne (“The Descendants,” “Sideways”): “He told me not to do anything I’ve ever done before, that I should be honest and real, and to trust him to find me.” Dern added: “In the 55 years I’ve been in (the business), he’s the only director who’s understood how to challenge me, and I’ll be forever thankful.”

I’m not the only one who thinks Dern will be thanking Payne when he receives an Oscar next year for his brilliant performance as an ornery and addled old man who goes on an unlikely road trip with his son.

More Telluride info in upcoming articles, including films to watch for, quotes from the Coen brothers, Werner Herzog, and the Oakland author whose book was made into the movie that kicked off the festival.


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