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Robert Redford retires from acting as a bankrobber who won’t quit

In the movie "The Old Man and the Gun," a charming, aging criminal manages to leave a smile on the faces of those he robs. Robert Redford and Sissy Spacek join Jeffrey Brown to discuss their new film, and to look back on Redford’s long career.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    On Friday, Jeffrey Brown brought us a look at a new film, "The Old Man & the Gun," featuring veteran actors Sissy Spacek and Robert Redford, who has declared that this will be his last role.

    Jeff continues a conversation now with a look at Redford's remarkable career on and off the screen.

  • Robert Redford:

    You walk right up, look her in the eye, and you say, ma'am, this is a robbery. And you show her the gun, like this.

  • Jeffrey Brown:

    In what he says will be his final role, Robert Redford turns back to the kind of character he so wonderfully played in earlier classic films, the good bad guy.

  • Robert Redford:

    So, don't go breaking my heart now, OK?

    Step on it.

  • Jeffrey Brown:

    In "The Old Man & the Gun," he's Forrest Tucker, a charming aging bank robber who just cannot quit.

  • Robert Redford:

    When you're thinking about leaving, when you're thinking about having the end of a career in terms of acting, you want to go out on something that's upbeat and fun, fun to do.

  • Jeffrey Brown:

    Now 82, Redford joined us at the Toronto International Film Festival, alongside co-star Sissy Spacek, to talk about their new film and his decision to call it quits.

  • Robert Redford:

    I just felt that I have been doing it for so long, it was time to maybe exit on a good note, on a positive note.

    I have been doing it since I was 21. The first project I ever did, to tell you how my beginning was, was a "Perry Mason" TV show back in 1959.

    It looks like you put up a little fight. What's that?

  • Raymond Burr:

    It looks like hair from a wig.

  • Jeffrey Brown:

    Wow.

  • Robert Redford:

    And the title was "The Case of the Tortured Toupee."

    (LAUGHTER)

  • Robert Redford:

    I still don't know what that meant. But, anyway, that was my first job.

  • Jeffrey Brown:

    But you remember that.

  • Robert Redford:

    Uphill from there.

  • Jeffrey Brown:

    You remember that.

  • Robert Redford:

    How can you forget something like that?

    (LAUGHTER)

  • Jeffrey Brown:

    His first triumph came on Broadway in 1963 in Neil Simon's "Barefoot in the Park," a role he reprised opposite Jane Fonda in the film adaptation in 1967.

  • Jane Fonda:

    Paul, if the honeymoon doesn't work out, let's not get divorced. Let's kill each other.

  • Robert Redford:

    Let's have one of the maids do it. I hear the service here is wonderful.

  • Paul Newman:

    We will jump.

  • Robert Redford:

    Like hell we will.

  • Jeffrey Brown:

    The real jolt to stardom came two years later as the Sundance Kid, an early version of his charming bad guy persona, opposite Paul Newman's Butch Cassidy.

    From there, film fans can reel off favorites, among them "The Way We Were" with Barbra Streisand and "The Sting," again with Newman, both released in 1973.

  • Robert Redford:

    This is Bob Woodward at The Washington Post.

  • Jeffrey Brown:

    "All the President's Men" with Dustin Hoffman came in 1976, "The Natural" in 1984, and many, many more, recently "All Is Lost," a survival at sea drama, and "Our Souls at Night, teamed once more with Fonda, just last year.

  • Jane Fonda:

    Can I talk to you about something?

  • Robert Redford:

    Sure.

  • Jeffrey Brown:

    In 1980, Redford also launched a directing career and won an Oscar for it with "Ordinary People." Other directorial projects include "A River Runs Through It" and "Quiz Show."

    He traces it all to his Southern California childhood.

  • Robert Redford:

    I grew up in a lower working-class neighborhood. And so the only entertainment we had — there was no television at that time — it was radio — that you would walk to a local theater and see a movie.

    And so what I remembered was the joy of leaving this life you were forced to lead and go into a room that was suddenly dark, with a lot of people that you knew sitting there with you. And all the lights would go down. Then something would come on the screen that was fresh and new that took you out of where you were.

    And I think that made a strong impact on me, the value of that, which I think is why I was eventually drawn to film.

  • Jeffrey Brown:

    I don't know how introspective you are in thinking about your life at different times. Did you make a decision that this is the right moment, you have done enough, and…

  • Robert Redford:

    Yes, I don't spend a lot of time thinking back. I don't spend a lot of time thinking about whether it's going to be right or not for a career.

    What happens, you just feel an impulse. And the impulse tells you, this is something I want to do. You don't spend a lot of time thinking beyond that. It just feels…

  • Sissy Spacek:

    Like should I or…

  • Robert Redford:

    Yes, you just go forward.

  • Jeffrey Brown:

    Both Redford and his current co-star, Sissy Spacek, saw fame come early, she in the 1976 horror classic "Carrie."

    And both have taken pains to make lives outside Hollywood. Spacek and her husband raised their children on a farm in Virginia.

  • Sissy Spacek:

    After "Carrie," it felt like the whole whirlwind. And then — then it was so unnerving, that I just needed a place to go and kind of — I call it I went to ground.

  • Jeffrey Brown:

    That was important to you?

  • Sissy Spacek:

    Very important to me, and to raise my children in a rural environment.

  • Robert Redford:

    I felt the same way about raising a family, and not having my life dictated entirely by career choices, because there's another life to lead.

    And if you — if you submit yourself to only one dimension in your life, like, I'm going to be an actor, and that's all I'm going to think about, that's all I'm going to do, then your life narrows, narrows down.

  • Jeffrey Brown:

    Are there things you still want to do?

  • Robert Redford:

    One thing's for sure. Whatever I do, I want to spend more time in nature, because that's played such an important role in my life, the value of being in nature and respecting nature, and then being a part of it.

  • Jeffrey Brown:

    Outside acting, Redford's most enduring legacy may be his creation of the Sundance Institute in Utah, which began as an environmental effort to preserve land, and then became a kind of lab for training and fostering independent filmmakers, and home of one of the world's leading film festivals.

  • Robert Redford:

    There are other stories out there to be told, and they're not being given a chance. How about starting something that you create a mechanism for people to come and not only develop their stories, but then have a place to go? That led to the festival.

  • Sissy Spacek:

    I just want to say, this guy's done more for independent film than anybody I have ever heard of. And he's given young writers a platform and a place to work. And it's just been great.

  • Robert Redford:

    Well, thank you, sweetheart.

  • Sissy Spacek:

    Thank you.

  • Robert Redford:

    Well, I think — well, thank you for that.

    I think the idea is that, if you're lucky enough to have some success, what are you going to do with it? Are you just going to sit there and try to repeat that success, or you are going to take that success and try to do something else with it?

  • Jeffrey Brown:

    But you clearly proud of what you created?

  • Robert Redford:

    I am.

  • Jeffrey Brown:

    Robert Redford says he will continue to direct and produce projects. "The Old Man & the Gun" will be his last film as an actor, unless, like his character, he really can't stop.

    For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Jeffrey Brown at the Toronto International Film Festival.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Maybe he's not really going away.

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