THE OLD MAN & THE GUN
Robert Redford’s going out in style as a craggy crim.
Actors don’t always get to announce their retirement. Often, the industry simply stops casting them. But not Robert Redford. This year, the Sundance Kid announced that The Old Man And The Gun would likely be his last movie. “As a fan, I hope that it’s not the final film he does,” says Old Man’s writer-director David Lowery. “But if it is, as a filmmaker, I consider it a tremendous honour that he loves the movie enough to feel that it’s a fitting note to go out on.”
Telling the story of real-life perennial bank robber Forrest Tucker, the film comes across like an homage to Redford’s illustrious career, with the actor carrying 60-odd years of cinematic baggage. “Just by virtue of him appearing in the film, you wind up having a film that is about the actor Robert Redford,” says Lowery. “Rather than try to hide from it… I thought the natural thing to do was just let that be part of the film. It didn’t take any extra effort on my part. It was just a matter of embracing it.”
Notably, Lowery does so in the bravura montage that shows how the Florida-raised Tucker escaped from
prison multiple times. Some were based on reality. Others were nods to famous movie moments in films like Escape From Alcatraz. And then one was a clip from Redford’s early 1965 effort The Chase, in which he played a convict on the lam. “It suddenly became not just about Forrest Tucker and how brilliantly he broke out of prison so many times, but also about Robert Redford and his career as a movie star and outlaw on the silver screen.”
While Lowery and Redford previously worked together on the 2016 Disney remake Pete’s Dragon, that was a mere test run, allowing the filmmaker “to get over all the butterflies in my stomach”. With Tom Waits and Danny Glover cast as Tucker’s cohorts, Lowery brought in Sissy Spacek to play Jewel, a farm widow who offers the ageing robber a law-abiding life. Remarkably, Redford had never worked with – or even really met – the Badlands star. “I thought that was insane. They feel like they’re cut from the same cloth.”
When it came to Tucker, Lowery was drawn to depicting a selfmythologising “gentleman” criminal who did most of his stealing without the aid of a gun or violence. “He really wanted a movie to be made of his life.” Tucker even sent his life story to Clint Eastwood when he was in prison, before he died in 2004 in Texas. So how would he have felt about Redford playing him? “He would’ve been thrilled,” beams Lowery. “He would’ve ignored all the liberties I took with his story!”
ETA | 7 DECEMBER / THE OLD MAN AND THE GUN OPENS THIS WINTER.
FINAL WORD Robert Redford plays bank robber Forrest Tucker, in what might be his last film role.