Why The Old Man & The Gun is the per­fect swan­song for Robert Red­ford

Empire (UK) - - PRE.VIEW -

AF­TER SIX DECADES, two Oscars and nearly 100 cred­its to his name, Robert Red­ford is re­tir­ing from act­ing. The Old Man & The Gun, in which Red­ford plays For­rest Tucker, a real-life crim­i­nal who would rob banks with dis­arm­ing po­lite­ness and a sharp suit, will re­port­edly be his fi­nal role. “He men­tioned that right be­fore we started pro­duc­tion,” says the film’s di­rec­tor, David Low­ery, of­fer­ing a slightly ner­vous laugh. “All of a sud­den, the weight of that state­ment landed on my shoul­ders! We tried not to be too pre­cious about what we were do­ing [but] I was cer­tainly think­ing, ‘If this is his last movie, I wanna make sure it’s a movie he’s proud of.’ I hope ev­ery­one loves it, but more than that, I hope it’s a movie that he’s proud of.”

If there’s a more ap­pro­pri­ate fi­nal cur­tain for Red­ford, it’s hard to think of one. For­rest Tucker is a ro­man­tic out­law, of the kind Red­ford be­came fa­mous for in his early ca­reer, and as Low­ery ex­plains, “the real For­rest Tucker was com­pletely in­spired by the crooks that he saw on the big screen. He saw him­self as a Robert Red­ford-style bank rob­ber.” This was a crim­i­nal who pre­ferred us­ing a per­sua­sive smile and some old-fash­ioned South­ern charm over vi­o­lence and ski masks — and who bet­ter to sell that charisma than a bona fide mat­inée idol?

Low­ery goes fur­ther. “I think the movie is as much about [Red­ford] as it is about this char­ac­ter,” he says, and in­deed, the movie finds Tucker con­sid­er­ing his own re­tire­ment. “It’s about some­one in the twi­light of their life, do­ing some­thing they love. There’s an in­evitabil­ity to the char­ac­ter that is im­pos­si­ble to sep­a­rate from Mr Red­ford him­self, and an in­her­ently bit­ter­sweet qual­ity. Hope­fully more sweet than bit­ter.”

That sweet­ness comes in the film’s folksy, like­able tone — which wasn’t im­me­di­ately clear dur­ing de­vel­op­ment. “The first draft of the script that I wrote was a very jour­nal­is­tic true crime story,” re­calls Low­ery. “It was more like Zo­diac!

It felt im­por­tant to em­brace the fun that was im­plicit in this con­cept and lean into the tall tales more than the truth.” In a flour­ish fit­ting of a Red­for­dian hero, Low­ery re­calls the fa­mous line from

The Man Who Shot Lib­erty Valance:

“When the leg­end be­comes fact, print the leg­end.” JOHN NU­GENT


Top: For­rest Tucker (Robert Red­ford) is the po­litest bank rob­ber around. Above: Tucker (Red­ford) with love in­ter­est Jewel (Sissy Spacek) on a date night.

Di­rec­tor David Low­ery spoke to Em­pire on the phone from LA on 20 July.

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