REDFORD’S LAST STAND
Why The Old Man & The Gun is the perfect swansong for Robert Redford
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
THE OLD MAN & THE GUN IS IN CINEMAS FROM 7 DECEMBER
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.