It was just this past August that Robert Redford told EW he was retiring from acting. And on Thursday, the veteran entertainer, director, activist, and organizer said he was stepping away from the spotlight at the Sundance Film Festival, the public-facing annual event of the non-profit Sundance Institute which Redford founded in 1981.
Standing on stage at the Egyptian Theatre in Park City, Utah, Redford — leading the first-day press conference per tradition — opened with his comments, telling assembled press and attendees: “I think we’re at a point where I can move on to a different place, because the thing I’ve missed over the years is being able to spend time with the films and with the filmmakers and to see their work and be part of their community.
“I don’t think the festival needs a whole lot of introduction now: It runs on its own course, and I’m happy for that, so let me just say I am grateful that you’re here,” he said to the crowd and to those watching the live stream of the presser. Keeping his appearance brief, Redford, 82, thanked Sundance volunteers and Sundance Institute executive director Keri Putnam, to whom he yielded the mic as he exited the stage.
The full 2019 Sundance Film Festival press conference can be seen above.
As president of the Sundance Institute, it’s unclear what Redford’s remarks mean for the future of the fest and the organization besides his intention to spend more time behind the scenes with creators. EW has requested comment from Redford and the Institute for clarification.
The actor/director’s comments over the summer about retiring from acting were similar in tone: that things had wound down to a natural conclusion. “Never say never, but I pretty well concluded that this would be it for me,” he said of his latest film, The Old Man & the Gun. “I’ve been doing it since I was 21. I thought, Well, that’s enough.” At the Toronto International Film Festival in September, Redford told this reporter, “I don’t believe in having regrets, but I wish I hadn’t said that,” referring to his previous comments about retiring from acting. “You don’t really stop. I’ve been doing it for a long time.” He said he was generally “feeling good.”
Besides speaking with EW, the Academy Award winner conducted only a handful of interviews promoting Old Man, including with The New York Times, NPR’s Fresh Air, and CBS Sunday Morning. Though his performance as a career criminal in David Lowery’s film earned him critical praise and acclaim, it’s been a subtle season for the Sundance Kid (aside from the eyebrow-raising in August); he earned a 2019 Golden Globe nomination for best actor in a musical or comedy, and Old Man — on which he also was a producer — overall quietly alluded Oscars voters.
So where does Robert Redford go from here?
Back to what earned him his first Academy Award: directing. He’ll be heading up 109 East Palace, about J. Robert Oppenheimer and the creation of the atomic bomb in 1940, “a character study about all the scientists and physicists he pulled in to do this, and the tension between them,” he told EW. He will also serve as producer on the project, which begins shooting in late spring, with casting to be announced.
In the same year leading up to his founding of the Sundance Institute, the California native made his bow as a director on Ordinary People, for which he was honored in 1981; he went on to helm other titles including Oscar-nominated Quiz Show and 2012’s The Company You Keep (in which he also starred). Redford’s also produced and executive produced more than 50 films and series, with The Mustang via Focus Features on deck for a March 15 release.