Named for the longtime San Francisco benefactor of arts and charitable organizations Peter J. Owens (1936-91), this award honors an actor whose work exemplifies brilliance, independence and integrity.
The Peter J. Owens Award is made possible
by a grant from the Peter J. Owens trust at The
San Francisco Foundation. Gary Shapiro and Scott Owens, trustees.
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
An Evening with Robert Redford
Wednesday, April 29
7:30 pm Castro Theatre
429 Castro Street (near Market)
The Film Society is honored to present this year's Peter J. Owens Award to the incomparable Robert Redford. Leaping to the pinnacle of Hollywood stardom after his breakthrough role as the Sundance Kid, Redford's several decades of vital work express an intention of purpose and unwavering quality that remain exceptional. He will be celebrated in a series of retrospective clips followed by an onstage interview and a world premiere screening of a brand new print of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.
By Andy Bailey
A Hollywood executive famously quipped, "He's just another California blond-throw a stick at Malibu, you'll hit six of them!" That was before said blond went on to become the most bankable international male star of his time: an everyman matinee idol, at once accessible, impenetrable, untouchable, transforming blinding male beauty into box-office success.
Redford stands outside Hollywood proper, where he has never been one of the pack, with his quiet magnetism and cipher-like impenetrability belying hidden depths underneath that most handsome of faces. The one-time baseball scholarship student bit by the acting bug transformed a promising Broadway career into movie
gold through a series of iconic performances, each one greater in magnitude than the last.
The golden boy of '70s American cinema didn't swagger across the screen like McQueen, his principal rival among bankable male stars with international pull, nor did he step with De Niro's zeitgeist angst or Hoffman's chutzpah or Pacino's bossy machismo. Nicholson's rebellion and Reynolds' horseplay played to baser tastes, leaving Redford in a classier league of characters and performances, encapsulated in 1975 at the peak of his powers by the immortal and tragic Jay Gatsby, pining away in his Long Island estate: elegant, tortured, stoic, alone.
Gatsby was no Byronic hero and Redford was not easily pegged as the archetypal tall, dark and handsome figure with a past, a tendency that screenwriter William Goldman insisted the actor avoided from his inception, first as Broadway upstart, then TV player and, finally, big-screen icon, in his star-making turn as the Sundance Kid, opposite Paul Newman's bank-robbing Butch Cassidy, in George Roy Hill's rousing blockbuster, the first of the so-called buddy movies.
Redford won his breakthrough role over Brando, McQueen and Beatty in the wake of his success in Barefoot in the Park, middlebrow fare hinting at a young actor's flair for romantic comedy. With the Sundance Kid he had something else to prove-that he could hold his own against top-billed Newman and preserve equilibrium inside a duo, all while finding stolen moments to enhance a burgeoning star quality. Redford achieved this by not saying much, letting his blue-eyed costar lead, watching wide-eyed in the wings as the duo wandered through a revisionist West. No actor is more generous in sharing screen time with other stars, even ones with greater star power than his own, something Redford would repeat in The Way We Were, All The President's Men and Out of Africa, among others.
Through classic screen characters, his choices time and again come to define both the actor and the man, hinting at future off-screen roles honed from the raw material of the parts he played, as though he had skied off the screen in Downhill Racer onto the slopes of Utah, in the vicinity of Park City, where his Sundance Institute originated in 1981 as a nurturing ground for independent film, well outside the Hollywood mainstream and with a nod toward environmental and Native American concerns-something Redford had previously explored in Jeremiah Johnson, the first of six films he appeared in for the late director Sydney Pollack.
This is fascinating alchemy. One can look at the political corruption examined in The Candidate, Three Days of the Condor and All the President's Men-three of his key '70s works-and watch Redford working in top form as an actor and, at the same time, becoming energized as political activist and whistle-blower, characteristics expressed during later phases of his career behind the camera, most recently in his provocative Gulf War drama Lions for Lambs, in which Redford served as director, star and producer.
Such intention of purpose and unwavering quality are rare enough in careers a quarter as long or as illustrious. In Robert Redford-a onetime matinee idol of uncommon and indeed, for at least one long-ago movie mogul, unexpected depth and mettle-these features define several decades of vital work. It is with great pleasure that we award the 2009 Peter J. Owens Award to the incomparable Robert Redford.
Andrew Bailey is the San Francisco-based author of the Taschen volume Cinema Now.
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
Robert Redford Selected Filmography
2007 Lions for Lambs
2005 An Unfinished Life
2004 The Clearing
2001 Spy Game
1998 The Horse Whisperer
1996 Up Close & Personal
1993 Indecent Proposal
1986 Legal Eagles
1985 Out of Africa
1984 The Natural
1979 The Electric Horseman
1977 A Bridge Too Far
1976 All the President's Men
1975 The Great Waldo Pepper
Three Days of the Condor
1974 The Great Gatsby
1973 The Way We Were
1972 The Candidate
1969 Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
Tell Them Willie Boy Is Here
1967 Barefoot in the Park
2008 Maria Bello
2007 Robin Williams
2006 Ed Harris
2005 Joan Allen
2004 Chris Cooper
2003 Dustin Hoffman
2002 Kevin Spacey
2001 Stockard Channing
2000 Winona Ryder
1999 Sean Penn
1998 Nicolas Cage
1997 Annette Bening
1996 Harvey Keitel
Previously Known As Piper-Heidsieck Award
1995 Tim Roth
1994 Gérard Depardieu
1993 Danny Glover
1992 Geena Davis
1991 Anjelica Huston