In “The Company You Keep,” the new film directed by Robert Redford, the Oscar winner also stars as a onetime political radical who has lived for decades as a fugitive from justice under a false identity. When the quiet, stable life he has created for himself is jeopardized, he is set back on the run to clear his name once and for all.
The film, which opens Friday, has an impressive cast that includes Shia LaBeouf, Anna Kendrick, Brendan Gleeson, Brit Marling, Stanley Tucci, Terrence Howard, Richard Jenkins, Chris Cooper, Sam Elliott and Nick Nolte. Speaking at a recent Q&A as part of the Indie Focus Screening Series, Redford noted how he cast two pivotal supporting roles in part for what the performers brought from their own lives.
As a fugitive who is preparing to turn herself in when she is arrested, Susan Sarandon brings a quiet conviction to her role. In a long scene with Shia LaBeouf (the investigative journalist who is pursuing Redford’s character), Sarandon grants a jailhouse interview in which she plants the seeds of LaBeouf’s own acts of conscience.
VIDEO: Robert Redford on 'The Company You Keep'
Redford noted that he has known Sarandon since the early 1970s and he felt confident she could handle the scene, in which some of the most powerful moments are unspoken.
“Movies these days don’t take a lot of time for silence,” Redford said. “But I believe in it.”
But it was with the casting of Julie Christie in the role of a radical who never gave up the fight that Redford pulled off his biggest get. The actress, an Oscar winner for her role in 1965’s “Darling” and more recently nominated for “Away From Her,” took some convincing to accept the role.
“She was in semi-retirement in Spain and hard to get hold of,” Redford said. “When I talked to her she told me all the reasons why she shouldn’t do it, couldn’t do it. And so I didn’t pay any attention to that.”
Christie, once nearly as famous for her political leanings and high-profile romances as her acting, has largely turned her back on Hollywood.
“Julie kind of disappeared,” said Redford. “I’m totally sympathetic, empathetic, to why she left, why she went into retreat or just went off the map. Something in me could relate to that. I also thought she was a good actress and I also thought because she was a political radical in her time and she was very convicted, strong, strong-willed, attractive and her aging I thought would make her even more attractive."
Taking pause, Redford continued, “Older people can be attractive. Don’t you think I’m attractive?”
The correct answer is very much still yes, as a climactic scene between the 76-year-old Redford and 71-year-old Christie puts two of the world’s best-looking actors onscreen together.
“I’m glad you said that,” noted Redford.
Redford will be seen again onscreen later this year in J.C. Chandor’s “All Is Lost” and is set to film a role in the upcoming action sequel “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” as well as “A Walk in the Woods” with Richard Linklater likely to direct.
The Indie Focus Screening Series is a regular program for L.A. Times members. Other previous screenings have included “Not Fade Away,” with guests David Chase and Bella Heathcote, “Sound City,” with Dave Grohl and “Smashed” with James Ponsoldt, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Mary Kay Place, Octavia Spencer, Megan Mullally and Nick Offerman. For information on future screenings, check latimes.com/indieseries