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Robert Redford on Shia LaBeouf: 'A fast mind and a fast tongue'

April 08, 2013|By Mark Olsen

“The Company You Keep,” the new film directed by and starring Robert Redford, also features an impressive supporting cast including Julie Christie, Susan Sarandon, Sam Elliott, Chris Cooper, Brendan Gleeson, Stanley Tucci and Nick Nolte. In its story of a group of 1960s radicals who are being flushed out of hiding after decades living underground, the film provides a platform for a range of actors of a certain age and associated with a certain era.

But with costars Shia LaBeouf, Anna Kendrick and Brit Marling, the film also makes a strong springboard for a younger generation of actors as well. Rather than fill those roles with lesser talents, which would keep the attention more squarely on the older actors in the film, Redford wanted every role to be played by the best person possible.

“To me, there is no secondary thing. Every actor is important,” Redford said during a recent Q&A as part of the Indie Focus Screening Series.

VIDEO: Robert Redford on 'The Company You Keep'

LaBeouf has certainly seen his name in the press quite a bit lately, and in the film he plays an ambitious young journalist trying to make his reputation by exposing and finding the political activist played by Redford. In one light, the character is an analogue to the type of crusading journalist played by Redford himself in "All the President's Men," while in another, his motives are much more self-serving.  

“Shia, for those of you that know his work, he’s got a fast mind and a fast tongue,” said Redford. “And it's very, very impressive. And it moves rapid fire.

“I thought it would be interesting to have Shia play a character where he’s got to have some variation in his performance. I wanted him to start out as that kind of character, kind of a bird dog, just relentless and would just roll over anybody, stomp over anybody to get the story. And have him learn something along the road.  And give Shia the chance to vary his energy. And that to me was exciting.”

As a young woman caught between generations, and whose true parentage becomes a vital part of the film's intrigue, Marling brings the otherworldly presence that has made her a recent breakout. She is also one of the recent signature stars of the Redford-supported Sundance Film Festival, which has been a vital launching pad for her career. As an actress and co-writer, she emerged at the 2011 festival with the films “Another Earth” and “Sound of My Voice,” and was back at the festival this past January with “The East,” which she again starred in and co-wrote.

“There’s something almost ethereal about her,” said Redford, “something almost like floating in space. But whatever was floating was totally truthful. Whatever she did, whatever she was thinking, you knew it had to do with the truth.

“I thought that would be wonderful to work with, particularly with Shia, because he’s going to try to roll past her and it’s not going to happen.”


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Follow Mark Olsen on Twitter: @IndieFocus


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