Knowing that I might only get a minute, maybe two, with the legend, I inched my way up to the edge of a red carpet as Redford was about to walk into the premiere of The Old Man & the Gun at the Toronto International Film Festival. Just a few weeks earlier, Redford had been the subject of a rather provocative interview with Entertainment Weekly, in which he stunned more than a few fans when he hinted that he might retire from acting after this, his latest film.
“I pretty well concluded that this would be it for me in terms of acting,” Redford told EW in August.
Naturally, I had to ask Redford at the TIFF premiere to confirm that The Old Man & the Gun would be his last film role.
Redford look away and softly said, “Probably.” But then his famously blue eyes stared me down, as if it to say, “Now, get this right—I said ‘probably,’ not ‘definitely.’ Write it down. Don’t misquote me.”
“Probably,” he repeated, likely hoping that I would move on ask him about something, anything, other than his possible retirement. I quickly shifted the conversation to his attraction to The Old Man & the Gun, where he plays the charismatic and often audacious Forrest Tucker, who robbed scores of banks and escaped from prison 18 times.
“This movie… well, it fits my sensibility, doesn’t it?” asked Redford, comfortable again. “I’ve always been attracted to the idea of outlaws since I was a kid, and if you think of it, I’ve played that out in my work, haven’t I?”
Indeed, Redford has been the consummate gentleman bandit—from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid to The Sting—so it’s as if the title role of The Old Man & the Gun was a birthright.
Based on a 2003 profile in The New Yorker, the stranger-than-fiction true story follows the septuagenarian Tucker on one last spree of bank heists, accompanied by his own Over-the-Hill Gang-style posse of bandits, portrayed by Danny Glover and Tom Waits.
“I told our director, David [Lowery], that the one thing this movie had to be is fun,” said Redford. “And Forest is a wonderfully complicated character, so full of life, risk and danger, but he was also about having fun.”
If Redford will indeed step away from his sterling, roughly 60-year acting career, he’ll be going out on a high note. With Oscar winners Sissy Spacek and Casey Affleck along for the ride, Redford steals the show (and more than a few hearts) in The Old Man & the Gun. To date, his only Oscar is for directing the 1980 film Ordinary People. But don’t be terribly surprised if he earns one final Oscar nod, this time for Best Actor. Now, that would “probably” be a fine way to ride into the sunset.