He’s delighted audiences for more than 60 years with hit films including The Chase, All the President’s Men and Out of Africa, so it’s only right that Robert Redford wants to end his award-winning acting career on a high.
The 82-year-old has said he’s bowing out of acting with one final film, The Old Man & The Gun, a charming homage to 1970s American cinema that includes a plenty of nods to Redford’s biggest career highlights, as well as the very nature of retirement itself.
Redford announced in August that he’d end his time in front of the camera with The Old Man & The Gun, saying he wanted to finish acting with a fun role that reflected his personal outlook.
“I pretty well concluded that this would be it for me in terms of acting,” he told Entertainment Weekly at the time. “[I’ll] move towards retirement after this because I’ve been doing it since I was 21. I thought, well, that’s enough. And why not go out with something that’s very upbeat and positive?”
The film’s plot follows the true story of American bank-robber and jail-breaker Forrest Tucker (played by Redford), who at the age of 70 decided to get his gang together for one final string of robberies – a spree that saw the press dub Tucker and his pals (played by screen veterans Danny Glover and Tom Waits) the ‘Over the Hill Gang’.
“The one thing this movie had to be is fun,” Redford said of playing Tucker. “Forrest is a wonderful, complicated character, so full of life and risk and enjoying danger, but he also was about having fun.”
The Old Man & The Gun director David Lowery said he saw Tucker reflected in many of Redford’s past movie roles, as well as Redford himself.
“Bob [Redford] and Forrest Tucker were always intrinsically related in my mind,” Lowery explained. “I saw all sorts of parallels with the various characters he’s played over the years.”
The film follows the charismatic Tucker’s final escape from San Quentin State Prison in California, in the hope of pulling off one final, memorable series of robberies to end his career with a bang – all the while recovering from a quadruple bypass.
The crimes committed by the smooth-tongued, sharply dressed Tucker and his gang of ageing crims capture the attention of the press and the police, and what follows is a gently humorous film that celebrates a time when movies relied on great acting rather than special effects, as well as Redford’s own amazing contribution to cinema.
“To me, that was a wonderful character to play at this point in my life,” Redford told Entertainment Weekly.
Dedicated film fans will spot plenty of nods to Redford’s hit movies hidden in The Old Man & The Gun. The Academy Award winner has played plenty of charming rebels like Tucker in his time, from the sharpshooting train-burglar Harry Longabaugh in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid to conman Johnny Hooker in The Sting.
The movie makes a direct reference to Butch Cassidy, opening with a title card that, as with the 1969 film, makes clear the story is ‘mostly true’. It also touches on the real-life ageing of Redford, using a montage of the actor’s publicity images over the years altered to appear as if they’re Tucker’s many mugshots.
There’s even a snippet of film itself from 1969 Redford film The Chase that Lowery reuses in The Old Man & The Gun. And as the Huffington Post notes in a piece on the new movie, there are other tiny touches designed to recall Redford’s movie history, right down to the ‘finger swipe’ gesture the actor used with fellow screen great Paul Newman as their characters’ secret code in The Sting.
The real Tucker began his life of crime in his early teens and spent the rest of his life in and out of prison, before dying behind bars in 2004 at the age of 83, having served four years of a 13-year sentence for armed robbery. Tucker may not have been the greatest robber, given the many times he was caught, but he became renowned for his calm, personable heist style and his true dedication to his ‘work’.
And he perfected his jail-breaking craft to such a degree that he claimed to have escaped prison “18 times successfully and 12 times unsuccessfully”.
While Redford’s achievements in film and television couldn’t be further from Tucker’s chosen expertise, his passion for his profession is similar, as is obvious from the glowing reviews he’s received for his turn as the likeable criminal. Influential film-review site Rotten Tomatoes gives The Old Man & The Gun an 89 per cent rating, with film fans saying the movie is both “timeless and old-fashioned” and that Redford’s “charismatic, mature presence argues that age has done nothing to diminish his ability to command the screen”.
It’s certainly a feast for movie-lovers, with all of the elements that make for a classic crime caper, including a dedicated gumshoe – detective John Hunt, played by Casey Affleck – who comes to feel an affinity with the man he’s hunting, and a love interest in the form of Tucker’s third wife Jewell, played by Sissy Spacek.
It was Spacek’s first starring role alongside Redford, who said Redford’s own allure made it easy to play the widow and mother who falls for Tucker almost immediately.
“When we were doing the scene in the cafe, I was apparently so enamoured with Mr Redford over here that David [Lowery, the director] had to come over and whisper in my ear ‘he’s Forrest Tucker, not Robert Redford’,”the 68-year-old actress recalled at an event celebrating the film.
Who can blame Spacek, when Redford has all his famous charm on display, as he does in The Old Man & The Gun – a film full of warmth and nostalgia that’s a perfect way to reflect on Redford’s career from start to finish.
The Old Man & The Gun opens in Australian cinemas on November 15, 2018.