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Redford, in 'Esquire,' tells of an encounter with the enemy

Published March 20, 2013 10:22 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

For a good read, pick up the latest issue of Esquire for a thoughtful profile of Robert Redford.

Writer Scott Raab visited Redford in his Utah home, just before this year's Sundance Film Festival, to talk about Redford's movies, past and future (he's got two in the pipeline this year, the thriller "The Company You Keep" and the one-man drama "All Is Lost").

Aside from some asides about Utah (the writer wore an Obama hat through the Salt Lake City airport, and apparently got a few dirty looks), the profile is a sharp portrait of Redford as a man constantly in motion.

One of the profile's most fascinating passages is Redford's account of an encounter with the legendary critic Pauline Kael — who regularly savaged Redford in her reviews, from "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" onward. Here's Redford's quote:

"I'm at a restaurant with my wife and some friends in Santa Monica, and a waiter comes up and says, 'Mr. Redford, Mr. Newman is in the next room.' By this time, Paul and I had a wonderful thing going, playing gags on each other, so I said, 'So? I'm busy here.' I blew him off. We finish our meal, we're on our way out of the place, and this woman comes running toward me and lunges at me. She grabs both my hands and she says, 'I'm Pauline Kael. You must hate me. But you have to understand something. You let me down.'

"There was so much nervous tension coming at me, I couldn't put this thing together — I thought it was a gag. My first thought was Newman's paid somebody a fiver to come out and pretend to be Pauline Kael. But then when she said 'You let me down,' I was confused. She said, 'I'm here for the stupid Academy Awards — if you'd like to talk, I'd be happy to see you.' I was so thrown that I said, 'Let me call you.'

"I realized it really was her, and then I saw it all. That's where a critic goes over the line — they want to own you. They want to dictate your path. I called and she said, 'Are you going to come by for a drink?'

"I said, 'I don't think it would be appropriate. I appreciate the invitation, but I don't think I should.' And then she really got pissed. Everything I did from then on, she just tore into me."