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11-04-13 My Run-In With Redford

11-04-13 My Run-In With Redford

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Published by William J Greenberg
In fact, everything was going great until ... I casually asked Redford for an autograph.
In fact, everything was going great until ... I casually asked Redford for an autograph.

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Published by: William J Greenberg on Apr 19, 2013
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My run-in with RedfordAPRIL 11, 2013 8:34 PM
 Author: Jack Neworth
Robert Redford’s latest movie, “The Company You Keep,” is a political action thrillerwhich is getting rave reviews. I’ve recently concluded Redford may be SantaMonica’s most famous native son. On my somewhat eclectic list, Shirley Temple isnumber two and Charlie Sheen number three. (Feel free to e-mail your list.)Born in Santa Monica in 1936, Redford apparently abhors our “out-of-control”development. In this month’s Esquire Magazine, Redford said because of the city’scongestion he’s “never here more than two or three days at a crack.” (Dependingon how this column turns out, I’m not sure whether I hope Redford’s in or out of town today.)As it happens I met Redford in 1975 while he was filming a scene from “All thePresident’s Men.” We actually chatted until the conversation ended in a bit of adisaster. But first I should explain how it was that I had recently moved to SantaMonica.For years I’d been living in Idyllwild, a town of 2,000 in the mountains above PalmSprings. I worked for the U.S. Forest Service and wrote for the town paper. As fatewould have it a Hollywood agent apparently loved my column, “I blew out thecandles and got a hernia.” (I was 29 and felt old. Imagine how I feel now.) The column was about a Jewish mother who desperately wants her wayward hippieson to be a lawyer. The agent, who has long since passed away, showered me withcompliments, even predicting that I “would be the next J.D. Salinger.” (I hope hedidn’t mean I’d wind up a grumpy old recluse.) The agent effusively proclaimed that the column would make a great book andmovie, which caused my head to spin. What I discovered later was that he was amanic-depressive in a supremely manic phase. My luck.As I’d just broken up with my girlfriend, I was tempted by the agent’s suggestionthat I move to L.A. (This was long before the Internet age where I could have just e-mailed my writing.) He even knew of a vacant apartment at the Shores (in ‘75 theyhad 200 vacancies) and a day job.
 
It was crazy but that had never stopped me before, so I up and moved to SantaMonica. A year later I was done with my book, “An Eight Pound Six Ounce Lawyer.”After I finished it my unshaven agent confessed that he couldn’t help me market it.In fact he hadn’t been out of bed in a month. Yikes!Meanwhile the office I worked in was primarily staffed by attractive women. Myduties were to drive to buildings owned by the company, collect rents and makebank deposits in Century City. It was boring but I had my nights free to write.One day, as I was pulling into the underground parking lot in Century City, I sawRedford, with his shirt off, throwing a baseball with a film crew member as they setup to shoot the pivotal Deep Throat scene with Hal Holbrook. There was Redford, aka Jeremiah Johnson, Condor, Gatsby and the Sundance Kid,whose career and politics I so admired. I pulled the car to the curb and nervouslywalked over. To my amazement, within a minute I was conversing with Redfordabout politics, movies and sports.In fact, everything was going great until, thinking about the girls in the office, Icasually asked Redford for an autograph. Apparently this was a hot button issue.Redford was adamant, “I don’t do autographs.”I pleaded couldn’t he just make this one exception, blabbing about the girls in theoffice. The conversation came to a rather abrupt and awkward end when Redfordasked sternly, “Do I need to call security?”Dejected, I said no and slinked away. I didn’t even share with the girls about my“run-in with Redford” as I definitely didn’t want to repeat the “do I have to callsecurity?” line.Cut to a mere 37 years later. I had just finished writing a screenplay, “Fury andGrace,” about Latino legend Pancho Gonzalez who was essentially the JackieRobinson of tennis. Gonzalez was also Redford’s boyhood hero. In fact, Redford hadvolunteered to friends that he’d love to see a screenplay about Pancho. Fateanyone?I had my agent (not the manic-depressive) contact Redford’s Santa Monica officeand amazingly he agreed to read the script after the Sundance Film Festival. Itseemed like serendipity. After all, Redford and I have so much in common. He’s anOscar-winning director and producer and I … well, for a disabled neighbor I walk agolden retriever named Oscar. Coincidence, I think not.How did it all end up? Only slightly better than at the Century City parking lot asRedford passed on my script. (Personally I don’t think he ever read it. But the goodnews is he didn’t once bring up calling security. Jack can be reached at jnsmdp@aol.com.

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