"A Walk in the Woods"
With Robert Redford & Nick Nolte
The Road to Hollywood
TIME magazine dubbed Robert Redford one of the 100
Most Influential People in the World. Courtesy
obert Redford is one of Hollywood's most treasured
actor/producer/director. In addition, he has been an outspoken voice
on social and environmental issues and is responsible for the enactment
of key legislation aimed at protecting the environment, including the
Clean Air Act. Redford's films often reflect his liberal
political views for which Time Magazine dubbed him of one of
the "100 Most Influential People in the World." He
also received the #17 spot in "Premiere Magazine's"
list of the "Greatest Movie Stars of All Time." This
extraordinary man was also a recipient of the Kennedy Center Honors,
and was also awarded the American National Medal of the Arts
by the National Endowment of the Arts in Washington, DC.
L-R: Robert Redford and Paul Newman starred in the
multi-award winning The Sting, a caper film involving a
plot to rip off a mobster. Courtesy Photo
Redford's film and producer credits are too
vast to list, but here are some of the most memorable ones: Best
Picture Academy Award winners: The Sting, which received
a total of seven Academy Awards, and Out of Africa, and
Ordinary People, which he directed. On the American Film Institute's
list of "100 Heroes & Villains," Redford's
performance as Bob Woodward in All the President's Men
and is ranked #27, which he shares with Dustin Hoffman,
who played Carl Bernstein. The film was also nominated for Best
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid garnered
an Academy Award for best original screenplay and tells the story of
two wild west outlaws on the lam in Bolivia. Redford: "It was the
most fun I ever had making a film." Courtesy
Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head, the
song played in this iconic scene with Paul Newman and Katherine Ross,
is #23 in AFIS 100 Top Film Songs. Courtesy Photo
Quiz Show, which Redford produced and directed
received a Best Picture Oscar nomination, as did Butch Cassidy
and the Sundance Kid, which became the name of both the Sundance
Film Festival and the Sundance Institute in Salt Lake
City, Utah where he lives with his wife, Sibylle Szaggars.
From over 250,000 films, AFI created their Top 100
with Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and All The President's
Men occupying the 73rd and 77th spot, respectively.
Robert Redford and Barbra Streisand starred in The
Way We Were, one of the most romantic tearjerkers off all time.
Other memorable films, which he either produced,
directed or starred in, are: The Natural, The Clearing, A River Runs
Through It, The Legend of Bagger Vance, Slums of Beverly Hills, The
Horse Whisperer, The American President, Sneakers, The Milagro Beanfield
War, Three Days of the Condor, The Candidate, Jeremiah Johnson, Havana,
The Electric Horseman, and the most memorable tearjerker The
Way We Were, in which he was the quintessential "Shaygetz
Personal challenges did not prevent Nick Nolte from
racking up memorable performances. Courtesy Photo
Like Robert Redford, Nick Nolte also co-starred
with Barbra Streisand in The Prince of Tides, which she
directed. Courtesy Photo
Award-winning actor Nick Nolte has had his
personal challenges, but despite that, has racked up some memorable
performances in The Prince of Tides, The Thin Red Line, Gangster
Squad, North Dallas Forty, Cannery Row, 48 Hours, Down and Out in Beverly
Hills, Lorenzo's Oil, Mulholland Falls, Affliction, The Good Thief,
Hotel Rwanda, Paris, je t'aime, Hulk, and Tropic Thunder.
In their latest film, A Walk in the Woods,
Redford plays Bill Bryson, a successful travel writer
and Nolte, plays his old friend Stephen Katz, a serial
philanderer who is down on his luck. Ken Kwapis directs the film
written by Bill Holderman, based on a book by Bill Bryson.
A sign marks the 2,200-mile Appalachian Trail. Courtesy
Photo: Broad Green Pictures
The story revolves around two aging friends who decide
to hike the 2,200-mile Appalachian Trail, beginning in Georgia
and ending in Maine. While Bryson's reasons for embarking
on this journey are evident, Katz's reasons for joining him are
dubious and much is comically revealed along the way. Emma Thompson,
Nick Offerman, Kristen Schaal, and Mary Steenburgen complete
Emma Thompson plays Catherine Bryson to Robert Redford's
character of Bill Bryson. Courtesy Photo: Broad Green
Redford and Nolte recently sat down
with a select group of journalists to discuss the film, and more personal
subjects, and the following has been edited for content and continuity
for print purposes.
"A Walk in the Woods"
is a fun, "buddy" film, starring Nick Nolte and Robert
Redford. Courtesy Photo:
Broad Green Pictures
What attracted you to "A Walk in the Woods?"
Redford: I started the project back in 2004.
It had a lot of elements that I thought would make a great film
great story, great characters. There was emotion involved and it also
dealt with the environment nature. It also was about friendship
another subject that I thought was always good to work with.
So that was what drew me to it.
What took so long to get the film made?
Redford: That's just the nature of our business. It
goes like this. Studios don't do as many films as they use to. We don't
have a stable of directors, actors, and scripts, so the business depends
on a couple of things, one of which is the people who are financing
the film must have certain guarantees, such as foreign sales. Foreign
sales demand stars and I think that puts an unfair stress on the project.
So, a lot of projects don't get made and that's why a lot of independent
films are getting made because they're free of that pressure.
Two old, but estranged friends, Bill Bryson (Robert
Redford) and Stephen Katz (Nick Nolte) embark on an arduous hike as
kind of their last hurrah.
Courtesy Photo: Broad Green Pictures
The film was beautifully shot. Do you think that
will shine a light on nature?
Redford: I hope so. That was sort of my intention. Showing
nature in its pure form and also showing where nature is being desecrated.
Bill Bryson and Stephen Katz share sometimes comedic
personal revelations along the way. Courtesy Photo: Broad
Can you talk about the reasons your aging characters
needed to do this hike?
Redford: I think Bryson hit a certain point in
his life and was looking for a second act at a time when people retire
and sit back. I think he was afraid of that. He wanted to do something
that would shake things up, but didn't quite know what it was going
to be. It had to be something he had not done before; something that
would put him to the test, rather than him writing about people that
were doing it. He came up with this idea and almost didn't know what
he was doing and he couldn't explain it, but he knew he just had to
do it. I just loved that idea. So, he embarks on this hike, not having
a clue of how it's going to go with Katz, a friend with whom
he had a falling out and hadn't seen him for 30 years.
What was Katz's motivation and did you find similarities
between you and the character?
Nolte: Well, it was different for Katz. Katz
never had a job. He didn't have a career. He got involved in the revolution
in the 1960s and stayed a revolutionary. He was kind of a bum,
I guess. He was born and raised in Iowa and never left. I was
born during the war and was raised in Ames, Omaha, where
ten minutes in any direction, I was in the country. My parents couldn't
get me into school. I just refused. I was a problem. You know, I come
from a line of professors. My grandfather was a professor at Iowa
State College as was my grandmother. My mother's sister was a professor
at the University of Oregon. Both my mother and father graduated
from Iowa State. My mother said that the reason people teach
is because they're afraid of real life. So that didn't go over good
with a five-year old. (Laughter) So, I had an automatic out and
I think that was Katz's. He's sticking back in time and he brings
that to his friend in kind of a package that is a little confrontational.
Redford: One of the things that appealed to me about
those guys is that they were both kind of wild in college. They were
both smart and they loved to play the game. They went out of bounds
and very often did illegal things and had a lot of fun. When I asked
Bryson about Katz, and he said that he was very smart
and very daring, but he had an addictive personality. So I thought Nick
would be great in that role. (Laughter)
Nolte: I can do that. (Laughter) It's
not that hard. (Laughter)
Redford: I asked Bryson what he meant by that
and he said that he would go out of bounds and go over the line and
just couldn't pull himself back, but added that he was brilliant. He
had amazing ideas and was very daring. They parted ways and go on a
different journey. Bryson gets his act together while Katz
stays pretty much who he is, wanting to be independent from any formula
stuff or any rules, but finally has to go back to Des Moines
because he runs out of money. So, they come back together again later
in life, and I thought that was a pretty good story with two great characters.
What was your high school experience like in Omaha?
Nolte: I still have two friends from Omaha I
got voted off the team in my senior year and these two friends
one was a Jewish boy who I just stuck to like glue. That summer
he said he was going to camp and I said, "I'll go to camp too."
He said, "No you can't." I said that my father makes enough
money to pay for camp and I'll just pay and go too. He said, "No,
you don't understand. It's a Jewish camp." So I said, "I
can be Jewish." (Laughter) His grandfather
started the company that invented glass bottles here in Los Angeles,
but that family moved to the mid-west during the 1940s. There
was a specific reason why the mid-west because in Omaha there
was a large Jewish population, who were very wealthy, very secure,
and very comfortable, so that was the safest place you could possibly
be during World War II.
Do you have memories of the war?
Nolte: I remember World War II. Bob remembers
World War II. I've been really thinking about this now that I'm
in my solid seventies. It had an extreme effect on a lot of people.
My English friends that are my age deny that they knew anything
about the war. Those kids were moved to the country, but they just deny
it. I remember the rationing. We had no butter so we had this white
stuff in a package that I use to fight my sister over. She was bigger
than me so she always won. I couldn't outrun my sister until my senior
year in high school. She would have gone on to the Olympics as
a swimmer had she not tried to be a woman for mid-west guys. She finally
couldn't and went back east where she found acceptance and freedom and
became a buyer for Lord & Taylor. My mother was a fashion
buyer and very rebellious. She got mad at Women's Lib and said
that if a woman couldn't figure out how to get around in a man's world,
she's not worth her salt. She was tough.
How did this affect your relationship with Bob
vis-à-vis your respective characters?
Nolte: There was kind of an unwritten script going on
between Bob and I, and I think it's this World War II
Redford: I think so. Like Nick, my World War II
memory was rationing. I would go to the bottom of the cereal box to
get the special Captain Midnight ring. There was no television,
so we listened to the radio. I remember lying on the carpet and looking
at this little green light on the radio. We also did paper drives. We
would go out into the community and get as much paper bundled up as
possible for the drive. It was a big, thrilling thing. We had relatives
that were in the war some of whom were killed. That was a big impact
on a kid four or five years old.
Robert Redford on crews: It takes an entire
crew to make a film
I've had the pleasure of working with crews
over the years
they're kind of underappreciated.
Courtesy Photo: Broad Green Pictures
We know how vital the crew is in filmmaking. Was
there a crewmember that was particularly helpful?
Redford: Not me for.
Nolte: Not specifically. But listen. Filmmaking is a
collaborative art and that crew were that good that they were right
behind the story. When my son Brawley did a film where he played
a kidnapped boy in Ransom. I stayed with him for
a week. Ron Howard came to me and said he's really good, but
does he understand the circumstances? I said, "Why? Are you having
trouble?" Ron said that he doesn't seem to want to cry.
I met with my son and he said that he was having trouble because there
were so many people around. I explained to him that all those people
were there to help him do what he has to do, and he did.
When you're working on a film as an actor where
you're wearing multiple hats, how do you stay focused so that you don't
worry about the technical aspects such as lighting, camera angles, or
Redford: Some of that has to do with trust. You're going
to trust the director and the technicians. I've had the pleasure of
working with crews over the years and they're kind of underappreciated.
It takes an entire crew to make a film. They don't get credit. They
don't get special attention. They don't get profiles. They don't do
press conferences or things like that, but without them, there would
be no film. There are people who park the cars and people who scout
locations. Also, they show up earlier than the actors and leave long
after the actors have left, so they deserve a lot of credit. Nick
and I both share that respect of crews. In this case, with A Walk
in the Woods, these guys had a rough go. They had to shoot locations
that were weird. I never figured out why we used some of these locations,
which were miles apart.
How long were you on the Trail and how much of
it did you actually walk?
Redford: We weren't on the whole trail. We were only
on parts of it. The reason you felt like you did hike the 2,200
miles was because you would be going up hill, and there would be a take,
and then you would go uphill, and there would be another take. Then
the director would say, "Cut. Now let's do it again." You
would do it again, and again, and again, all through the film, so by
the time you did six or seven takes, it felt like you had walked the
Some of the shots looked pretty treacherous. Did
you do all of your own stunts?
Redford: I think most of it.
Nolte: Most of it, but not the fall. We only fell half
Robert Redford: That was fake snow.
Courtesy Photo: Broad Green Pictures
What about the scenes in the snow? Were you in
Redford: No. That was fake snow.
Nolte: But listen. We would drive maybe an hour to a
location and there were camels, horses and four-wheel drives. Bob
wanted to ride a horse. He's a horseman. He owns horses. But, they grabbed
the reins and said, "No, you can't have the reins. We have to lead
Based on the result of this film, you were definitely
led in the right direction.
*"Shaygetz God: Yiddish term for
a gorgeous Gentile male in a romantic relationship with a Jewish