Hollywood has long been an industry fixated on youth. The business is always focused on finding the next hot young actor to promote, and in doing so, routinely leaves seasoned and talented veterans wondering what happened to their careers once they reach a certain age. But the new film A Walk in the Woods, out Sept. 2, defies tradition, by casting two actors in their '70s — Robert Redford and Nick Nolte — as its stars. And its boldness doesn't stop there; the characters' advanced age isn't simply a fact, but plays a big part in driving the movie, which focuses on two men's attempts to hike the Appalachian Trail.
"I just loved that idea that a guy would hit a certain point in his life and say, 'I just have to do this thing. I don't know why, I can't explain it, but I just have to do it,'" says Redford.
In the film, a comedy based on author Bill Bryson's memoir of the same name, the iconic actor portrays Bryson, who comes to the decision to make the dangerous trek without a clear reason for doing so, or much preparation. The idea of going off into the unknown was especially appealing to Redford, who at 78 years old, hadn't headlined a comedy in decades.
"I think he was looking for a second act at a time when some people retire and just sit back, and I think he was afraid of that," Redford says, speaking about Bryson's motivations (although the sentiment could very well apply to the actor himself). "He wanted to do something that would shake things up, but he didn't quite know what it was going to be."
As its title implies, much of A Walk in the Woods takes place outdoors in the wilderness, and Redford faced real physical challenges in taking on the role. Although he, unlike his character, wasn't actually hiking the full length of the Appalachian Trail, he says that at times, filming felt just as exhausting.
"The reason you felt like you did hike the 2000 miles is that there'd be a take, we'd be going uphill, and then they'd say, 'OK cut, now let's do it again,'" Redford says. "And you do it again and again and again, and by the time you did six or seven takes... and you do that all through the film... it got to be hard."
But even after the trials he faced making the film, Redford shows no signs of slowing down — he's acting in a handful of upcoming films (including Our Souls at Night, a love story co-starring Jane Fonda), and has several producing projects in the works. He's intent on continuing to fight Hollywood standards, and take part in films that showcase people in the twilight of their lives. His passion is admirable, but this is Robert Redford, Oscar-winner and activist, we're talking about — would you really expect anything else?
Images: Broad Green Pictures (2)