Robert Redford The Company You Keep


Robert Redford The Company You Keep

The Company You Keep

Cast: Robert Redford, Shia LaBeouf, Susan Sarandon, Julie Christie, Brendan Gleeson, Richard Jenkins, Anna Kendrick, Brit Marling, Sam Elliot, Nick Nolte, Terrence Howard
Director: Robert Redford
Genre: Thriller
Running Time: 125 minutes

Synopsis: Jim Grant (Robert Redford) is a civil rights lawyer and single father raising his daughter in the tranquil suburbs of Albany, New York. His world is turned upside down, when a brash young reporter named Ben Shepard (Shia LaBeouf), exposes Grant's true identity as a former 1970s antiwar radical fugitive wanted for murder. After living for more than 30 years underground as a lawyer, Grant must now go on the run. He is the center of a nationwide manhunt and with the FBI in hot pursuit, he sets off on a cross-country journey to track down the one person that can clear his name.

Shepard knows the significance of the national news story he has exposed and for a journalist, this is an opportunity of a lifetime. Hell-bent on making a name for himself, he is willing to stop at nothing to capitalise on it. He digs deep into Grant's past. Despite warnings from his editor and threats from the FBI, Shepard relentlessly tracks Grant across the country.

As Grant reopens old wounds and reconnects with former members of his antiwar group, the Weather Underground, Shepard realises something about this man is just not adding up. With the FBI closing in, Shepard uncovers the shocking secrets Grant has been keeping for the past three decades. As Grant and Shepard come face to face in the wilderness of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, they each must come to terms with who they really are..

The Company You Keep
Release Date: April 18th, 2013


About the Production

"Secrets are dangerous things, Ben. We all think we want to know them. But if you've ever kept one yourself then you understand to do so is not just knowing something about someone else, it's discovering something about yourself." - Jim Grant

Script to Screen

The Company You Keep can be seen as a cat and mouse game between two men - journalist Ben Shepard (Shia LaBeouf) and fugitive Jim Grant (Robert Redford) - both attempting to expose the truth and, in the process, respectively redefine their lives. While the film, which is set in the present day, recalls the history and aftermath of the radical antiwar protest movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s (and in particular one of its most violent manifestations, The Weather Underground), it remains a work of fiction. Indeed it was the dramatic potential of the story itself, even more so than the meticulously researched underpinnings of Neil Gordon's 2003 novel, which first attracted Robert Redford to the project.

"I thought it was a good story and it gave you a chance to look inside of an event that is a piece of American history," says Robert Redford of the film, his first as both actor and director since his 2007 drama, Lions For Lambs. "It not only gave you the chance to look at it, but to truly get inside of it and see how people were living their lives thirty years later… underground and with a false identity."

"For me it was a bit like Les Miserables and the character, Jean Valjean, you know, nineteen years for a loaf of bread," Robert Redford explains. "He escaped from prison, built a false identity, had a daughter, had a good life, but it was always going to haunt him, the pain of that time. So how do these people deal with that? Do they change? Do they not change? To me, that was the interesting story to be told. It wasn't so much about the antiwar movement itself, because that belongs to history."

Working with fellow producers Bill Holderman - who previously collaborated with Robert Redford on Lions For Lambs and his most recent directorial effort, The Conspirator (2010) - and Nicolas Chartier (The Hurt Locker), the project was developed over the course of four years. Adapted by Lem Dobbs, who scripted Haywire and The Limey for Steven Soderbergh, the screenplay would center on Jim Grant's journey as he reconnects with the ghosts of his past - many still living underground - with the hope of ultimately exonerating himself from the murder charges he fled as a student linked to the radical fringe of the antiwar movement (as Ben Shepard and the FBI all the while pursue him, never more than a few steps behind his trail).

"This is about a group of people that were underground," Robert Redford explains. "They were very close, bonded by the styles of their time, the passions of their time, and now they've grown older and they've taken different paths. Some resent that they did it. Others have remorse.

Some believed in it at the time, but feel they have to spend the rest of their lives paying for it. Others feel it was a just cause at the time and still is a cause for today. So there's also all these multiple feelings and relationships - how they all interacted fascinated me."

While Robert Redford planned both the scenario and the production itself down to the finest detail, he also left considerable elements of the story open to the actors' own interpretations. Indeed, as an actor himself, he encouraged each individual's input.

"It was a skeletal script at the beginning that he was fleshing out through rehearsal," explains Shia LaBeouf (Transformers; Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps) of the collaboration between the director and his cast.

"I think it was like 80 pages when I first received it - and then he just started pumping life into it," says Shia LaBeouf. "He allowed twenty pages for the script to evolve. He was still comfortable enough to pull the green-light-trigger on it… And he had the confidence in himself and his team to be able to move forward."

Shia LaBeouf points to a scene shared with Brendan Gleeson (The Guard) by way of example, one in which his journalist prods Gleeson's retired police chief for information at an Ann Arbor, Michigan diner. "That scene didn't even really exist initially," explains Shia LaBeouf. "Then you bring in somebody like Gleeson and you start riffing a bit… Robert Redford allows it to breathe, but it's structured. It's not just ad-libbed - it's very structured as to what needs to be explained and why."

"He acts as though he's completely in control, but he allows his film to be as free as something that has no control or boundaries at all, which allows life to exist… which allows real moments to happen and he maintains structure," says Shia LaBeouf of Robert Redford. "It's really amazing what he does and he does it so easily, it seems. That's the beauty of him."

The Cast

For his 9th film as director, Robert Redford tapped some of the top talent working in film today. But while Lem Dobbs' script called for a large supporting cast, the level of actors ultimately attracted to these roles is a testament to the respect Robert Redford garners from his peers. To a considerable extent, the appeal of The Company You Keep comes from watching its remarkable ensemble of veterans in action, performers including Julie Christie, Susan Sarandon, Stanley Tucci, Terrence Howard, Richard Jenkins, Chris Cooper and Nick Nolte - former Oscar® winners or nominees, all.

Simultaneously, Robert Redford also turned to some of the brightest young actors working today, including Shia LaBeouf in the leading role of Ben Shepard, and rising stars Brit Marling (Another Earth) and Oscar®-nominee Anna Kendrick (Up In The Air), in supporting roles.

"In a selfish way I find working with these young artists inspiring," says Robert Redford. "Because they're coming from a new generation… they have new ideas and you learn from them. You're never too old or too successful to not be learning something. It keeps you alive and it keeps you questioning."

For the central role of Jim Grant, however, Robert Redford decided to play the part himself. "Because I'm nuts," laughs the legendary star. "To step in and out of both roles is not easy for me," he says of performing double duty as actor and director. "I can do it. But it's definitely not easy."

Robert Redford - Jim Grant

With over 52-years in the business, 30-films as a producer, nine as director and an estimated 66 screen-roles to his credit, Robert Redford is one of the most influential figures to have ever worked in the film industry. He has received two Oscars®; the first for his directorial debut, Ordinary People in 1980, the second for Lifetime Achievement in 2002. Amongst his many achievements, he is also the man responsible for The Sundance Institute, and with it, The Sundance Film Festival, known for their passionate commitment and immeasurable contribution to independent cinema. For The Company You Keep, Robert Redford would call upon both his experience and passion to bring the film and central character to life, shepherding his own independent project forward over the course of several years with his producing partners.

His attraction to the character of Jim Grant, nevertheless, was instant he says, after having initially fallen in love with Neil Gordon's novel with its vision of an American landscape at once familiar and unknown. "The novel was eye-opening," says Robert Redford. "I knew it would be difficult to make, but I also knew it would make for a great film."

Though clearly captivated by Jim Grant - his sense of loyalty, nobility and integrity - Robert Redford is nevertheless quick to point out the differences between himself and the man we see on screen. "I was raising a family and starting a career, so I wasn't involved politically at the time," he says, when asked if he recognises himself in the character. "If there was any politics in my life, it was all activism centered around the environment."

"On the other hand, I had a lot of friends who were involved," says Robert Redford. "I saw what was happening; I could see what was the good of it. The reason people were so passionate was because there was a draft then… People didn't want to fight a war they didn't believe in and so they rebelled against it. I sympathised with that at the time, but I didn't get involved."

Although Robert Redford ultimately welcomed the task of directing and simultaneously playing the leading role on screen, he did have his initial reservations - along with his own unique approach.

"I think you have to be schizophrenic in a controlled way," he explains. "To act and direct is not something that I'm particularly drawn to. When I act, I like to be free to act and when I'm directing I like to be free to look at the situation in the way the conductor of an orchestra would. Instead of being a single instrument, you're looking at how they all come together and create a story."

"I was just in awe of him," says rising star, Brit Marling, who stars as Brendan Gleeson's daughter, Rebecca Osborne, of working with Robert Redford. "It was an incredible experience just to be a part of it."

"He's just a great guy, a wonderful guy," says Richard Jenkins, who plays one of Jim Grant's former cohorts, the former radical and now 'respectable,' history professor, Jed Lewis. "You can tell that just by this cast. He asks you to do something and you go, 'Sure...'

"I would say he's one of the sweetest people I've ever met," says Julie Christie, who plays Robert Redford's former lover and fellow underground fugitive, Mimi Lurie, on screen. "He has an enormous sweetness which is quite striking. But he also knows what he wants and as a director he's absolutely single-minded about getting it."

"I met him as a fan and that stayed throughout the entirety of our whole working relationship," says Shia LaBeouf of his close collaboration with Robert Redford as director and co-star. "But he also has a way of diminishing that fan bubble and getting right to work. I got my script on the very first day I met him. And it was right to work."

Shia Labeouf - Ben Shepard

Shia LaBeouf came to international prominence thanks largely to his roles in Steven Spielberg's Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and the immensely popular Transformers film series. With The Company You Keep, the actor saw a once in a lifetime opportunity to work with Robert Redford, along with an incredible part in the form of his character, Ben Shepard.

"When I read the script, I saw Ben as an idealist," says Shia LaBeouf. "I looked at Robert Redford in All The President's Men (Alan J. Pakula's 1976 film on the Watergate scandal); I looked at Dustin Hoffman in All the President's Men. And there was a bit of both of them there. I thought if there was an amalgamation of those two men, that's what Ben was to me. I pitched that idea to Bob and he was very comfortable with it."

"Still, he's a complex character and, admittedly, a bit of a fame-whore too," says Shia LaBeouf, with a smile. "In a sense, he's living in a turtle shell. He's all about him. He's all about making that turtle shell bigger - and it's all self-propelled insanity, really. He's all about getting famous for being the best reporter in the world and he's got the story… But at the same time his life doesn't have a lot of love in it. He's in solitude. He's the kind of guy who googles himself every night for self validation. Ben is like that, and then he finds a woman like he's never known and he chases that dream in the midst."

"In the story I meet Shia LaBeouf's character who's a reporter and I'm guarded; I don't exactly trust him," says Brit Marling, who plays Rebecca Osborne, of their relationship on screen. "And then we sort of get to know one another and it turns out I may have a right to be guarded."

"It's a very political movie, but it's also just very fundamentally human," Brit Marling continues. "I don't think it works to make a movie that's just about politics, because movies are ultimately about moving people. When you talk about politics, but it's buried within a human story, the audience is more willing to open up and let those ideas in along with the emotions."

Ultimately for Shia LaBeouf, there was also the attraction of playing a role unlike any he's done before. "I'm playing the antagonist for the first time, which is really fun for me," says the young star. "It's sexy as hell to do that. And for the protagonist to be Robert Redford is really wild for me. To be on the same poster as Robert Redford is really wild for me… Throw in that cast that we had, those really amazing actors who brought so much cool stuff to the table and really fleshed out the script - it was just an amazing ride."

Julie Christie - Mimi Lurie

Since bursting onto the scene in 1965 with her Oscar®-winning performance in John Schlesinger's Darling, Julie Christie has remained a perennial force in motion pictures. With a career spanning over fifty years (and over fifty film and television projects), the British actress has starred in such popular and critically acclaimed hits as David Lean's Doctor Zhivago, Francois Truffaut's Fahrenheit 451, Schlesinger's Far From The Madding Crowd, Robert Altman's McCabe and Mrs. Miller, Nicolas Roeg's Don't Look Now, Hal Ashby's Shampoo, along with more recent films like Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (for director Alfonso Cuarón) and Catherine Hardwicke's 2011 film, Red Riding Hood, with Amanda Seyfried.

Still, it was Julie Christie's performance as a woman suffering from Alzheimer's in Away From Her which caught the attention of Robert Redford (the film was featured at Sundance), the industry and audiences alike. It also marked Julie Christie's fourth Oscar® nomination in 2008, along with Golden Globe, SAG and National Board of Review awards for her performance.

"I had always admired Robert Redford for his work, his environmental activities and of course, his amazing achievement with Sundance," says Julie Christie, who welcomed the overdue opportunity to work with Robert Redford on screen. Indeed, while the two veteran performers had started their careers at roughly the same time, neither had worked together until Robert Redford cast the British actress in The Company You Keep.

Here, Julie Christie stars as the committed radical, Mimi Lurie. Like Robert Redford's Jim Grant, Mimi Lurie is also a former member of the Weather Underground, living under various false identities since becoming a fugitive as a young woman. Unlike Jim Grant, however, she remains unrepentant about her past, while holding the key to her former lover's future.

"In the film, she's perceived as a terrorist because of her activities in the 70s," says Julie Christie of the character. "They were targeting these particular institutions, to cast light on what was going on in Vietnam, because the nonviolent action they were involved in seemed to be going nowhere."

"From her own perspective she's gone underground and remained underground because she believes that to hand herself over would be collaborating with those very forces she's been fighting; an acceptance of their mores, which she deplores," Julie Christie explains. "She would be perceived by a lot of people as having tunnel vision, when in fact she has enormous vision. The problem with 'enormous vision' though is that you can see all sides of the equation and you have to choose out of all those sides… You choose what you think is the most effective way of operating, whereas most people follow what they are told to follow. That's the real tunnel vision."

Known for her own, at times controversial, political views, Julie Christie could empathise with the character while simultaneously noting the need of making a "stretch" to portray her. "In the end what she has is enormous integrity," says the acclaimed actress. "I would say, 'painful' integrity, because integrity is a painful business."

Production

Filmed in and around Vancouver, BC, principal photography for The Company You Keep began on September 19, 2011 and would continue through late November of that year. As for his production team, Robert Redford would work with many of his key collaborators for the first time. Notably these included the award-winning Brazilian director of photography, Adriano Goldman (Sin Nombre) and production designer Laurence Bennett (best known for his work with Paul Haggis and, most recently, Michel Hazanavicius on The Artist).

"I'd never worked with these guys before, but this is a terrific crew," says a beaming Robert Redford of his team. "I think film is a collaborative medium despite the auteur theory and all that… And I think each role is really important. It's important to show respect for these roles and let them know how important they are and how important they are to us to get a project completed."

"I work pretty hard to show a crew that respect and yet you still have to be pretty demanding of them," says Robert Redford of his approach on set. "I've always been fortunate to have good ones and this is certainly the best I've ever worked with."

So too did the director arrive in Vancouver well prepared. "We had all of the conversations that we had to have before we got there," Shia LaBeouf explains. "Robert Redford knew that he wouldn't have the time to have conversations about character motivation, etc., in the middle of the fight - you know, when he's on set it's got to be about that."

While many members of the all-star ensemble would come in and out of Vancouver to shoot their scenes - owing to their own additional filming commitments - Shia LaBeouf would remain with Robert Redford for the whole of the shoot. "I was sort of the set mascot," jokes the actor.

"What happened was I read with most of the other actors on my own time with Bob's 'homework list,'" says Shia LaBeouf of his prep work. "For me, there was a lot of rehearsal. There was a lot of rehearsal for Bob too, but there wasn't a lot for Julie Christie or most of the other actors because no one was available. So I'd track these dudes down, sometimes when they arrived on their travel day, and get to it. I actually got the majority of my rehearsal in, selfishly, without Bob even knowing."

"For example, my stuff with Stanley Tucci could be six or seven pages," Shia LaBeouf explains, noting his onscreen run-ins with Stanley Tucci who plays his boss in the film, the editor-in-chief of a financially besieged local newspaper, The Albany Sun-Times. "It was all run and gun, so I'm happy that I had that rehearsal time with Stanley Tucci - that way, we could actually play the scenes."

"That scene with Susan Sarandon is eight pages long," Shia LaBeouf continues, citing another sequence in which his character interviews Susan Sarandon's, Sharon Solarz, the woman whose arrest sets the story in motion. "Even with rehearsal that's a heavy pressure," says Shia LaBeouf. "But that's why you had pros around. It was really wild to be a part of all that."

"It's an amazing thing when you really trust your director because you let go and you feel really free," says Marling. "It's sometimes hard to have that trust, but I have it so completely for him. You trust him to locate you in the story. You trust him to be your guide. And that's a beautiful feeling because that's the only way you can really be free enough to do your job… It was really a special thing to work on this movie."

For Robert Redford, the onscreen pyrotechnics in The Company You Keep wouldn't come from elaborate effects or CG-work, but instead the explosive interaction between his characters - a throwback, he agrees, to a different era in filmmaking.

"You have new technology now that's driving a lot of films," says Robert Redford. "You have a lot of amazing stunts that are done to the point where you don't even know what's virtual and what's real."

"Some of that can be wildly entertaining - you can see some of these blockbuster movies where that technology is driving the entire story, where there may not be a lot of story there, but there's a lot of action and a lot of entertainment. That wasn't there in the 70s. It was much more of a storytelling time and that of course appeals to me. I think I still fall on the humanistic side of cinema."

."When I was a kid I loved Frankenstein, I loved The Three Stoogers, I loved musicals," says Robert Redford. "I still love all of it. But when you become an artist, you do what's important to you. What's important to me are stories about American life… It's a great country, but let's look at the gray area of our country too. And that's what interests me because I've lived through it."


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