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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, April 9, 2010

Redford talks tech, baseball in movies


By Mike Snider
USA Today

Robert Redford is pleased that "The Natural" will finally look the best it ever has on home video.

The new Blu-ray disc (released Tuesday, Sony, PG) makes Caleb Deschanel's cinematography and Randy Newman's score both earned Oscar nominations for the 1984 film look and sound immaculate.

Yet Redford throws a curve when asked about the other trimmings on the disc, such as the new MovieIQ+sync feature that displays facts on screen or on your iPhone as the film plays and the behind-the-scenes extras carried over from the 2007 DVD.

"I'm just a purist. I know it is fascinating to people, but I never ascribed that you should have a documentary about the making of a film," he said. "Films were meant to be a kind of magic that transports you somewhere else because you can imagine on your own and not have everything spelled out about this trick and this explosion. I would be just fine with none of that."

For many, "The Natural" remains one of the best sports films of all time. But upon its release, some critics faulted the script's changes to the Bernard Malamud novel.

Along with director Barry Levinson, Redford "agreed that to really follow Malamud's book right to the very end was a massive downer. I loved the book, but the redemption was the issue."

A pitcher at the University of Colorado, Redford, now 73, says that "at one time, I wanted to be a pro ballplayer. So it was very much in my DNA, and I always wanted to make a film about baseball."

Beyond the spread of Blu-ray, other technological advances are drastically changing filmmaking, he says. At this year's Sundance Festival, eight films were simultaneously distributed digitally to theaters in eight U.S. cities. "There was a tremendous response," says Redford, whose Sundance Institute has sponsored the festival since 1985.

"'Avatar' is very effective and very powerful because you can be absorbed in the imagery," he says. "I think (3-D) will work for larger, major films that are more blockbuster in shape and the IMAX films. I'm not so sure about the smaller independent films or television."

In general, he says, "I think technology is driving things to the point where it is beginning to dictate the spirit of something. ... But I think a good story well told will always be the name of the game."

And Redford still has some stories of his own he's working on. He plans to finish editing "The Conspirator" over the next month. The independent film follows the trial of Mary Surratt (Robin Wright Penn), who was implicated in the assassination of President Lincoln.

Another project has a baseball tie-in: "Branch Rickey and Jackie Robinson is one project I have got in development. I would like to play (legendary baseball executive) Branch Rickey," who signed Robinson to the Brooklyn Dodgers.