George Stephanopoulos was so enthusiastic towards Robert Redford and his sympathetic new film about an ex-1960s radical that the actor enthused, "You ought to get on the marketing team!" The aging actor/director appeared on Tuesday's Good Morning America and endorsed the violent actions of protest groups. Reminiscing on his own past, the liberal Hollywood star recounted, "When I was younger, I was very much aware of the movement. I was more than sympathetic, I was probably empathetic because I believed it was time for a change."
After Stephanopoulos wondered, "Even when you read about bombings," Redford responded, "All of it. I knew that it was extreme and I guess movements have to be extreme to some degree." [See video below. MP3 audio here.] Remarkably, after this well known actor endorsed violence and terrorism as a political tool, Stephanopoulos did not question the remark. Instead, he tossed a softball: "Do you come out of the experience with the same kinds of empathy that you had going in?"
The ABC anchor offered just one tough question in the entire segment. He gently pressed, "I've noticed that already some critics have come out and said that you're romanticizing radicalism. How do you respond to that?"
The Internet Movie Database summarized the plot of The Company You Keep this way: "A thriller centered on a former Weather Underground activist who goes on the run from a journalist who has discovered his identity."
Yet, with the exception of one question, Stephanopoulos failed to press the film's director on the movie's radicalism. Instead, he blurbed it as "completely engrossing."
The former Democratic operative turned journalist then gushed, "And it seems to me at least that you packed a lot of your passions into a single movie. Political commitment, love and family life, journalism, I just wondered where did the spark come from on this one?"
Good Morning America has a history of fawning over liberal Redford films. In 2007, over a span of three days, the hosts of GMA devoted 19 minutes to Lions for Lambs, an anti-Iraq war screed.
A transcript of the April 2 segment is below:
ABC GRAPHIC: Excellent "Company"; Redford Back in Starring Role
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: hat a spectacular career Robert Redford has had. Won just about every award in Hollywood. And in his new film The Company You Keep the Oscar- winning director also stars as a former '60s radical whose quiet life underground is exposed by a hungry young journalist played by Shia LaBeouf. Take a look.
[Brief clip from The Company You Keep]
SHIA LABEOUF: So. Mr. Grant, Look, I'm just trying to put the pieces together.
ROBERT REDFORD: I didn't take the case because I'm a single parent with a private practice and too much on my plate. All right? If I could have helped, I would.
LABEOUF: Because you are sympathetic to their cause? You agree with their tactics?
REDFORD: You know, clearly you have some kind of agenda here. I don't have time for this.
LABEOUF: Oh, actually, I don't care much for either side.
REDFORD: So, what, that makes you fair and balanced? You know, it's a funny thing. Thirty years ago, smart guy like you, probably would have been involved with the movement yourself.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And we are joined now by Robert Redford. Thank you so much for coming in. My wife and I watched the movie over the weekend. Completely engrossing. And it seems to me at least, that you packed a lot of your passions into a single movie. Political commitment, love and family life, journalism, I just wondered where did the spark come from on this one?
ROBERT REDFORD: Well, first of all, that's a great description. You ought to get on the marketing team. When I was younger, I was very much aware of the movement. I was more than sympathetic, I was probably empathetic because I believed it was time for a change. Whether that change was a revolution or not, I don't know. But I was very much for what was going on.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Even when you read about bombings?
REDFORD: All of it. I knew that it was extreme and I guess movements have to be extreme to some degree. Years later I thought this is an interesting story but we're too close to it and I thought, when this gets-- when we get some distance from this so that we can look back on it as a piece of American history then I might be interested and now that's the time. So that's why I decided to make it now.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Do you come out of the experience with the same kinds of empathy that you had going in?
REDFORD: Yeah, I've bled a little for those that look back and realize what they did in their youth when they were full of passion and intensity, that subsides over time. But the only thing that sticks is the thrill of that moment, the thrill of that movement when they were committing all of themselves to something they believed in.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I've noticed that already some critics have come out and said that you're romanticizing radicalism. How do you respond to that?
REDFORD: Well, that's not so. It's not romanticizing, it's looking at it with a kind of historical perspective because there's a lot of resentment in there, you know, for the movement.
STEPHANOPOULOS: What a cast you put together to bring it to life. Shia LaBeouf. Julie Christie.
REDFORD: Well– Films like this don't get the budget they used to so you're forced into an independent category and so, therefore ,there's not a lot to work with. And so the fact that all these people who I consider colleagues and they're good actors came on board because they believed in the project or they thought there was a good role, I mean I was very honored. It's quite a cast.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And the little girl who plays your daughter, Jackie Evancho, I mean, -the singer, but what a remarkable performer.
REDFORD: This is an incredible story. I'm casting the little girl. I'm sitting in a hotel room four nights before we're going to film. And it's not cast. I'm really depressed. And I'm surfing the TV and suddenly this face comes on, this angelic face, just beautiful angelic face.
[Clip of Jackie Evancho singing.]
REDFORD: I get the casting agent and say find this person. I don't know where she is.
STEPHANOPOULOS: She won the lottery.
REDFORD: She won the lottery. Shows up three days later. She was so real and so lovely. Well, you'll see when she comes on. That was a joy. One of those wonderful risks that works.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Thanks a lot for coming in.
REDFORD: You're sure welcome.