Robert Redford doesn't believe in self-promotion - that comes as no surprise. What does come as something of a surprise is that he agreed to participate in an hourlong, network television documentary about himself and his career.
"Robert Redford & Sydney Pollack: The Men and the Movies" airs Sunday at 7 p.m. on Ch. 2."I'm not big on publicity," Redford said. "I probably do more here (in Utah) than I do anywhere. But I've always believed that you could separate yourself from your work and say, `Look, I can have a regular life and I can have a professional life.' "
Still, producers Mark Cowan and Paul Hall persuaded Redford to sit down for several wide-ranging interview sessions. The main topic was Redford's long-standing professional relationship with Pollack, but it also included personal background.
"It seemed to me a legitimately interesting idea might be a 15 or 20-minute little documentary on just the work (Pollack) and I have done, because now it's amounted through the years to a body of work, seven films," Redford said.
The program shows scenes from all of the films Redford and Pollack have worked on together: "This Property is Condemned" (1965), "Jeremiah Johnson" (1970), "The Way We Were" (1973), "Three Days of the Condor" (1975), "The Electric Horseman" (1978), "Out of Africa" (1985) and "Havana," which opens nationwide Friday, Dec. 14.
"That's a pretty good body of work," Redford said. "I mean, whatever you think about it critically, it's a decent body of work.
"And I thought what would be interesting would be if they ran some clips from those films (including his first film, `War Hunt,' in 1962, where Redford and Pollack first met as actors), and then he and I talk about them in between. And show some gag reels. I always try to do a gag reel with every film I do because I think it's fun to see the outtakes.
"And the next thing I knew, I had created a monster."
The little 15-20 minute documentary was suddenly up to an hour, and NBC was interested - and talking about making it a star-studded extravaganza complete with celebrity hosts.
"And I said, `Like who? Orson Welles is dead,' " Redford said. "And they said, `We want Jane Fonda, Meryl Streep, Paul Newman and Barbra Streisand' - and I said, `No! Please don't do this. This is not `Night of 1,000 Stars.' This is not the Life Achievement Award, please. This is just a simple body of work that we've done."
The program finally settled on six segments: A look at Redford both on and off-camera; His theatrical love stories, including "The Way We Were"; His adventure films, like "Jeremiah Johnson" and "Three Days of the Condor" Those outtakes and bloopers, including Redford having a lot of trouble with the props in "Electric Horseman" and an "Out of Africa" screen test - with Jane Seymour; Redford's environmental activism; and a promotional piece on the upcoming "Havana."
But even when the program was completed, there was trouble with the title.
"The studio said, `OK, now we've got to run these titles by you.' One title they came up with was `Robert Redford: The Man, the Myth and His Movies.' And I said, `Don't even finish the sentence. You guys just never get it.'
"I said, `No, no, no, a thousand times no. It's not about me.' First of all, I hate the title anyway, I don't like the word `myth.' I've got enough problems as it is - `icon.' Just, please, `A Film Portrait,' period. `Redford, Pollack, a Film Portrait,' `25 Years in Film,' whatever."
Redford was satisfied with the documentary itself, but became incensed when NBC began publicizing the "Myth" title after he had said they couldn't use it. Since Redford and Pollack had some contractual control over the title, they threatened to pull the show.
As you might expect, NBC relented, changed the title to "Robert Redford & Sydney Pollack: The Men and Their Movies" and the program will be shown Sunday as originally scheduled.