Redford is back at Sundance with A Walk in the Woods

  • AFP, Los Angeles
  • Updated: Jan 21, 2015 19:16 IST

The annual Sundance Film Festival opens Thursday in the Utah mountains with its usual selection of quirky, independent movies -- and its iconic founder Robert Redford back on the big screen.

The 78-year-old, who famously named the festival after 1969 classic Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, will make a rare appearance in front of the camera in A Walk in the Woods, based on US travel writer Bill Bryson's book.

The film is among about 200 movies to be screened from January 22 to February 1 at the prestigious festival, which regularly premieres movies which go on to critical and Hollywood awards season glory.

Boyhood and Whiplash, for example, which both won Golden Globes this month and have multiple nominations for this year's Academy Awards, each debuted at the film festival 12 months ago.

Redford, whose career had slowed before the 2013 solo tour de force in All is Lost, co-stars with Nick Nolte in A Walk in the Woods, in which he plays Bryson.

The veteran actor said he originally wanted his Butch Cassidy co-star Paul Newman to join him in the movie, about a long-distance hike along America's Appalachian Trail.

Robert Redford plays travel writer Bill Bryson in the movie based on the book.

"It would be different terrain," Redford told the Salt Lake Tribune last week of a Newman reunion, "but it would still carry the same relationship we had in Butch Cassidy and The Sting."

He tried for years to get the project off the ground, but eventually Newman's faltering health decided the matter. "He said, 'Look, Bob, at my age, I don't think I can do this.' So he had to let it go," Redford said.
Newman died in 2008.

Redford will open this year's festival with the traditional press conference in the Utah ski resort of Park City on Thursday.

Ten films to watch out for at Sundance:

Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief - Oscar-winner Alex Gibney's expose of the group, based on a book by Pulitzer-prize winning writer Lawrence Wright.

Last Days in the Desert - Ewan McGregor stars as Jesus -- and the Devil -- in an imagined biblical chapter from his 40 days of fasting and praying in the desert.

(T)ERROR - Uses unprecedented access to a covert counter-terrorism 'sting,' revealing the 'murky justifications' behind such actions through an FBI informant.

The Chinese Mayor - about a mayor trying to transform a coal-mining city in China into a tourist haven showcasing clean energy.

The Hunting Ground - by Oscar-nominated US director Kirby Dick, about sexual abuse on US college campuses -- a topical issue following a controversial Rolling Stone magazine piece on the subject.

Z for Zachariah - a post-apocalyptic tale of a woman who believes she is the last female on Earth -- with two men competing for her affections.

What Happened, Miss Simone? - a biopic of jazz icon singer Nina Simone, using previously unreleased recordings and footage to tell her story of musical genius and tortured melancholy.
The Visit - a faux documentary about humankind's first encounter with intelligent alien life.

3 And 1/2 Minutes - another topical film after recent US protests triggered by the killings of unarmed black men by white police officers, the film focuses on the November 2012 death of a 17-year-old boy.

Being Evel - an inside look at the life and times of iconic stuntman Robert 'Evel' Knievel, by Oscar-winning director Daniel Junge.

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