Although Robert Redford has been a regular crusader for progressive causes and candidates, he's pessimistic about how things operate on Capitol Hill nowadays.
“I just think it is really fruitless,” he tells Capitol File in its May/June issue, which hits newsstands April 19.
“A Congress that should involve cooperation on behalf of the public interest is actually a war zone."
"We have two parties that should find some common ground or work together, and it is actually war. And if you lose, it all smacks of war that no matter what this side does, that side is going to attack. One side is only interested in winning the game, but I think their game is not about ideas, substance or representing people. And the other side is confused; it doesn’t know how to tell a story it’s already got. And they don't work together. I just think it’s hopeless, so to answer your question, I’m not getting involved. I believe in the power of grassroots to move the system, and I engage on that level to push bills and action, as well as at the committee level in Congress.”
Redford will be in town Sunday to screen his latest film, “The Conspirator,” the story of Mary Surratt, who was hung by the U.S. government for being a co-conspirator in Abraham Lincoln’s assassination. (Capitol File will host the movie’s after-party.)
“When I first got [the script], I thought, Lincoln, that territory’s been well covered,” Redford says. “But then I read it and I realized it’s a story no one knows about — the story of Mary Surratt and [John Wilkes] Booth’s co-conspirators. What appealed to me was that this was the story that had not been told, hidden in an event that everybody knows. Lincoln’s assassination, Booth and so forth, the world knows about that, but not about the conspirators because [Edwin] Stanton, the secretary of war, had succeeded with what he had set out to do: Bury them right away.”
Redford saw parallels between this story line and that of “All the President’s Men,” in which he portrayed Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward.
“So, like in ‘All the President’s Men,’ rather than focusing on the general picture, Nixon — what was it about these two guys [Woodward and colleague Carl Bernstein]? Tell their story against the backdrop of the Watergate story everyone knows; the chemistry, the emotional part came from their differences. One guy was a Jew; the other guy was a WASP. One guy was a liberal; the other guy was a Republican. One guy was considered a good writer, and the other guy was considered not so good. They didn’t like each other, but they had to work together. And I said, chemically, I like the outcome of that. So this story had the same thing: [Frederick] Aiken’s a war hero, reluctant to defend Mary Surratt, and she’s a Southerner and a Catholic who knows the deck is stacked against her.”
“The Conspirator” opens on April 15 — the 146th anniversary of Lincoln’s death.