Robert Redford on Oscar snub: "Hollywood is what it is. It’s a business"

The actor opened the 2014 Sundance Film Festival by discussing his exclusion from the Academy Awards

Published January 16, 2014 11:44PM (EST)

Veteran actor, director and Sundance founder Robert Redford kicked off the 30th annual Sundance Film Festival on Thursday with a panel discussing the evolution of what has turned into one of the nation's leading film festivals.

But like many entertainment industry professionals crammed in Park City's Egyptian Theater, Salt Lake Tribune writer and panel moderator Sean P. Means was distracted by Thursday morning's Oscar nominations and Redford's conspicuous exclusion despite a critically-acclaimed performance in "All Is Lost." Forced to address the elephant in the room, the actor shrugged it off. “I don't want that to get in the way of why we’re here," he said, adding, that it's a film "I'm very proud of."

"All Is Lost," which depicts an unnamed man fighting to stay alive while stranded at sea -- without dialogue, voiceovers or special effects -- in a way epitomizes Sundance and its importance to American film. The bold film was directed by J.C. Chandor, whose movie "Margin Call" debuted at Sundance in 2011. Calling it a "pure cinematic experience," Redford saw it as "stripped down of elements that are in most films." This is the type of film that Sundance can help create, even if mainstream America doesn't consume it.

"Hollywood is what it is. It’s a business," Redford stated, describing movie campaigning and voting as a process that can "get political." According to Redford, "All Is Lost" didn't have a campaign to help it "cross over into the mainstream."

"I was so happy to be able to do this film because it was independent," he said. "I will stay happy about it, the rest is not my business. It’s someone else’s business."

That business is also not Sundance's business, Redford clarified regarding the nonprofit. For the past 30 years, the Sundance leadership has focused on creating a community of filmmakers and aiding them in development (notable directors to come through Sundance include David O. Russell and Alfonso Cuarón). But "there’s a doorway where we stop," Redford said. "We’re just about development. We don’t go beyond that."

In a recent profile in The Hollywood Reporter, Redford lamented the culture of commercialization and consumerism that has consumed Sundance. But at the panel, Redford and his co-panelists celebrated the growth of the festival. Since 1981, Sundance has grown from 86 films at two theaters, supported by a 13-member staff, to showing 186 films in 9 theaters with 1,825 volunteers. Judging by the festival's high profile and increase in popularity, the leadership has succeeded in its goal. "If you look at all the people who are now working, they came through our help," said Redford, citing recipients of the 2013 NYFCC awards. "When I see that, I think, 'We’ve done something right and good.'"

Still, the 77-year-old Hollywood veteran has no advice for other film festivals that are trying to emulate the success of Sundance or build a community for filmmakers. “We are who we are," said Redford flatly. "We’re not going to advise anybody.”

By Prachi Gupta

Prachi Gupta is an Assistant News Editor for Salon, focusing on pop culture. Follow her on Twitter at @prachigu or email her at

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