Redford to take "A Walk in the Woods"

January 26, 2008 5:54:11 PM PST
With the Sundance Film Festival nearly over, Robert Redford is going for "A Walk in the Woods." Redford told The Associated Press that his next film project is an adaptation of the best-selling 1998 Bill Bryson book about hiking the Appalachian Trail. He will produce the film and star as Bryson, and Barry Levinson is expected to direct it.

"It'll be fun. I don't know when I've read a book that I laughed so loud," Redford said by phone Friday from California. "Also it's a chance to take a look at the country. ... The backdrop is pretty terrific, if you stop to think of all the visuals that are possible as they go along that trail."

After that, Redford said he'll tackle the "inside, down-to-the mats story" of how Branch Rickey helped Jackie Robinson break into major league baseball in 1947.

"What Rickey had to do, what Robinson had to go through, and the partnership they had to form, that's a story nobody knows," Redford said. "It's just a fascinating story."

Redford, who has been part of Sundance since its inception 30 years ago, said he and other festival-goers were shocked and saddened by the news that actor Heath Ledger died on Tuesday. Ledger had appeared in two Sundance films, 1997's "Blackrock" and 1999's "Two Hands."

"I just think he was one of those actors that was very, very special because he played so many different kinds of roles, and much of his work was more in the independent area," Redford said. "That's too young to check out."

As for this year's Sundance festival, which concludes Sunday, Redford said he was only able to see a few films, including "U2 3D," "In Bruges" and "What Just Happened?" which was directed by Levinson.

Redford noted that there were more new filmmakers at the festival this year than ever before, and praised the "crossover" movies that have grown in prominence here: "You're seeing music in film, you're seeing poetry in film, you're seeing animation."

Redford reiterated his concern that the festival is being judged not by its films but by peripheral activities like the lavish parties companies throw to attract celebrities and promote the companies' products.

"I don't have any problem with a large part of this. It's just once some of the media began to focus on the other part, and then judge us by that, then that got frustrating," he said.