A certain Academy Award winner was very much in the house in Salt Lake City tonight. Both Robert Redford and Nick Nolte evoked the words and spirit of Paul Newman at the Sundance Film Festival’s A Walk In The Woods gala. “I asked Bob what he thought was the great thing about Paul, and he said his generosity,” Nolte told a packed Rose Wagner Theatre after the screening.
Noting that Newman had once told him how similar he and Redford were, the actor added, “I miss Paul; I still do.” A castmate of Redford’s in Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid and The Sting, Newman died in September 2008.
The mentioning of Newman tonight was rather fitting as he originally was intended for the role Nolte plays in the film. Soon after optioning Bill Bryson’s 1998 book of the same name over a decade ago, Redford wanted to team up a third time with Newman on the big-screen adaptation. However, years of hurdles getting the film made and the actor’s declining health eventually made Redford and Newman reunion in A Walk In The Woods a non-starter.
“There’s nothing I think stronger than generosity when an actor works with another actor,” the Sundance founder told the audience, picking up on Nolte’s remarks about Newman. While a presence at every Sundance since the start, A Walk In The Woods is the first film Redford has had in the festival since 2004’s The Clearing.
Directed by Ken Kwapis and shot mainly in Atlanta, A Walk In The Woods follows two old and estranged friends tackling the Appalachian Trail and some hard truths about growing old. While the film officially had its first screening earlier in the day in Park City, the SLC gala was the first attended by the cast and crew, as Sundance is steadily making Utah’s largest city part of its annual fest. Kwaois, Bryson, co-star Nick Offerman and the film’s producers joined Redford and Nolte onstage for a brief Q&A after the screening. Fellow co-stars Emma Thompson and Mary Steenburgen were not in attendance.