Robert Redford on Politics Today: 'Pretty Grim Right Now'

Photo: Robert RedfordPlayHeidi Gutman/ABC
WATCH Interview With Robert Redford

In an exclusive Sunday interview with "This Week" anchor Christiane Amanpour, Robert Redford was blunt in his assessment of politics in the nation's capital: "It's pretty grim right now."

Amanpour asked him about his 1973 film, "The Candidate."

"I felt that the political system was producing candidates that were more by cosmetic rather than substance," Redford said.

Later, while working on "All the President's Men," the actor saw Bobby Kennedy's wife, Ethel.

"When I ran into Ethel Kennedy, she said, well, I was not a fan of your film. And I said, well, that's OK. She said, because, you know, you seem to have a dim view of politics. And I said, well, it's not bright, let's, you know, let's put it that way. And she said, well, it is the highest calling," Redford recounted.

"Do you still have a dim view of politics?" Amanpour asked.

"It's so dim it's almost black," he said with a laugh. "It's pretty grim right now. I mean I'm so depressed to think that this country, with all of its potential, could reduce itself to games being played with what feels like the dialogue is being done with Stone Age tools. I mean it's really depressing to think that instead of an exchange of ideas between two different ways of thinking, you've just got a war zone."

Redford also chatted with Amanpour about another one of his classic political films, "All the President's Men."

"What did you admire about Woodward and Bernstein, who you shadowed for a long time?" Amanpour asked.

"That was the story underneath the story that people thought they knew," he said. "They thought they knew about Nixon. It wasn't so much about him or even The Watergate. It was about hard work."

"What attracted me there was here were two guys, one guy is a Jew, the other guy is a WASP. One guy is a Republican, the other guy is a radical liberal. They don't get along very well. One guy is claiming to be a better writer than the other one. They don't particularly like each other, but they have to work together," Redford explained. "And that got me. I said that chemistry, that alchemy really fascinates me."

"That's why I ended the film before they even knew what was going to happen with Nixon, because history would take care of the rest of that."

Robert Redford Promotes New Lincoln Film

Redford is touring to promote his new film, "The Conspirator," about the only woman charged in the plot to assassinate President Abraham Lincoln.

He discussed the story behind the story that everyone thinks they know.

"I guess it was a series of frames in my head that took me into the film, the big one being, of course, an event that everyone knows about, the assassination of Lincoln, the Civil War period, which never seems to go away," he said.

"But adjacent to that is this other story that no one knows about, about a trial. And the fact that this woman ran a boarding house, was tried and put to death in a military tribunal, which should have been a civic trial, is the second frame," Redford said. "So the trial itself and the matter of justice and the law and the Constitution, that's the second frame inside the bigger one."

Amanpour asked him how he thought it might coincide with anything going on today.

"I'm a little wary about talking about the parallels because it could look like they were invented by me. They weren't. They're a matter of historical record," Redford explained.

"But the parallels, which have been capped this week by Eric Holder -- and you could tell he wasn't happy about the decision to move to a military tribunal, which should, you know, in a lot of people's opinion, a civic trial."

"And so therefore, the Constitution is always kind of at stake," Redford said. "And messing around with the Constitution has been going on ever since this time of Lincoln."