Sundance: Redford and T Bone talk music and movies


Music and movies have taken equal billing in the Sundance London festival, which runs over the weekend, and an evening with festival founder Robert Redford and hypercool music maestro T Bone Burnett was the perfect confluence of the two art forms.

At his press conference, Redford had been keen to push both strands of the festival suggesting that a hybrid of the two was fast becoming the next generation of the artform.


The first full-scale event at The O2 explored the theme further with Redford and T Bone reflecting on a career in which both had spent their careers attempting to enhance story-telling techniques with image and music.

Conversation - moderated by music-movie connoisseur Nick Hornby - was accompanied by film clips from O Brother Where Art Thou, Butch Cassidy, Ordinary People and others to illustrate the anecdotes.

And if that wasn't enough for the enthralled audience at a packed Indigo2, the songs were re-interpreted and played live by the sinuous Guillemots and Oscar-winning Glen Hansard.

The live music was raw and live, even to the point of Hansard abandoning his cheap instrument ($60 from a shop in Brooklyn) which kept falling out of tune to be replaced with a haunting unaccompanied folk ballad.

The Guillemots - who had their own small-scale version of technical difficulties - came out with a thrilling versions of, among others, A Man Of Constant Sorry and Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head.

That song - anachronistically placed in Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid - but capturing the revolutionary, free-love verve of its time - was one of a number of self-confessed misjudgments by Robert Redford.

"I thought 'it didn't even rain in the movie'," he said when shown the sequence. The song and the charged cycling scene which it accompanied was put in to give Paul Newman a romantic slant to his character.

Originally, Newman was slated to play the Sundance Kid but when they swopped roles he lost the girl, something that producers thought unpalatable when he was the bigger box office draw and Redford the newcomer.

Redford also cited his ignorance of the music of Scott Joplin before director George Roy Hill memorably used his jaunty piano score to create the rhythm and feel of The Sting.

But Redford's most famous dud call came with the comment "she's not going to sing, is she?" to Sydney Pollack about a certain Barbra Streisand in The Way We Were.

However, he had more success in his own movies, giving Randy Newman his break in the baseball film The Natural, an excerpt of which was now a familiar fall-back in baseball grounds and sports network studios.

And he introduced Pachelbel's Canon to the closing credit of Ordinary People. He said he had heard the music at a hotel on the Big Sur which he had walked when he was younger but it took him years to track down exactly what it was. He said it had the right mournful tone to end the film.

T Bone Burnett is the go-to guy in Hollywood for the recreation of authentic roots sounds.

His knowledge of the music of his home country made him a natural choice for "sound track movie" O Brother Where Art Thou> but his collaboration with the Coen Brothers began with cult classic The Big Lebowski.

He said: "[The Coens] just wanted me to put together, well if you were to say it in today's speak, put together the Dude's ipod playlist. The songs in the film were character-driven choices, that is, what would he listen to."

He worked for months with Reese Witherspoon and Joaquim Phoenix ["he quit everyday saying it was too big for him"] on Walk The Line, building up the band for months on end to recreate the organic history of the sound of Johnny Cash and his untutored backing players while the Dude himself, Jeff Bridges, reunited with T Bone for Crazy Heart, the title song of which was played by the Guillemots.

He also spoke of his work with Glen Hansard and The Civil Wars attempting to imagine what Apalachian music would sound 300 years into the future for the soundtrack of The Hunger Games. "It could sound like AC/DC," he suggested before explaining how free jam sessions with his musicians increasingly found traction.

The evening dovetailed at the end when T Bone and Redford showed a clip from their new, early-stage project American Epic, which has unearthed never-before-seen footage of performers such as iconic bluesman Lead Belly, to chronicle the birth of the music that shuffles around the iPods of today's contemporary music lovers.

A standing ovation at the end seemed genuinely to warm Redford, who had said earlier in the day that Sundance would be judged by its reception, and the cinephile crowd could scarcely believe that this was just the beginning of a feast of smart film and music right on their doorstep.

Go to