Redford marks 40th anniversary of 'Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid'

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SUNDANCE -- Forty years ago, a Western filmed in Utah opened in theatres around the country. The reviews were mixed, but "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" became a hit and remains one of the top films of all time.

Carole Mikita talked with Robert Redford about the movie that launched his career and his vision for the future.

"Your head snaps back when somebody said, ‘What do you think about the 40th anniversary?' And I said, 40? So much seems like yesterday," Redford told us.

It was October 1969 when "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" burst onto the screen. The film about two real life outlaws made Robert Redford a star.

"Butch Cassidy is such a vital part of Utah history, the outlaw part, which is something I can identify with, unfortunately," Redford said.

Director George Roy Hill wanted to cast him as Butch because the film's original title was "The Sundance Kid and Butch Cassidy," starring Paul Newman as the Kid.

Redford convinced him it should be the other way around, and despite studio skepticism over a little known Redford, Newman fought for him.

"The fact that he would support me, not well-known at that time, I will forever be indebted to him," Redford said.

The next thing he had to convince the director about was the film's location.

He told us, "I said , 'What do you know about Utah?' He said, 'Nothing.' I said, 'I'm telling you, there are parts of Utah that are not like anything else in the world. Can I show you part of Utah that I think would be great to film there?' He said, ‘Sure.'"

Redford flew with Hill in a biplane over southern Utah, what Redford calls "sheer beauty that is different from anywhere else in the world."

"As a result, he said, ‘We're going to film in Utah.' So I like to think that I had maybe a lot to do with the film being shot there," Redford said.

"You almost feel guilty being paid for it, although I wasn't paid that much. But I had so much fun on the film being able to ride horses, being able to do stunts," Redford told us.

But when he saw a rough cut of the film, he was shocked.

"What is this? A song in the middle of the film? Are you kidding me? Raindrops and it's sunny, what are you talking about?" he said.

And he wasn't alone. Critics called it "vaguely disturbing" and "cinematic schizophrenia." But the public loved it. Now a film classic, it ranks among the top 100 grossing movies of all time.

And the name Sundance has touched every aspect of Redford's professional life, with the Sundance Institute, which operates the Sundance Film Festival, which brought about the Sundance Channel and the Sundance Cinemas.

Forty years ago, that name came here first. The property was Timphaven. His partners wanted to rename it Sundance, he was skeptical.

"It looks self-serving, if we named it that. Furthermore, what if the film comes out and it's a dog? They kind of overruled it.I had to finally agree to it, because you couldn't beat that name," he said. With the land, came his passion for preserving it for future generations. He said, "I thought, at least there's a place that will keep things the way it was when the pioneers first came. So Sundance has kept that ethic for the last 40 years, and I hope we'll keep it that way."

Redford's love of Utah began when he was a student at the University of Colorado. On his way home to California, he got lost and came through Provo Canyon by mistake. He didn't forget it.

"I bought two acres of land in 1961. A year and a half later, I built a cabin on it, and that was my stake. What happened to it, speaks for itself," he said.

Sundance now represent the man and a movie that became so much more.

There is a special screening of "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" Thursday night at 7:00 at the Sundance Resort, which is also celebrating 40 years.



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