PROVO, Utah (AP) -- Actor and filmmaker Robert Redford played videotapes of the Kennedy-Nixon debate "over and over" to coach Jimmy Carter before his debates with former President Gerald Ford.
"I was probably president because of Bob Redford," said Carter, who confided that before the debate leading to his 1976 election he "didn't know what in the world I was going to do."
Redford told him what not to do. He arrived at Carter's house with a projector and films of the historic debate that made Richard Nixon look dour and John F. Kennedy charismatic.
Redford "played the tape over and over and gave me advice," Carter said Saturday at Redford's Sundance resort as part of an author's series. Carter, a Democrat, said his Republican opponent knew he was being coached by Redford and that it was enough to make Ford nervous.
Redford embraced Carter before taking the podium to praise his old friend at his Sundance ski resort, nature preserve and corporate retreat in Utah's Wasatch Mountains.
"His concern for peace, human rights and justice was more than evident when he was in office but even more so after he left office," said Redford.
Carter, author of 17 nonfiction books, talked about his writing career after serving one term as president. He joked that Redford offered him no advice for the 1980 election campaign he lost to Ronald Reagan.
Carter's latest work, "Hornet's Nest," is a saga of Deep South colonists during the Revolutionary War. The characters were patterned after Carter's own ancestors, who helped settle Georgia during the 18th century. Critics have praised his exhaustive research, if not the plot, but Carter said the work stands as accurate.
Carter, who turns 80 this year, appeared healthy and cheerful as he greeted fans, shaking hands and posing for pictures. During his days in Provo Canyon, he said, "We've had a good time climbing mountains and looking at waterfalls and catching trout -- and releasing trout."
One guest, Joseph Bento, said Carter "seems to relate really well to just the common man, or the common citizen," especially with his work with Habitat for Humanity and other humanitarian organizations.
"Of all the former presidents, he's done the most good," said Debra DuHoux, another Sundance guest.
(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)