On Thursday evening, after a screening of his new Civil War film, The Conspirator, Robert Redford was describing his personal political evolution, which began at age 13 with an award from his U.S. senator, Richard Nixon.
“I didn’t know anything at that point,” Mr. Redford, who grew up in Los Angeles, told Time editor Rick Stengel. “All I knew was, when he handed me that award, I got a chill. Oooh. What a bad vibe.”
Mr. Redford’s new film is a not-so-subtle indictment of the military trial of Mary Surratt, the mother of a John Wilkes Booth associate, and its screening at the Time Warner Center was timely. Just a few days before, the Obama administration had abandoned plans to try 9/11 conspirator Khalid Shaikh Mohammed in a civilian court, opting for a military tribunal instead. “I guess you could say, in terms of the film, it was a bit of a gift,” Mr. Redford said of the decision.
Still, he didn’t harbor any illusions about what the film might accomplish, having learned a lesson from Mr. Nixon’s reelection shortly after Mr. Redford released The Candidate in 1972.
The film came out the year after 18-year-olds got the vote. Unfortunately, Mr. Redford said, “they didn’t show up.”