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Robert Redford Recalls 'All the President's Men'

17 Feb, 2006 By: Thomas K. Arnold

Vice President Dick Cheney's initial refusal to comment about the shooting of a hunting buddy was immediately dubbed “Quailgate” by the media, a nod to the legacy of Watergate.

Warner Home Video couldn't have asked for better publicity. The studio this week is releasing a two-disc special-edition DVD of All the President's Men, the 1976 film about the real Watergate investigation that led to President Richard Nixon's resignation.

Star Robert Redford was so excited about the film's DVD rebirth that he momentarily put aside his Sundance duties to record a commentary.

“Not enough people are looking at the differences between today and yesterday,” Redford said. “Why is it you can take one event like Watergate and get so much mileage, whereas today you have a scandal a minute and you don't know which one to pick — there's so much information and so many channels to choose from that there's no time to digest. With Watergate, you could connect the dots.”

Redford recalls first hearing about the Watergate break-in while he was on a “whistle-stop tour” promoting The Candidate. He read Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein's coverage of the unfolding scandal in The Washington Post and called them to tell them he was interested in making a movie.

“They wouldn't talk to me for several months because they didn't believe it was me,” Redford said. “They thought they were being set up; they were under surveillance and they were scared to death.”

The reporters told him to hold off until they completed their book. In the meantime, “all hell broke loose,” Redford said, culminating in Nixon's resignation.

“The movie almost didn't get made,” he said. “There was a lot of distrust about Hollywood telling this story, as well as the assumption that no one cared. Watergate was done, Nixon had resigned, and people said, ‘Who wants to hear about this?’

Redford didn't give up, and he ultimately prevailed.

He said recording the commentary was a real eye-opener, since he hadn't seen the film since it was first released theatrically.

“I had spent so much time on it that I was worn out by the time it finally came out,” Redford said. “And then so many years went by…. So basically all I'm doing on the commentary is remembering, and that was fun.”

Among the tidbits Redford reveals is that he met Richard Nixon once, and only once. “When I was 13, I received an award from him,” he said. “California had Boys Week back in the late 1940s, and they made a big deal promoting it. Earl Warren was governor and Nixon was senator, and I went to this big ceremony and received an award. When Nixon handed me the award, I remember being chilled by his presence and thinking, ‘Who is this guy?' He was about as fake as they come.”

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