Robert Redford talks modern media, long-ago Nixon encounter at Watergate documentary screening

April 19, 2013
Carl Bernstein, Robert Redford and Bob Woodward greet each other at the screening. (Allison Shelley/Getty Images for Discovery Communications)
Carl Bernstein, Robert Redford and Bob Woodward greet each other at the screening. (Allison Shelley/Getty Images for Discovery Communications)

If you were wondering if Robert Redford holds a grudge, the actor claims he has officially forgiven Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein for initially ignoring his phone calls four decades ago, when he first got interested in making a movie about the Watergate scandal. The reporters didn’t return the messages, and Redford backed off. (“I felt bad. . . Had I gotten to that point in my life?” Redford said he wondered at the time. “I thought I had more credibility.”) But while filming “The Way We Were” in New York, Redford decided to give it another try. Finally, Woodward relented; the two set a meeting — and, well, you know the rest.

Redford shared this anecdote at a Q&A session at the Newseum on Thursday night after the screening of his new documentary, Discovery Channel’s “All the President’s Men Revisited,” which delves into the making of the 1976 movie and the continuing cultural impact.  He was joined by Woodward, Bernstein, National Journal’s Tom DeFrank and Newsweek’s Eleanor Clift, along with moderator Ed Henry, president of the White House Correspondents’ Association, a co-sponsor of the event.

Dustin Hoffman, Carl Bernstein, Bob Woodward and Robert Redford at the 1976 premiere of "All the President's Men" in Washington. (AP file photo)
Dustin Hoffman, Carl Bernstein, Bob Woodward and Robert Redford at the 1976 premiere of “All the President’s Men” in Washington. (AP file photo)

The Q&A gradually turned into a gripe-fest about modern journalism in a social media world. It took just 10 minutes for someone to mention this week’s cable news channel reporting gaffes about the marathon bombing. These days, people are climbing all over each other to get a story, and get too far ahead of themselves, Redford said, resulting in “having to pull back, like we’ve just seen with Boston.”

Before the audience went into the lobby for a reception (featuring signature drinks like “Off the Record Rum” – Bacardi and Coke, a Richard Nixon favorite), Redford brought up his personal Nixon story. Growing up in Los Angeles, he once came face-to-face with the man, then the senator from California, who visited Redford’s school to hand out awards to students. The future movie star, then 13, accepted one from the future president, and the experience has haunted him ever since.

“I just got a bad vibe,” Redford said.

‘All the President’s Men Revisited’: Watergate again, but not just a nostalgia trip, 4/18/13

Bob Woodward, Carl Bernstein reunite for ‘All the President’s Men Revisited’ documentary and screening, 3/12/13

Hey, look! Robert Redford and Annie Leibovitz at the Post, 7/31/12
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Emily Yahr covers pop culture and entertainment for the Post. Follow her on Twitter @EmilyYahr.
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Amy Argetsinger · April 19, 2013