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THE OLD MAN AND THE GUN

Production Information
Jeremy Steckler of Conde Nast Entertainment first discovered David Grann's riveting profile of Tucker in The New Yorker in their archives. They quickly secured the rights to the project and reached out to Robert Redford and David Lowery (AIN'T THEM BODIES SAINTS, A GHOST STORY). Since he had been contemplating retirement for the past few years, Redford felt a magnetic pull to the role and was gratified when writer-director David Lowery came aboard since they knew each other from Sundance. "Never say never, but I pretty well concluded that this would be it for me in terms of acting. I told David, the one thing this movie had to be is fun. Forrest is a wonderful, complicated character, so full of life and risk and enjoying danger, but he also was about having fun," says Redford.

Lowery took that to heart. Extrapolating out from Grann's journalism, Lowery imbued the story with the rollicking mythos of a modern Western. The feeling was that of a campfire tale about a simpler time-i.e. the 1980s, that last decade just before mobile devices and the internet changed everything. It was a time with less hurry and more room to hide, which made the chase that erupted between Tucker and the lawman who pursued him a thing of slow-burning beauty both men relished. And as Forrest is chased, he too is chasing something: a last chance at love and at a legacy, even if it must be an outlaw one.

At the core of Lowery's script was an homage not just to a complicated anti-hero, but also an ode to the profound pleasures of Redford's four decades in film, including founding the game-changing Sundance Institute, which in turn helped spur Lowery's own career as an indie filmmaker. Says Lowery: "Bob and Forrest Tucker were always intrinsically related in my mind. I saw all sorts of parallels with the various characters he's played over the years, but it wasn't until I worked with him on PETE'S DRAGON that I got to know him personally. That was what allowed me to tailor the part specifically for him. It was a real luxury to have that month together in New Zealand, hanging out and working together."

As for what drew him to the story beyond the chance to create a bespoke role for a screen icon, Lowery admits having his own soft spot for Forrest. "I totally related to him," he says. "He's someone who does what he loves and gets away with it. I'm sure Bob felt a kinship with him for the same reason." For the producing team-a group that draws together Endgame Entertainment's James D. Stern, Condé Nast Entertainment's Jeremy Steckler and Dawn Ostroff (now with Spotify), Identity Films' Anthony Mastromauro, Sailor Bear's Toby Halbrooks and James M. Johnston, and Wildwood Enterprises' Bill Holderman-the marriage of a character like Forrest with Redford and Lowery was the kind that comes along rarely.

Stern observes that the film employs the frameworks of some of movie audiences' favorite genres-Western showdowns, comic capers and gritty tales of complicated cops and robbers-but all in service to a fresh take on living outside the lines. "David talked about honoring not just BUTCH CASSIDY and THE STING but BONNIE AND CLYDE and COOL HAND LUKE, all those great antihero films," he says. "But what made this story unique is that it's an allegory for an uncompromising artist's soul. Robbing banks maybe isn't the greatest choice of art form but it's what Forrest did, so he put his heart into it. And like all uncompromising people, Forrest sacrificed a lot, in terms of relationships, in terms of what he missed and what he risked. The film touches on these deeper themes in a playful way."

Steckler loved watching the symbiosis unfold between character and actor. He observes: "David's script truly felt like an exploration of where Bob's early characters might have ended up-how these artistic robbers who had a flair for what they do, and a twinkle in their eye, would age. I think Bob identified with that idea-and he also identified with Forrest's life-long dedication to honing his craft."

Says Halbrooks, who along with Johnston has been working with Lowery from the start of his career, of what Lowery was able to do with the story: "There's a subtlety to David's filmmaking that's pretty distinctive. When we first read David Grann's piece the big question we all had was: how could all this be true? I remember having to double-check that it wasn't fiction. But because David's way of storytelling is so concerned with the verisimilitude of emotions, he was able to tell it in a way that never feels fake and allows you to empathize with where Forrest is coming from."

For Johnston, Lowery's playfulness worked as a counterpoint to the film's explorations of obsession, love, regret and coming to the end of the road. "It was important to David for the film to have levity, to feel like a fun legend people tell their kids at night. But in the midst of that, David found deep emotion," he summarizes "We root for Forrest because we understand him as a man who wants to keep doing what does best, a man looking for love and success who isn't ready to quit."

FROM THE PAGES OF THE NEW YORKER TO THE SCREEN

FORREST TUCKER HAD A LONG CAREER ROBBING BANKS, AND HE WASN'T WILLING TO RETIRE

-- The New Yorker

Even amid the eccentric annals of famed outlaws, Forrest Tucker was an original, a career bank robber who escaped prison 18 times and pulled off bank heists well into his seventies. That's what initially drew journalist and author David Grann (The Lost City of Z) to write about Forrest for The New Yorker in 2003, three years after the bank robbing legend been sent back to prison at age 80 for yet another cunning heist to cap off a literal lifetime of them. Grann revealed a man who you could not deny took a surprisingly relatable and honorable pride in his work, considering he was a lawless felon but also a nice guy.

Early on, two people who read Grann's piece were producers Jeremy Steckler and Dawn Ostroff. With Redford already aboard, they brought the idea to David Lowery who had just directed the visually stunning Texas outlaw tale, AIN'T THEM BODIES SAINTS, because says Ostroff, "he makes movies the way David Grann writes, with a meticulously crafted, human approach."

"I didn't want to find out too much about the real Forrest because I knew Bob would define him so thoroughly. He'd make him into his own character," says the writer-director Lowery.

His approach evolved to give the character maximum room to breathe. "The first draft of the script was much longer and quite a bit more journalistic," Lowery explains. "I really leaned into the facts. In real life, the Over-The-Hill gang was much larger and grittier-there were drugs and deaths and a lot of unsavory elements. But I abandoned that approach pretty quickly, partially because it's just not my forte and also because I just really wanted to keep the camera on Bob the whole time. So I basically used Grann's article as my bible and didn't veer too far from that."

The internal joyousness of the character was his guide into telling the story as an almost antiprocedural, making both the crimes and the pursuit of the criminals secondary to the spirit of the storytelling. Says Lowery: "I wanted to see Forrest shine. As a storyteller, I naturally skew towards melancholy, and there definitely are some tragic aspects to Forrest's story, but I wanted to curb those instincts for once and just make a movie that would make people smile."

As Lowery churned through drafts, he turned the story into two gleeful cat-and-mouse games: one the unfolding love story between Tucker and perhaps the only woman who would ever put up with his outrageous career choice; the other the story of the world-weary law man who decided to chase him. He also emphasized the idea that a mere few decades ago, both crime and law enforcement had a different feel. With no internet or smart phones and few computers, if police wanted to share information across state lines it was done by telephone or U.S. mail. Most cops still carried revolvers, not automatic weapons. "All my movies take place in that hinterland before technology was ever-present in our lives," notes Lowery.

It was a time when a cop could take his time chasing a robber, when the contest of the chase itself could overtake the finality of the capture, which is what happens between Forrest and John Hunt. "The chase is where all the energy was," observes Lowery. "It's always a little bit of a letdown in movies when the chase has to end, isn't it? And I am secretly hoping that the cop will let the robber go. When I was writing this screenplay, the fact that Hunt let him go when he had the chance is probably one of the more personal elements of the story. That's just me, not wanting Forrest to get caught."

Lowery also felt it was vital to highlight that Forrest aspires to peace more than harming people. Grann had noted in his article that Forrest believed that wanton violence was the sign of an amateur holdup man. "The best holdup men, in his view, were like stage actors, able to hold a room by the sheer force of their personality. Some even wore makeup and practiced getting into character," wrote Grann. That sat well with Lowery. "Forrest carried a gun, but it was important to me that we never even saw it. If the article hadn't been called The Old Man and The Gun, I'd probably have left firearms out altogether," he says.

The restraint of the script impressed executive producer Patrick Newall. "It harkens back to almost a James Cagney type of movie, where there's an innocence to it. Forrest wasn't trying to shoot people. David made a very clear, creative choice that he didn't want it to be about that," he says. "And that's also true to who Forrest was. He was a gentleman, even if he was gentlemanly bank robber."

Johnston notes that Lowery also brought a strong Texas voice to the script. "David's vision extrapolated a more personal story from the original article. He explored the double-sided coin of the cop and the robber-and as a Texan, I felt he captured some of the mystique of what Texas is," he says.

Sums up Newall: "David walked a very fine balance in the script of not being judgmental with Forrest as a character, and brought other characters into it who kind of challenge that thesis of a troubled man addicted to something. The story is funny. It's moving. It's also exciting at times. And I think David has that ability to craft something that works on all those levels, which is very unique."

ROBERT REDFORD AS FORREST TUCKER

79 YEARS OLD AND HIS LIFE OF CRIME APPEARS TO BE GOING STRONG

-- Los Angeles Times

The real Forrest Silva Tucker grew up in Depression-era Florida, brought up by his grandmother and raised on dime-store novels about stickup men who broke out from the social margins. He began his own life of crime in his early teens with a stolen bicycle (at least as he tells it) and from then on, spent his entire adulthood in and out of prison-often breaking out of prisons, including his most notorious escape from San Quentin. Molding himself into his own version of the crime legends he'd read about, he would become as renowned for his calm, personable heist style as for amassing a total of 18 successful escapes from incarceration.

Forrest Tucker passed away in 2004 at the age of 83, after serving just 4 years of his 13-year sentence for armed robbery in Texas when sent to prison in 2000. Nevertheless, his legend persisted, though Forrest could not have foreseen that he would have eventually be portrayed by another legend, Robert Redford. Two qualities seemed to bind Forrest and Redford: dedication to their chosen craft and an ability to tap into a boyish passion no matter their age.

As an actor, Redford is known for a wide range of roles that always showcase the power and the perilous costs of charm. There's the upstart, single-minded Olympic skier in 1969's DOWNHILL RACER, the golden boy politician of THE CANDIDATE, the haunted war veteran turned instinctive mountain man in Sidney Pollack's JEREMIAH JOHNSON, the bookish government bureaucrat thrust into an international conspiracy in Sidney Pollack's THREE DAYS OF THE CONDOR, the daredevil stunt pilot of THE GREAT WALDO PEPPER and the muckraking Bob Woodward chasing a President's secrets in ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN. There's also the flawed baseball great in Barry Levinson's THE NATURAL, the reform-minded warden of BRUBAKER and a sailor facing himself alone at sea in ALL IS LOST.

As a filmmaker, Redford has the Oscar for Best Director for ORDINARY PEOPLE, as well acclaim for such additions to the American cinemascape as Oscar winner A RIVER RUNS THROUGH IT and Academy Award nominated films QUIZ SHOW and THE HORSE WHISPERER. In the second half of his life, Redford started two more chapters for which he is now equally celebrated: founding the Sundance Institute and Sundance Film Festival to nurture and champion independent filmmaking voices and as a renowned advocate for working diligently to help preserve the nation's natural beauty and resources.

For Redford, whose love of new challenges is obvious from his resume, it was the lightness of Forrest Tucker that fascinated him, more than his felonies. He played him as a man in search of jubilant adventure, a man who couldn't resist solving an impossible problem, as well as a man whose gut instinct said that to buck the system and go your own way was to stay young and vital.

Tucker's nonlethal approach to heists also spoke volumes to Redford about the code by which he lived. "Forrest never shot anybody. He used a gun but it was never loaded," Redford points out. For Lowery, working with Redford on the role from the get-go was one of the great pleasures of the film. "We talked about it a lot over the years, as Bob read various drafts of the script, but once we had a draft we both liked, we didn't have to discuss it that much," Lowery recalls. "The character was so well honed on the page, and so attuned to Bob, that we were able to leave things more open. We talked a lot about his relationship with Jewel. That was probably what we worked the most on while we were on set."

Redford, who has been starring in movies since he was 21, was especially excited by his co-stars. "They kept it edgy and they kept it real," he says. "I was just so lucky to have these colleagues and I have huge respect for them. Sissy and Casey have done so much incredible work. Then you have Danny Glover, who I never worked with before but I certainly admired. He and I are from the same part of California, so we had that connection. And I've long been a fan of Tom Waits so the idea that we could be working together, well, it was all a kind of blessing."

The end of the road is something Tucker always sought to avoid, one of the reasons perhaps he became one of the world's greatest escape artists. Redford notes that it is Tucker's desire to keep upping his game that draws the law to him one last time. He could have walked away from bank robbery and never faced a jail cell again but as Redford explains, "Forrest was someone who thinks, 'yes, it's been fun doing these smaller jobs, but something is missing. I think I need the really big one.' And that's when he stepped into a trap."

Johnston especially loved seeing Redford's sense of humor come to the fore in the role. "Bob is naturally funny. So David knew he could give him a line that might be very subtly humorous and Bob would take that and make it shine. With just a wink Bob has the ability to light up the screen and make everybody swoon."

Halbrooks remembers every day bringing the unexpected with Redford. "Bob is pretty subdued when he's not on camera and when he's getting ready to perform and then he'll come in and do something so beautiful you think 'wow I didn't see that coming.' We also didn't know how well the chemistry would work with him and Sissy. You have your hopes and your dreams about that pairing but we watched as Bob and Sissy each compelled the other to take it up a notch. It was just continually surprising in the best ways."

It was Redford's way of fully embodying Forrest without stamping him as sinner or saint that impressed everyone on set. Says Newall: "Like David's script, Bob's interpretation of the character didn't judge Forrest. It was exciting to see Bob at his pinnacle playing a role that capitalizes on everything he brings to the screen. He's enormously charming. He's subtle. He made it look effortless. But he's also brought deep subtext, and whenever he was on camera something more than you expected came to life."

Sums up Stern: "There was no one else in the world to play this role, pure and simple."

SISSY SPACEK: JEWEL

The real Forrest Tucker was married three times, but it was his last wife who saw him for who he was. In his script, Lowery riffed in a semi-fictional way on the character of Jewel, exploring why a fiercely independent widow might choose to share her life with a bank robber still dreaming of the biggest and best heist he might pull off.

The first person Lowery ever saw in his head for Jewel was the accomplished Sissy Spacek and he never budged from that idea. "At a certain point, I needed to get a better handle on the character-and in doing so, I immediately found myself thinking of Sissy. I've always loved her and just decided to take a chance and try to write a really great part for her. I'm so grateful that she took it! I don't know what I'd have done if she had said no. I want to make a million more movies with her now."

A six-time Oscar nominee and a winner for her portrayal of Loretta Lynn in COAL MINER'S DAUGHTER, Spacek has appeared in some of American filmmaking's most evocative films and often creating characters who break the mold. Her memorable roles ranged from the telekinetic force of iconic teen rage in Brian De Palma's CARRIE, the small-town girl who follows her boyfriend on a killing spree in Terrence Malick's BADLANDS, and a wife determined to find her husband in Costa-Gavras' MISSING. She would go on to play a farmer fighting for her family's land in THE RIVER, the sister who shot her husband in CRIMES OF THE HEART and a protective mother facing tragedy in IN THE BEDROOM.

The role of Jewel took her into unexplored territory once again. Spacek found herself wanting to excavate the improbable nature of Forrest and Jewel's connection-exploring why two people who seem so thoroughly unlikely as a couple on the surface match at a deeper level as two people each still looking to extract something more out of life.

"Jewel was content on her own. Her children are grown up and gone. Her husband has gone on to the other side and she lived on a ranch with all of her animals. She was very rooted and she was the opposite of who Forrest was. Forrest went whichever way the wind blew, he always had," Spacek observes. "But Jewel was just grounded and everything for her was about her relationships with both people and animals."

In that context, deciding to let Forrest woo her is most of all a welcome leap into one of life's unknowns for Jewel. "Jewel was at a point in her life where she thinks, maybe it's time for me to do whatever I want," says Spacek. "In saying yes to this man, she was really saying yes to life. And she could do that, because she was already so independent and didn't really need anybody to take care of her."

It certainly wasn't hard for Spacek to channel the magnetic pull Jewel feels towards Forrest, with Redford in the role. "Yes, he was a criminal, but he was just so damn charming," Spacek muses. "A scholar and a gentleman. And yes, a thief. But they made each other laugh and they had this really sweet and awkward and funny way of being with each other, as if they were middle schoolers."

Forrest Tucker knew he was lucky to discover in Jewel a woman who accepted his enormous flaw of being a wanted man, while falling for everything else about him. Says Redford of Jewel: "She knew who Forrest was and she knew this terrible thing about him but still, she supported him. She didn't particularly like what he did, but she loved him for the kind of human being he was. And she stood by him when he kept getting caught, so I think that really made a huge impact on him. He knew she truly loved him."

Ostroff says the organic chemistry that erupted was palpable from day one. "The energy between Bob and Sissy was so beautiful because it's all about what's not said between the two of them. You just feel that their souls are being fed in very different ways by one another. I think it's very unusual relationship in film, because it's about what's felt underneath the words," she says.

Spacek, Redford and Lowery communed at length on the characters, etching out every subtle detail of how the two interact in the halcyon days between his heists. "We talked about their relationship a lot," says Lowery, "both one-on-one and together, and while I had my own thoughts on things, I always made sure to lean into their perspectives. I learned a lot from both of them."

Sweet as things are, they both knew it's just a matter of time before the law caught up with Forrest again. It was a bittersweet reality for Jewel, but Spacek could understand her willingness to take the risk. "I think she knew Forrest couldn't stop, even if a part of him would have liked to," observes Spacek. "It's what he knew. He was good at it and it was kind of an addiction as well. I think Jewel also saw that Forrest doesn't rob banks for any darker purpose other than for the thrill of knowing he can figure it out."

Redford's performance made that even more real, heightening the comedy, but also the tragic impossibility, of their love affair. Spacek was exhilarated to work with Redford for the first time in their careers. She'd first met him when she was first starting out, and remembers being completely rattled at the time. "I know he has no recollection of the meeting. But I do. He was already a big star. And when I was introduced to him and I got so flustered I called him 'Bobert.' I was mortified," Spacek laughs. She watched his career evolve on its multiple fronts. "He has starred in so many great movies, and he's directed so many important films as well. He's quite an individual. He's also done enormous things for independent filmmakers so his contribution to film has been immense," she says.

As for what Jewel does for Forrest, Spacek says: "I think she gave him a place to go, a place to stop and rest his weary bones, if just for a moment, and she gave him a good friend. Forrest was so good at robbing banks, but if had found something else I thought, 'what could his life have been?' He was such a lovely human being, he might have been successful at anything, and then maybe he and Jewel could have rode off into the sunset together."

CASEY AFFLECK: DETECTIVE JOHN HUNT

The thrill of the heist for Forrest Tucker was matched by the meaningfulness of the pursuit for the cop who decided he was going to nab him: John Hunt. Taking the role of a weary lawman who was revitalized by the purity of a chase is Academy Award winner Casey Affleck, following on the heels of his work in MANCHESTER BY THE SEA and in Lowery's A GHOST STORY.

Says Lowery: "Casey is a friend and I just love working with friends. He also reminds me of Bob in a lot of ways. They're both irascible and playful and like to walk down paths untrodden." The relationship between Tucker and Hunter everyone looked forward to watching unfold. Says Steckler: "Forrest is an undeniable force, able to get the bank tellers to swoon and cooperate. So John Hunt looks at him and wonders: is the way this guy lives his life an example I should be applying to myself? That's a hard thing for a police officer to ask about a criminal. And it creates a really interesting interplay both inside Hunt and with Tucker."

Affleck was drawn to Hunt as a unique take on the detective focused almost lovingly on getting under the skin of his mark. "Hunt was kind of a lone wolf," says Affleck. "He was discontented with the police department, so he went off and decided he'd figure this case out all on his own. But I think there's also something about the romance of a non-violent, life-long bank robber that appealled to Hunt. He had a kind of admiration for Forrest. I mean, he knew he had to catch him-that's his job-but Forrest touched something inside him."

Even as Forrest grew closer to Jewel, the Texas policeman John Hunt was closing in on him. But Hunt too was more a source of pride than distress for Forrest, who enjoyed being worthy of a grand chase and having an opponent to outsmart. Says Redford of their relationship; "There's real respect between them. For Forrest, that respect came with realizing that Hunt was going to be the animal that chased him and he was going to be the animal that escaped. I think Forrest loved that connection between them."

"Redford is somebody I've watched my whole life and more than a few of his films are among my most favorites," Affleck says. "He brought something special to playing Forrest because it's partly who he is-and it was so fun to watch. One of the things I think is so great about Redford is, famous as he is, he's managed to still be sort of mysterious and enigmatic the whole time."

Much as he was excited about working with Redford, Affleck says he was equally drawn to reuniting with Lowery, whom he describes as an auteur. "David has a very clear vision and voice," he describes. "I loved that he wanted to make this movie with a very 70s, energetic style that really feels like the best of the old crime movies, with a free-form, fun visual style. It's really quite funny and playful."

Though the film riffs fictionally on his character, the real John Hunt was also exhilarated to be included in the production. He'd heard of a possible feature film for years but never really believed it would happen until Lowery called him. "I got a phone call from him and he said, 'we're doing it. We're gonna make a movie...and it's gonna star Robert Redford and Casey Affleck.' And I said, 'you gotta be kidding me?' I mean, I was stunned. David said, 'Would you mind if we use your name as the detective?' I told him I'd be honored," Hunt recalls.

Hunt confesses that he did indeed have a qualified respect for Tucker, even as he sought to bring him to justice. "I admired his professionalism-you've got to admire the professionalism," Hunt says. "But I cannot admire that he broke the law. Or that he threatened people with a gun. But I can admire the professionalism he brought to the planning, and to be able to keep doing it year after year."

In real life, Hunt never actually met Tucker face-to-face. But in the film, they have two intriguing encounters. In their first, Hunt is humiliated by Tucker when he finds himself standing in a bank line waiting to make a deposit when a stickup occurs right under his nose. "From that moment, Hunt makes it his life's mission to catch this guy," says Ostroff, "and that's the start of a deeper connection between the two of them where they each are playing the other and pushing the other."

Affleck's look was also carefully curated, right down to the Tom Selleck-style mustache. "Casey came in with some facial hair, and we were able to beat it into a sort of Magnum P.I., Tom Selleck-y look. It suits the character really well and Casey really enjoyed it," says makeup designer Leo Corey Castellano.

For Jim Stern, Affleck embodied the character completely, right down to the psychic tangle that can happen when cop-and-robber see a mirror in one another: "The way Casey played John, you can feel how he got Forrest's juices flowing again, and how they each gave the other something they needed. Forrest needed a foil to challenge him and John needed the joie de vivre Forrest provides him."

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