by writer/director J.C. Chandor
First there was just a letter. The words in that letter were indeed the first I wrote for this script. They came to me while I was sitting stuck on a train looking out over a harbor of boats that weren't going anywhere. That letter is from a man who needs to say more than he does. At that point in your life how could you not say it all? What could possibly be holding you back? How did he get to that point and most importantly why?
Then the letter just sat for a few months and as a writer I slowly began to build a film around it. As the creative answers started to come they only led to a much more practical one, can you really make a movie with only one actor? Obviously I convinced myself that the answer was “yes.” But filmmaking is not a solitary pursuit and the next question was, could I convince my producers, distributors, key crew members, and most importantly an actor of the same thing?
The first time I met Robert Redford in person I was very prepared. Just a week earlier I had submitted a 31-page script to his agent and was asked to come meet him as soon as I could get to LA. I walked up into his office prepared to make my case. I had drawings and diagrams at the ready and a good hour-long pitch teed up to go. But much to my amazement, only eight or nine minutes in he stopped me and looked me in the eye. He said “Look, I can see you have thought this through and I just needed to make sure you weren't crazy. So let's go do this." From that moment forward he gave me his complete trust and it never let up. Not when I asked him to put his body in harm’s way, not when I refused to share more in depth biographical information on his character, and not when in our last week of shooting I asked him to expose and question on screen the very deepest questions a human can ask.
I will never know why he extended me this trust so quickly when we had never met before and I had only one previous film to my credit. But once he committed it allowed all the other wheels to start turning and one year later we were in Mexico shooting the film. It was a complex and daunting undertaking compared with my first film and was going to need a special crew to pull it off. In the end, over three hundred people came together to turn my crazy idea into a reality. Each of them brought their own knowledge gained from years of trials and together we solved the puzzle one piece at a time.
Looking back I now realize no one involved really knew if it was going to work. Mr. Redford said yes because he thought the risk of missing an opportunity was greater than the risk of me not delivering the film I had promised him I was going to make. It sounds easy. But that type of creative courage is very rare and it is a lesson I will always hold dear. To achieve anything that is beyond the ordinary you must be willing to fail and fall short. My hope is when you see the performance he has delivered you will agree that the risk was worth taking.