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Robert Redford says one of his best movies was “simply tossed away”

Robert Redford learned all about Hollywood the hard way when one of the best movies of his early years was treated like nothing by studios in the '60s.

Robert Redford in Downhill Racer

Hollywood sounds gruelling. Lots of rejection, stop-starts, and failed dreams. Even Robert Redford, who’s been a star for decades, found it difficult to get things funded and promoted.

Specifically, Robert Redford believes that studios just didn’t take some early effort seriously, despite him being one of the best actors of the era. In 1969, he made Downhill Racer, a production that’s now considered one of the best sports movies, but the studios just didn’t take it seriously.

“I didn’t take an actor’s salary or a producer’s fee to make the film. I sacrificed a lot; it was real guerrilla filmmaking,” Redford explained to HBR. “The studio simply tossed Downhill Racer away without a second thought. I broke my heart trying to get that film promoted and distributed.”

Redford adds he wasn’t naïve, he knew Hollywood cared about money more than art, but that was an important lesson. “I wasn’t aware that if you really want a studio to make and distribute your film, you have to answer the only question that matters to the executives in the industry: how will your project make money?” he states.

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Lessons hard learned. Time has been kind to Downhill Racer, now considered one of the best movies of Redford’s career. He starred alongside a young Gene Hackman and Camilla Sparv, as a young skiier who ascends the sport while representing the US, alienating his teammates in the process.

Michael Ritchie directed the film, and at the time it was heralded as one of the best drama movies ever. “Downhill Racer succeeds so well that instead of wondering whether the hero will win the Olympic race, we want to see what will happen to him if he does,” Roger Ebert said in his review.

During the ’70s Redford would go on to become one of America’s brightest stars, yet Downhill Racer remains a perfect example of how fame doesn’t always mean all that much. We have a new movies list to keep you aware of the underrated classics coming out, and we have guides on Spider-Man 4 and Avatar 3 if you prefer things larger than life.