Robert Reford discusses Czech connections at Karlovy Vary International Film Festival


The biggest star of this year's Karlovy Vary International Film Festival is without doubt the much respected actor-director Robert Redford. He came at the invitation of his friend Madeleine Albright, the Prague-born former US secretary of state. And, he says, he also wanted to meet another world renowned figure, former Czech president Vaclav Havel.

Robert Redford, photo: CTK
"For a long time I've been aware of Havel, I've been interested in him because, for obvious reasons...his role as an artist and as the kind of activist that stood up for human rights was very interesting to me. And that he could become the president was especially interesting to me.

"We've had very intense conversations, we'll have more. I have great admiration for him, the way he sees the world and his sophistication and his depth as a humanitarian I have great appreciation for. I think the world could use many leaders like him."

Another reason Robert Redford came to the Czech Republic was to see the capital, which he was unable to do during his travels around Europe as a young man. But he did become involved in the political events of the time.

"At that time I just happened to be in a situation where the [1956] Hungarian revolution was going on, and I assisted as a volunteer, helping bring refugees across the Danube. So when I went back to the United States and became an artist and went into film I think I carried that with me...

"So Prague for me was a city that I was not able to see and I had always wanted to see. I had heard it was beautiful, it had centuries of occupation by other cultures. I wanted to see how the people survived that. So when I came here the other day it was something I had waited for for many, many years. I was not disappointed."

The actor-director says he has known several Czechs over the years, including one of the all-time greats of Czech theatre, Jiri, or George, Voskovec, who moved to the United States after the war.

Robert Redford with Vaclav Havel, photo: CTK
"I had a long history of friendships with Czech artists, beginning with a man named George Voskovec. Many, many years ago he was apparently famous in Czechoslovakia with a partner named Jan Werich.

"I was in a play with him in New York in 1963, and we became very good friends. And then subsequently I met other people - Milos Forman, Jan Kadar. And when I started Sundance in 1980, our first director was a man named Frank Daniel, and he was from Prague."

And perhaps it wouldn't be the Czech Republic if somebody didn't ask Robert Redford that most burning of questions - do you like Czech beer?

"I love Czech beer, I've had Czech beer for so many years. I drink it at home in California, Pilsner Urquell. Last night I was having dinner with President Havel, I said, you tell me what you think is the best beer and they brought these beers...I love Czech beer, and I'm not saying that because I'm here - I love it."