Robert Redford and the author on the set of “The Milagro Beanfield War”
It was the end of the summer of 1986. I’d only been back in New York City a short while after spending a good portion of the year out of town on publicity jobs, first in Belize for Peter Weir’s “The Mosquito Coast,” followed by a stint in Miami for Susan Seidelman’s “Desperately Seeking Susan.” I was exhausted, I had money in the bank, and I was making arrangements to pull up stakes in New York and move to Los Angeles. I wasn’t looking for work until I got a call from legendary publicist Lois Smith.
“Hello ducks,” she said. “Bob Redford is making a movie in New Mexico. It’s called ‘The Milagro Beanfield War.’ I’ve told him about you and I’d like to set up a meeting. Are you interested?”
So much for for my plans. I was going to meet with Robert Redford, and maybe even work with him! Woohoo!
Still, I was uncomfortable with this whole “Bob” thing. While I could see how Lois would call him “Bob,” as she’d known him for decades, I couldn’t imagine me calling him “Bob.” It made me think of high school, when my friends and I used to joke around like we were pals with Ingmar Bergman, and drop comments from our good buddy “Ing.” “Bob” seemed like the wrong name for Robert Redford anyway.
I only knew two things about Redford. The first was his reputation for being late. The second was that he had a playful sense of humor, as reflected in the series of practical jokes he and Paul Newman were always playing on each other.
When I arrived at his office at the appointed time, Lois put me in a tiny private office, and informed me that he might be—surprise!—a bit late. I pulled out my stash of reading materials from my shoulder bag: the latest New Yorker, my copy of the “Milagro Beanfield War” novel, that day’s Times, even a few sections of the Sunday Times I hadn’t gotten around to reading yet. I spread everything out on the desk like a picnic blanket, enough stuff to keep anybody occupied for a leisurely weekend at the beach. And then I buried myself in the Arts & Leisure. I‘d barely read a few articles when I looked up to see a man standing in a doorway, grinning at me.
“Come on, I’m not that late!” he said.
I stood up to shake his hand.
“I’m Bob Redford,” he said.
“Hi Bob,” I said. (It just slipped out somehow.) “Good to meet you.”
I believe my little prank started my working relationship with Redford on the right foot. Yeah, I got the job, and even worked with him a few times after that. Some of working with Redford involved waiting; all of it was interesting, challenging, and fun. After all, if Robert Redford isn’t worth waiting for…who is?