Robert Redford was in Madison on May 30 to get a look at his new Sundance Cinemas in Hilldale Mall. Madison, meanwhile, took the opportunity to get a look at him.
The actor/director shook hands with reporters and dignitaries at a small afternoon reception in Sundance's Bar Bistro 608. He immediately established himself as the most handsome 70-year-old man in town that day, looking trim and youthful in a blue blazer, T-shirt, jeans and moccasins. I tried not to be photographed anywhere near him, certain that the contrast would do me no favors.
In his brief remarks to the group, Redford reiterated his vision for Madison's Sundance Cinemas, the first in a proposed chain. It would be a showcase for art and foreign films, featuring fresh directorial voices. It would be a community gathering place, where people could make human connections in a restaurant, café and rooftop bar. And it would be reflective of Madison values.
During my conversation with Redford, he surprised me by bringing up 19th century philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. He said he'd studied Carnegie's plan for donating libraries to communities that needed them, so motivated citizens would have a chance to educate themselves. Sundance Cinemas, apparently, was inspired by the Carnegie libraries. Redford wanted to offer Madison a cultural opportunity it wouldn't have had otherwise.
"Now it's up to Madison to make the most of it," he said.