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Robert Redford Revisits 'All the President's Men'

Actor-director, 76, talks about his new documentary and why old news still matters

Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford in All the President's Men

Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford (as Washington Post reporters Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward) investigate Watergate in the 1976 film "All the President's Men." — Everett Collection

Q: Considering it was made in the era of audience-pleasers like Jaws and Rocky, did the film's success surprise you?

A: I don't think anybody expected Watergate to get as big as it did. The movie followed that trend. It got a lot of attention. Probably too much. People entered journalism school thinking, "Hey, maybe a movie could be made about us, too." What these two reporters did was a moment in time. Can that moment ever come back? I don't think so.

Q: Why couldn't it happen again?

A: Journalism has changed tremendously because of the democratization of information. Anybody can put something up on the Internet. It's harder and harder to find what the truth is. When you have barking dogs on TV that are so extremely to the right, lying right to your face and with such conviction, someone tuning in thinks, hey, this is what the truth is. When I was younger, you had to get two people to go on record before you could quote a source. That's gone. What took it away was the effort to compete. You had to scoop. Sometimes you couldn't wait around to do things the ethical way.

Q: Your next film is a TV documentary commissioned by the Discovery Channel called All the President's Men Revisited.

A: I'm very proud of it. It threads together scenes from All the President's Men with clips of Woodward and Bernstein, plus archival footage no one's ever seen of Nixon in the Oval Office saying things like, "What are we going to do about the Jews?" "How do we stop this Watergate thing?" How this man recorded his own mistakes thinking he was going to be this fabulous historical figure is beyond me. It showed how delusional he was.

Q: You said journalism has changed. Has politics changed along with it?

A: A key point in the documentary is the Senate hearings. There's a moral tone to those hearings: Both sides of the aisle, the Republicans and the Democrats, were trying to get to the truth. That would never happen today. First, there'd be no hearings. Secondly, they'd be fighting. The Republicans would never want to be part of looking for the truth, because their lies might be exposed.

Q: Is the documentary more of an exposé than the movie?

A: Actually, it's subtle about how journalism has changed. It doesn't come right out and say things were different then. There are people in it like Jon Stewart, Tom Brokaw and Joe Scarborough talking about how they remember Watergate, but we leave it to the audience to decide, if they want to, how journalism has changed.

Q: Your next movie, All Is Lost, comes out this September.

A: It's about what a man has to go through when there's a giant storm in the Indian Ocean. I'm the only actor, and there's no dialogue. It was really grueling. I enjoyed it because I really had to put myself out there.

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REVISITING ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN: Robert Redford directs All The President's Men Revisited, a documentary about the 1976 movie in which he and Dustin Hoffman starred as Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, the Washington Post reporters who investigated the Watergate scandal.

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