Actor pins hopes on victory for Obama


IF BARACK Obama doesn't win November's presidential election in the United States, "you can kiss the Democratic Party goodbye", the actor and director Robert Redford told an audience in Dublin last night.

Speaking at a public interview in Trinity College in advance of his conferral with an honorary degree by the university today, Redford said he hoped Obama would win because while John McCain "represents yesterday", the Democrat embodied the sort of change America needed.

Asked by Michael Dwyer, film correspondent of The Irish Times, if he was looking forward to "regime change" in the US, Redford said: "Yes. Where my country is at the moment, I'm not confident of anything. I'm hopeful.

"I think Obama is not tall on experience . . . but I believe he's a really good person. He's smart. And he does represent what the country needs most now, which is change.

"I hope he'll win. I think he will. If he doesn't, you can kiss the Democratic Party goodbye. I think we need new voices, new blood. We need to get a whole group out, get a new group in."

The 71-year-old Redford is best known for his roles in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Stingand All the President's Men. He won his first Oscar as a director for the emotional family drama Ordinary Peoplein 1980.

After receiving a standing ovation from a crammed auditorium when he arrived just before 6.30pm, Redford spoke of his close relationship with the late Sydney Pollack, and of the protracted process of bringing to screen Jeremiah Johnson- an innovatively-made film that still brings him pride but was initially unloved by the distributor - culminating in its proper release four years after it was shot.

Redford told Dwyer he rarely watched his own films. "I'm not comfortable with it," he said, adding that the first time he watched his own performance in The Stingwas when he sat down to show it to his grandson.

"When he told me he hadn't seen The Sting, I said: what's wrong with your mother? And then it came out that I hadn't seen it either. So we watched it. I thought it was great."

Since the 1970s Redford has campaigned on green issues and has been a critic of the environmental policies of US president George Bush in recent years. He recalled laconically how, when he spoke out against energy companies' interests in the 1970s, their representatives would deride him as "only an actor".

"That had a lot of weight . . . until Reagan was elected. Now things have changed so much. You're not alone out there."

Asked what he would say to the G8 leaders if he was at their summit in Hokkaido this week, Redford said he would challenge the argument that drilling in places such as Alaska was more essential than ever now that oil prices were so high.

"I would make a great case for why that's absurd and why there's a better picture to be drawn from new technologies. I would hit that point very hard."

And does he harbour political ambitions of his own? "No. Never did, never would. That would be a great mistake."