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Sundance kicks off. Will 74-year-old Robert Redford follow Regis and Larry King?

January 20, 2011 |  3:59 pm

Getprev Sundance organizers had plenty to gloat about on Thursday, when festival founder Robert Redford appeared at a news conference in Park City, Utah, to kick off the annual independent film gathering.

Festival director John Cooper seemed especially proud of the success of two films that came out of Sundance last year, "Winter's Bone" and "The Kids Are All Right," which was just named the best comedy or musical of the year at the Golden Globes.

But he also acknowledged some anxiety related to the 10-day event this year: the loss of a 600-seat venue, the continued onslaught of swag and protests over films with gay themes.

“I think we’re going to feel that with the seats we lost here in Park City … it may be a little crowded on the streets,” he said, referring to the loss of the Racquet Club screening venue. “I fear that this kind of constant ongoing situation of ambush marketers are back — I like to call them riffraff. ...  I honestly wish they could find some way to contribute to independent film or art in general.”

He also brushed off concerns that those who are planning to protest Kevin Smith's "Red State," which he described as being about "young homosexual men who get murdered in a church setting," will cause any major disruption.

Redford, too, tried to keep the tone light. When asked by an audience member who said she had interviewed a number of actors who said they would not return to Sundance because they felt it had become too commercial, the filmmaker bristled.

“I wouldn’t agree that it’s become more commercial. Maybe they were looking at it from a different point of view — the outliers that have gathered around the festival,” he said.

Another in the crowd asked Redford, who is 74, if he had plans to retire any time soon, mentioning  recent decisions by septuagenarians Regis Philbin and Larry King to hang up their hats.

He smiled, nodding his head: "I am gonna die!"

— Amy Kaufman

Photo: Robert Redford speaks on the opening day of the 2011 Sundance Film Festival. Credit: George Fray/EPA.