There’s a neat connection between Brit Marling’s new espionage thriller The East, and Robert Redford’s The Company You Keep. One is about a spy (Marling) who infiltrates a band of radical anarchist eco-terrorist freegans. The other film tracks a group of 1960s student radicals who robbed banks and blew up buildings, and are now, 40-plus years on, facing exposure by an intrepid journalist (Shia LeBeouf) and the feds. In the latter pic, Marling has a small but pivotal part, pursued both professionally and romantically by LeBeouf’s character, and fatefully connected to the one-time student radicals played by Julie Christie and Redford.
Here’s Marling talking about her director, and mentor, Redford. In 2011, Marling’s Another Earth and Sound of My Voice, both had their premieres at Redford’s Sundance Film Festival. Her career was launched, in significant part, thanks to the actor/producer/director/philanthropist.
“I’ve gotten to know him quite well over the course of a few years,” Marling says. “I admire his acting and directing – that’s a given. I also just deeply admire his humanity, and the way he’s decided to be an artist and a human being in the world.
"Sundance [the festival and the Sundance Film Institute] seems so obvious to everyone now, because it’s an institution. But when he was establishing it, it was like the peak of his acting career, everyone was telling him he’d lost his mind, that nobody from anywhere was going to make the trek to Utah in the snow to watch little movies.
“And now, my goodness” -- yes, Marling really says “my goodness” – “if we hadn’t had Sundance, think of all the auteurs and actors and composers and editors who would not be making their living doing those things, and whose work and voices we never would have heard. So, I completely owe my career to that person. And nobody ever wants to talk about that. Everybody always wants to say that artists come fully-formed, they spring out from Zeus’ head…. When I think of all the people I owe my ability to potentially make a living as an actor and a writer, there’s no way I’d be doing this if Robert Redford hadn’t created what he did.”
“And I learned a lot from him about acting, too," Marling adds. "During rehearsals he would come over and we would look at a section of dialogue, and he’d be like, `OK, you can say all of this, this big paragraph, or you can cut this line, cut this line, cut this line, and just say this first line, and put all the feeling of the rest of it beneath that line.’ He’s like, ‘It’s your choice, but think about it. You decide on the day.’
“And of course every actor wants more to say, more to do. But I realized that he was right. Film is so much about less is more, part for the whole, one sentence standing in for ten sentences. And so I cut out all those lines, and I said the one line, and it was the right thing to do. Economy. He taught me economy.”