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WEEK: May 6-12, 2013

TIFF: Robert Redford’s THE COMPANY YOU KEEP is Tonight’s Gala Presentation at Toronto International Film Festival

Robert Redford’s political thriller The Company You Keep gets a Toronto International Film Festival gala presentation tonight at Roy Thomson Hall. Filmed last fall in the Vancouver area, The Company You Keep stars Redford as widowed civil rights lawyer Jim Grant, who’s really a former Weather Underground militant and fugitive wanted for over thirty years for a bank robbery and murder of a guard. Shia LaBeouf is the young reporter Ben Shepard who exposes Grant’s secret, forcing him to go on the run to find the one person who can clear his name before he’s caught by the FBI in a nation-wide manhunt.

The official TIFF trailer opens with these typed words: “In 1969 a group of radical anti-war protestors began a campaign of bombings on American soil. They were called the “Weather Underground”. Some were sent to prison. A few … vanished…until today.” Then we see fugitive Sharon Solarz (Susan Sarandon) arrested at a gas station. Ben Shepard (LaBeouf), a reporter for a struggling local newspaper, watches this on TV — Breaking News: Sharon Solarz Arrested. Jim Grant reads about the arrest in the newspaper — Weather Underground Most Wanted Caught — at home with his young daughter (Jackie Evancho, an 11-year-old finalist on America’s Got Talent): “What’s wrong? You look weird.” Grant: “I’m fine, honey. ” With help from an old college friend now FBI agent (Anna Kendrick), Shepard begins to focus on Grant, catching up with him at a shoot filmed in Gastown. Shepard: “Mr. Grant, I’m just trying to put the pieces together.” Grant: “I don’t have time for this…”

But Grant decides to run. He tells his daughter: “We’re not going to school. We’re gonna go on a little trip.” Wearing a baseball cap, Grant (Redford) and his daughter (Evancho) check into the remodeled Hotel Georgia complex downtown made to look like a Manhattan hotel with prop NY cabs coming and going.

The trailer continues with more typed words: “One reporter. Has discovered a secret. That can connect them all. And reveal the truth.” Shepard: “I don’t think he’s running away. I think he’s trying to clear his name.”

The biggest and most public scenes in Vancouver took place at the west entrance to the Vancouver Art Gallery (the former Vancouver Court House) with Grant (Redford) scrummed by media as he gets into a car driven by Chris Cooper. Reporter Shepard (LaBeouf) is there but at a remove from the scrum.

BIG READ: Robert Redford Films THE COMPANY YOU KEEP in Vancouver

Published November 18, 2011 on Vancouver is Awesome

Earlier this week I wrote about the hundreds of University of British Columbia students who turned out to see 26-year-old Transformers star Shia LaBeouf film The Company You Keep on campus last month. Well when the production moved downtown it wasn’t LaBeouf who commanded a fan following but 75-year-old Robert Redford. Dressed-for-sucess women from thirty-something to sixty-something giggled like schoolgirls watching Redford do scenes at the Vancouver Art Gallery. I had to shush two particularly excited older ladies on Hornby whose chattering would be picked up by the boom mikes across the street and loved doing it. Downtown men who stopped to watch the Hollywood legend on Tuesday didn’t seem quite as giddy but I did overhear some calling friends to say they’d just seen The Sundance Kid in action.

It wasn’t just passersby doing some stargazing but big news media too, situated as they were just round the corner at the Occupy Vancouver encampment where fire officials and city workers conducted yet another safety inspection. Photos of Robert Redford filming at the Vancouver Art Gallery appeared in The Globe and Mail, The Vancouver Sun, CBC Arts and many other outlets, making mention of his proximity to the month-old tent city, where one protester had to be dragged out of traffic by police that morning after sitting in a West Georgia street lane and refusing to move (I photographed this too).

Some expected Robert Redford to make some kind of statement about Occupy Vancouver but although Redford is a well-known political activist his causes tend to be more environmental in nature, after four decades of environmental advocacy. And besides, the man is here to work: both directing and starring in a political thriller about a former Weather Underground militant played by Redford wanted by the FBI for 30 years, who must go on the run when Shia LaBeouf’s ambitious reporter exposes his true identity.

Redford’s scenes at the Vancouver Art Gallery looked like a media scrum for the exposed former Weather Underground radical, with Chris Cooper driving the car Redford gets into and Shia LaBeouf there as a reporter but standing at a remove from the actual scrum.

The Company You Keep first occupied the west side of the Vancouver Art Gallery while Occupy Vancouver occupied the front two weeks ago. Several people — @UBCRobsonSquare, @Imohux, @darrylamiller, @davidgcami, @uuruson and @BenMcKinnon96 — tweeted photos of Robert Redford, a prop Detroit TV news satellite truck and Chris Cooper in exterior day scenes as well as a night scene at the back of the Gallery on Robson Street.

That weekend The Company You Keep set up at Vancouver City Hall for a five-day shoot, starting Sunday, November 6th. Read More »BIG READ: Robert Redford Films THE COMPANY YOU KEEP in Vancouver