Sydney Morning News
January 27, 2004
Redford's red alert
Cuban President Fidel Castro paid a call on actor Robert Redford at his Havana hotel today to discuss his latest film, on revolutionary icon Che Guevara.
Redford was in Cuba over the weekend wearing his producer's hat for a private screening of The Motorcycle Diaries for the widow and children of the legendary Argentine guerrilla fighter, who was Castro's comrade-in-arms.
"He came to me. ... he seemed in good health, good humour, good spirit," Redford said of the 77-year-old Cuban leader after their brief encounter at the Hotel Nacional.
Redford last saw Castro in 1988. The actor was said to have gone scuba-diving with the Cuban leader and was questioned by US officials on his return to the United States.
In the 1990 film Havana, Redford played a high-rolling American gambler during the final days of the Batista dictatorship, when Cuba was a mobster playground.
Castro has fascinated Hollywood stars. Jack Nicholson called him "a genius" and Oliver Stone said he was "one of the Earth's wisest people".
"I came to present the film that I produced on Che Guevara and I am very happy to be in Cuba," Redford said at Sunday's screening of the film made by his company, Southfork Pictures.
The film, directed by Brazilian Walter Salles, is based on the diaries Guevara wrote on a nine-month trip through South America on an ancient Norton motorcycle in 1952 when he was an asthmatic 23-year-old medical student.
Guevara's motorbike journey opened his eyes to poverty in Latin America and he later joined Castro in Mexico, where the Cuban leader was organising a landing party to launch a guerrilla movement in Cuba that triumphed in 1959.
Guevara was executed by army troops after his capture in 1967 in the Bolivian jungle, where he had tried to trigger another revolution.
"The film is excellent," Guevara's widow, Aleida, who provided the diaries to the film-makers, said after the screening, also attended by Guevara's son and two daughters.
The Motorcycle Diaries was filmed at locations in Argentina, Chile and Peru, with Mexican actor Gael Garcia Bernal playing Che. The film received a standing ovation at its world premier at the Sundance Film Festival a week ago.