Robert Redford
  View More Photos
Credit: Photograph by Mark Seliger

"I get a little choked up in that bit of 'A River Runs Through It,' " he says.

"You were great," Redford tells him.

"Yeah, I get a little choked up."

They talk about why they're here: Pitt has flown in for the surprise screening of Oscar favorite '12 Years a Slave,' which he is producing. The film features Pitt as the only decent white man – a very Redford-esque star turn. Redford tells him about 'All Is Lost.'

"See it, Bradley. I want to see what you think."

Pitt says he will, makes his apologies for interrupting, and starts moving away, but Redford doesn't want the moment to end.

"You and your lady are doing good things. I would love to catch up sometime. Where are you, pal?"

"We are trying to spend more time in France, about an hour north of Saint-Tropez – trying to do a little artist commune thing. I'd love to talk with you more about it."

Pitt is staring down 50 this year, close to the age Redford was when he started the Sundance Film Festival. Pitt is at the fork in the road that Redford faced in the 1980s: Carve your own path, or become Harrison Ford and rinse, repeat roles until death does you part. Redford sees himself in Pitt: the half-century battle to be taken seriously as an artist and not just another pretty boy. Redford wants to help his old friend on his journey, but he has an un-Redford-like question.

"Uh, how do I even get a hold of you?"

Pitt smirks. "I'm not that hard to reach."

"You aren't?"

Pitt chuckles. "If they say Redford is looking . . ."

Redford beams. "Oh, if they say Robert Redford's looking!"

They do not exchange phone numbers. "I've been terrible about maintenance," Redford told me earlier. "There are many people I love and care for, and I've been a poor friend because I've been so busy moving forward and creating new things."

The two say goodbye. They swear they'll stay in touch. It probably won't happen – Redford is known for having a thousand famous acquaintances but not many close friends. So it goes. Pitt walks away, an assistant trailing behind him. The World's Most Famous Actor emeritus watches the reigning World's Most Famous Actor until he disappears.