By: Ron Raposa
Source: Tourism Board
ROSARITO BEACH, BAJA CALIFORNIA, MEXICO-During June and July, the two-bedroom penthouse on the 17th floor of the Rosarito Beach Hotel's Pacifico Tower was occupied by a dignified, unassuming man named Mr. Miller, who bore a striking resemblance to legendary Hollywood actor Robert Redford.
At the hotel, Mr. Redford took the name of Mr. Miller to protect him from undue attention while he completed his starring role in director J.C. Chandor's "All Is Lost," being filmed a mile away at seaside Baja Studios, the locale for Titanic and other blockbuster movies.
A total of 140 suites and rooms at the hotel were occupied by members of the production, including Chandor. But it was Redford, still with handsome features and the famous mop of hair at age 75, who was the recognizable star, the lead in a film about a lone man's struggles against the sea.
It was important that neither his privacy nor his work be disrupted at the hotel, which he had chosen over a nearby mansion as residence during filming, to be closer to colleagues, said hotel owner Hugo Torres.
And it wasn't, thanks to the star's often-donned baseball cap, liberal use of room service and a very discreet hotel staff and management. Only one other diner made a positive ID of Mr. Redford during the several times he ate in the hotel's Azteca restaurant, said waiter Jorge Morales.
"I told the other customer that (Mr. Redford) was making a movie and was very tired," Morales said. "Please don't disturb him."
While Mr. Redford passed largely unnoticed among guests at the hotel, staff knew who he was and were impressed, as much by his disposition as his star power, said Morales, who was Redford's personal waiter, several times serving him Puerto Nuevo-style lobster after a glass of Don Julio tequila.
Mr. Redford was the perfect guest.
"The guy being so famous, how could he be so humble?" asked Mr. Morales of the star of "The Way We Were," "All The Presidents Men," "Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid," "Jeremiah Johnson" and many others as actor and director.
Mr. Redford posed for a photo with Morales, as he did with other hotel staff. "I was dying to put it on Facebook but hotel management told me not to until he had left," Morales said. (When he left, Mr. Redford gave permission to Baja officials to use details of his stay there.)
The impression that Mr. Redford made on other Rosarito Beach Hotel staff was similar. That included Casa Playa Spa manager Erica Perdomo and masseuse Martha Azua. Mr. Redford, as did his wife, received treatments at the spa and later recognized and greeted facility staff on the beach.
Mr. Morales, 51, who once served actor Al Pacino at a Tijuana country club and encountered Robert DeNiro in a Los Angeles restaurant, said his interactions with Mr. Redford were the most memorable of his celebrity meetings. He's a big fan of the "Horse Whisperer" and "Three Days of the Condor."
Although stars including Marilyn Monroe, Frank Sinatra, Rita Hayworth, John Wayne plus scores more have visited the hotel, the stay of Mr. Redford was especially memorable, said hotel marketing director Daniel Torres.
It was the longest stay by a major star and also a hopeful sign of an ongoing resurgence of Baja's film industry, Daniel Torres said.
Mr. Redford gave a press conference with Baja media prior to his departure, also attended by director Chandor, Baja Gov. Jose Osuna and state Secretary if Tourism Juan Tintos. While proclaiming himself a very private person, he talked of his enthusiasm for "All Is Lost" and his enjoyment of the area.
He recalled growing up in a largely Mexican neighborhood of Los Angeles and going to a Tijuana bull fight in his mid-teens. He said he had always loved enchiladas and joked that "my favorite food is tequila."
Mr. Redford lamented that some focus on widely reported violence among rival drug cartels in Mexico in the past few years had kept some people from the region.
"It's unfortunate, since there are so many areas of Mexico that are safe to visit," he said. "More people should know."