Robert Redford Biography
Born Charles Robert Redford Jr. on August 18, 1937, in Santa Monica, CA, he attended the University of Colorado on a baseball scholarship. After spending a year as an oil worker, he traveled to Europe, living the painter’s life in Paris.
Upon returning to the U.S., Redford settled in New York City to pursue an acting career and in 1959 made his Broadway debut with a small role in Tall Story. Bigger and better parts in productions including The Highest Tree, Little Moon of Alban, and Sunday in New York followed, along with a number of television appearances, and in 1962 he made his film debut in Terry and Dennis Sanders’ antiwar drama War Hunt.
However, it was a leading role in the 1963 Broadway production of Barefoot in the Park which launched Redford to prominence and opened the door to Hollywood, where in 1965 he starred in back-to-back productions of Situation Serious but Not Hopeless and Inside Daisy Clover. A year later he returned in The Chase and This Property Is Condemned, but like his previous films they were both box-office failures. Offered a role in Mike Nichols’ Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Redford rejected it and then spent a number of months relaxing in Spain.
His return to Hollywood was met with an offer to co-star with Jane Fonda in a film adaptation of Barefoot in the Park, released in 1967 to good reviews and even better audience response. However, Redford then passed on both The Graduate and Rosemary’s Baby to star in a Western titled Blue. Just one week prior to shooting, he backed out of the project, resulting in a series of lawsuits and a long period of inactivity; with just one hit to his credit and a history of questionable career choices, he was considered a risky proposition by many producers.
Then, in 1969, he and Paul Newman co-starred as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, a massively successful revisionist Western which poised Redford on the brink of superstardom. However, its follow-ups — 1969′s Tell Them Willie Boy Is Here and The Downhill Racer — both failed to connect, and after the subsequent failures of 1971′s Fauss and Big Halsey and 1972′s The Hot Rock, many industry observers were ready to write him off. Both 1972′s The Candidate and Jeremiah Johnson fared markedly better, though, and with Sydney Pollack’s 1973 romantic melodrama The Way We Were, co-starring Barbra Streisand, Redford’s golden-boy lustre was restored. That same year he reunited with Newman and their Butch Cassidy director George Roy Hill for The Sting, a Depression-era caper film which garnered seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture honors. Combined with its impressive financial showing, it solidified Redford’s new megastar stature, and he was voted Hollywood’s top box-office draw.
Redford’s next project cast him in the title role of director Jack Clayton’s 1974 adaptation of The Great Gatsby; he also stayed in the film’s 1920s milieu for his subsequent effort, 1975′s The Great Waldo Pepper. Later that same year he starred in the thriller Three Days of the Condor before portraying Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward in 1976′s All the President’s Men, Alan J. Pakula’s masterful dramatization of the investigation into the Watergate burglary.
In addition to delivering one of his strongest performances to date in the film, Redford also served as producer after first buying the rights to Woodward and Carl Bernstein’s book of the same name. The 1977 A Bridge Too Far followed before Redford took a two-year hiatus from the screen. He didn’t resurface until 1979′s The Electric Horseman, followed a year later by Brubaker. Also in 1980 he made his directorial debut with the family drama Ordinary People, which won four Oscars including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Supporting Actor (for Timothy Hutton).
By now, Redford’s interest in acting was clearly waning; he walked out of The Verdict (a role then filled by Newman) and did not appear before the camera again for four years. When he finally returned in 1984′s The Natural, however, it was to the usual rapturous public reception, and with 1985′s Out of Africa he and co-star Meryl Streep were the focal points in a film which netted eight Oscars, including Best Picture. The 1986 film Legal Eagles, on the other hand, was both a commercial and critical stiff, and in its wake Redford returned to the director’s chair with 1988′s The Milagro Beanfield War.
Apart from narrating the 1989 documentary To Protect Mother Earth — one of many environmental activities to which his name has been attached — Redford was again absent from the screen for several years before returning in 1990′s Havana. The star-studded Sneakers followed in 1992, but his most significant effort that year was his third directorial effort, the acclaimed A River Runs Through It.
In 1993 Redford scored his biggest box-office hit in some time with the much-discussed Indecent Proposal. He followed in 1994 with Quiz Show, a pointed examination of the TV game-show scandals of the 1950s which many critics considered his most accomplished directorial turn to date. After the 1996 romantic drama Up Close and Personal, he began work on his adaptation of Nicholas Evans’ hit novel The Horse Whisperer. The film, co-starring Kristin Scott Thomas and Sam Neill, was a labor of love that unfortunately failed to win over most critics, who complained that the film was overly long and indulgent. However, more than one of these critics did acknowledge that despite the film’s flaws, the sight of the rugged Redford squinting winsomely from beneath a cowboy hat still produced a decidedly unequivocal allure.
The filmmaker was back behind the camera in 2000 as the director and producer of The Legend of Bagger Vance, a period drama about the fortunes of a faded golf pro (Matt Damon), his mysterious caddy (Will Smith), and the woman he loves (Charlize Theron). The film’s sentimental mixture of fantasy and inspiration scored with audiences, and Redford next turned back to acting with roles in The Last Castle and Spy Game the following year. Though Castle garnered only a lukewarm response from audiences and critics alike, fans were nevertheless primed to see the seasoned actor share the screen with his A River Runs Through It star Brad Pitt in the eagerly anticipated Spy Game.
In addition to his acting and directing work, Redford has also flexed his movie industry muscle as the founder of the Sundance Institute, an organization primarily devoted to promoting American independent filmmaking. By the early ’90s, the annual Sundance Film Festival, held in the tiny community of Park City, Utah, had emerged as one of the key international festivals, with a reputation as a major launching pad for young talent. An outgrowth of its success was cable’s Sundance Channel, a network similarly devoted to promoting and airing indie fare; a circuit of art house theaters bearing the Sundance name was also planned.
Redford stepped back into producing with The Motorcycle Diaries (2004), a coming-of-age road film about a young medical student, Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevera, and his friend Alberto Granado. It also explored political and social issues of South America that influenced Guevara and shaped his future. Five years in the making, Redford was credited by director Walter Salles for being instrumental in getting the film made and released.
Back in front of the camera, Redford received good notices for his turn in director Lasse Hallstrom’s An Unfinished Life (2005) as a cantankerous rancher who is forced to take in his estranged daughter-in-law (Jennifer Lopez)—whom he blames for his son’s death—and the granddaughter he never knew he had when they flee an abusive relationship. The film, which sat on the shelf for many months while its distributor Miramax was restructured, was generally dismissed as clichéd and overly sentimental. Meanwhile, Redford returned to familiar territory when he signed on to direct and star in an update of The Candidate.
Redford had long harbored ambitions to work on both sides of the lens. As early as 1969, Redford had served as the executive producer for Downhill Racer. His first outing as director was in 1980′s Ordinary People, a drama about the slow disintegration of an upper-middle class family, for which he won the Academy Award for Best Director. Redford was credited with obtaining a powerful dramatic performance from Mary Tyler Moore, as well as superb work from Donald Sutherland and Timothy Hutton, who also won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.
Redford did not direct again until The Milagro Beanfield War (1988), a well-crafted, though not commercially successful, screen version of John Nichols’ acclaimed novel of the Southwest. The Milagro Beanfield War is the story of the people of Milagro, New Mexico (based on the real town of Truchas, in northern New Mexico) overcoming big developers who set about to ruin their community and force them out because of tax increases. Other directorial projects have included the period family drama A River Runs Through It (1992), based on Norman Maclean’s novella, and the exposé Quiz Show (1994), about the quiz show scandal of the late 1950s.
Redford worked from a screenplay by Paul Attanasio with noted cinematographer Michael Ballhaus and a strong cast that featured John Turturro, Rob Morrow, and Ralph Fiennes. Redford handpicked Morrow for his part in the film (Morrow’s only high-profile feature film role to date), because he liked his work on Northern Exposure. Redford also directed Matt Damon and Will Smith in The Legend of Bagger Vance (2000).
Beside his directing and producing duties, Redford continued acting. He played opposite Meryl Streep in Sydney Pollack’s Oscar-winning Out of Africa, Michelle Pfeiffer in the newsroom romance Up Close & Personal, and Kristin Scott Thomas in The Horse Whisperer, which he also directed. Redford also continued work in films with political context, such as Havana (1990), Sneakers (1992), Spy Game (2001), and Lions for Lambs (2007).Related Information: