Robert Redford life and biography

Robert Redford  picture, image, poster

Robert Redford biography

Date of birth : 1936-08-18
Date of death : -
Birthplace : Santa Monica, California, U.S.
Nationality : American
Category : Arts and Entertainment
Last modified : 2011-10-18
Credited as : Actor, , The Conspirator

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Actor, director, producer, conservationist, political activist and patron of independent cinema, Robert Redford has lived a formidably energetic life while continuing to look like the diffident, tousle-haired all-American boy next door. His latest film as director, The Conspirator, a study of the fallout from the assassination of President Lincoln, is as ambitious and serious as anything he's done.

From his mother Redford inherited an interest in spiritual matters (she was a Christian Scientist and supporter of Moral Rearmament) and grew up sharing her passion for the cinema. Despite his family's straitened circumstances, Redford came to move with a sometimes wild Hollywood crowd. The film star Robert Young was a cousin of his mother; another actor, Zachary Scott, had been her teenage sweetheart in Texas; Redford counted the children of producer Dore Schary and director Robert Rossen among his close friends.

He was an indifferent scholar but good at games, a nonconformist, and strikingly handsome. A high-school girlfriend recalled him as "a beautiful specimen, like some Scandinavian god with a fine blond down across his body". Callan paints a picture of an honest, contradictory character in unceasing pursuit of some sort of resolution. A restless traveller directed by the trembling needle of an uncertain compass, he was both arrogant and modest. Torn between painting and acting, he studied both in New York before opting for the latter, making a major impression with an original interpretation of Konstantin in a drama school production of The Seagull. He was a loner yet married young to a Mormon and rapidly had a family. While his professional fortunes lay in the city, he was early on attracted to the wilderness. He spent his first disposable money from films and theatre acquiring a tract of land in mountainous Utah, a property he constantly expanded, eventually naming it Sundance after the screen character that brought him enduring fame.

Success came relatively soon to Redford and, in Callan's view, he perversely fought against it as unworthy of his destiny and deflecting him from his mystical dream of freedom, honesty and social fulfilment. During the Broadway run of Neil Simon's Barefoot in the Park in 1963 (Redford's first major success and last stage appearance), Ingrid Bergman visited him backstage. Her exit line was a sonorous piece of advice: "Do only good work." This seems to have guided him over the next half-century as he entered into a creative alliance with the equally serious Sydney Pollack (who directed him in seven films), formed a lifelong friendship with Paul Newman, and became a major star. Along the way his evolving interest in social, political and ethical issues was brought to bear on the movies he produced and directed, with The Candidate, All the President's Men, A River Runs Through It and Quiz Show arguably his major achievements.

Of course, there were significant compromises. To support the Sundance Institute and the Sundance film festival, the organisations he created on his land in Utah to promote small-scale independent film production, he had to strike Faustian Hollywood bargains that would provide him with a regular annual income in the millions. With the ruthless agent Mike Ovitz shaping packages to exploit his talent, he found himself starring in slick, hollow vehicles aimed at an impatient youth audience, films such as Tony Scott's Spy Game, where the average shot lasted 2.6 seconds. To guarantee the profitability of those films, he had to preserve his popular romantic persona, the sort he projects in The Horse Whisperer, the most calculated of his films as actor-director. "I was thinking of this theory I developed," he told the audience of the TV talk show Inside the Actors Studio. "It's called taking responsibility for a talent. I came to accept that a large audience wanted to see me as this representational romantic character of some moral standing. I concluded there was a rightness in that."

Redford poured himself into his acting, and started out his career in the theater. He first appeared on Broadway in the 1959 comedy Tall Story. He had only a small role in the production, but he landed a more substantial part in the 1960 drama Little Moon of Alban with Julie Harris. Perhaps his biggest breakthrough came in 1963 with a leading role in Neil Simon's Barefoot in the Park directed by Mike Nichols. Redford played Paul, a newlywed lawyer, in the romantic comedy.

While he made his film debut in 1962's War Hunt, Redford's film career didn't really take off until 1967. He reprised his stage role as Paul in the film adaptation of Barefoot in the Park starring opposite Jane Fonda. Redford gave another star-making turn in the 1969 western Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. In the film, he played an outlaw known as the Sundance Kid and his co-star Paul Newman played Butch Cassidy. The two proved to be a dynamic duo on screen, and the movie enjoyed both critical and commercial success.

Not one to be typecast as a "pretty boy," Redford sought out more challenging projects and avoided trading on his sex appeal. He tackled the sports drama Downhill Racer and the Western Tell Them Willie Boy Is Here, both released in 1969. Another important film for Redford was the 1972 political drama The Candidate, a dark, satirical look at campaigning.

As his career thrived, Redford sought refuge from the Hollywood scene. He had bought land in Utah in the 1960s with money from an inheritance, and he continued to add to his holdings there over the years. His love of land encouraged him to become active in environmental causes. In the 1970s, Redford even received death threats for his efforts to stop certain developments in Utah.

Redford had a banner year in 1973 with two major hit films—The Sting and The Way We Were. For The Sting, he again joined forces with Paul Newman to play con artists in 1930s Chicago. He received his first Academy Award nomination for the film. In The Way We Were, Redford starred opposite Barbra Streisand. The film charts the ups and downs of one couple's relationship. Returning to political fare, Redford scored another success with 1976's All the President's Men. He and Dustin Hoffman played famed reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein in this drama about the Watergate scandal.

With 1980's Ordinary People, Redford showed that he was more than just a handsome movie star. The film provides a heartbreaking look at a family torn apart by loss and grief. It served as his directorial debut and starred Mary Tyler Moore, Donald Sutherland, and Timothy Hutton. This drama brought Redford his first Academy Award—one for Best Director. Around this time, Redford helped establish the Sundance Institute. The Institute was created to help and support independent filmmakers through workshops and other means. He later launched the Sundance Film Festival, which has showcased independent films for more than 20 years.

As the 1980s progressed, Redford chose only a few acting roles. He starred in the 1984 baseball drama The Natural and the 1985 adventure tale Out of Africa, playing opposite Meryl Streep. Working behind the camera, Redford directed The Milagro Beanfield War (1988) starring Ruben Blades and Sonia Braga. A group of local farmers struggle against a major development project in their area in the film.

Redford earned great accolades for his rural family drama A River Runs Through It (1992), which starred Brad Pitt and Tom Skerritt. Two years later, he explored the real-life corruption of 1950s game shows in Quiz Show, again earning strong praise for his work. Redford became a triple threat in 2000's The Horse Whisperer, serving as director, producer, and star of the project.

In recent years, Redford has been very selective about his film work. He directed and starred in 2007's political drama Lions for Lambs with Tom Cruise and Meryl Streep, which proved to be a commercial and critical disappointment. His next directorial effort, The Conspirator, is expected to be released in 2011. The film looks at the trial of Mary Surratt, the only woman charged in the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln.

Now in his 70s, Redford has received numerous awards and honors for his work. He has earned his place in film history not only for his own artistic endeavors, but for the opportunities he has provided others to advance their work. The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences recognized his contributions to the medium in 2001 with an honorary award for serving as an "inspiration to independent and innovative filmmakers everywhere."

Redford is currently married to Sibylle Szaggars, a German painter. The couple wed in 2009 after being together since the mid-1990s. His first marriage to wife Lola ended in 1985, and they have three children together—daughters Shuana and Amy and son Jamie.

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