Childhood & Early Life
Robert Redford was born Charles Robert Redford, Jr., to Martha W. and Charles Robert Redford Sr. in Santa Monica, California.
He is of Scottish-Irish ancestry and during his childhood, his family moved to Van Nuys, California, where he studied at Van Nuys High School. He was never brilliant academically and was interested in arts and sports.
After high school, he enrolled in the University of Colorado and was a member of the Kappa Sigma guild.
He traveled around Europe and later studied painting at Pratt Institute and the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in Brooklyn and New York City respectively.
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His acting career took off in the 50s and he starred in a number of shows including ‘Perry Mason’, ‘Alfred Hitchcock Presents’, ‘Route 66’, ‘Playhouse 90’, ‘The Twilight Zone’ and many more.
In 1960, he starred as a mentally unsteady man in ‘Breakdown’, one of the episodes of ‘Rescue 8’, a high-adrenaline series. He made his film debut with ‘War Hunt’ in 1962, but he didn’t gain the recognition he expected.
He went back to acting for television shows and was last seen on television in an ABC medical drama series, ‘Breaking Point’ on the 7th of October, 1963.
He soon decided to broaden his horizons and tried his hand at theatre. He was given small roles in ‘Tall Story’, ‘Sunday in New York’ and ‘Barefoot in the Park’.
His all-American good looks, coupled with extraordinary talent, landed him his first major role in the film adaption of ‘Barefoot in the Park’, along with renowned actress, Jane Fonda.
In 1969, he was cast in the western classic, ‘Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid’, which catapulted him to fame and earned him immense recognition. Not pigeonholed in the ‘pretty-boy’ image, he sought more challenging projects and oozed immense sex appeal on-screen in ‘Downhill Racer’ and ‘Tell Them Willie Boy Is Here’, both of which were released in 1969.
He soon became extremely involved in environmental activism and even received death threats for his ‘environment-friendly’ developments in the United States. Undeterred by such trivialities, he persisted with his efforts. At the same time his career thrived with movies like ‘The Way We Were’ and ‘The Sting’ both which released in 1973.
He experimented with more challenging roles and scored another hit at the box-office with his performance in the political drama, ‘All the President’s Men’, in 1976.
In 1980, he was seen making his directorial debut with ‘Ordinary People’, which also earned him his first Academy Award.
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It was around this time, he established the Sundance Institute and the consequent, Sundance Film Festival, which has been successfully showcasing independent film projects for over two decades.
In the mid-80s, he starred in movies like ‘The Natural’ and ‘Out of Africa’ and also worked behind the camera for ‘The Milagro Beanfield War’, which was released in 1988. In 1992, he directed the critically-acclaimed family drama, ‘A River Runs Through It’, starring Brad Pitt and Craig Sheffer.
In 1994, he directed another project, ‘Quiz Show’, which is centered on a quiz-show scandal that occurred in the 50s. He continued with his directorial ventures and also starred in and directed ‘The Horse Whisperer’, which was released in 1998.
Redford also starred in the 2007 drama, ‘Lions for Lambs’ and also directed the film, ‘The Conspirator' in 2011. The next year, he also appeared in and directed the Shia LaBeouf movie, ‘The Company You Keep’.
His biggest breakthrough came in 1967 with the film, ‘Barefoot in the Park’, which was directed by Mike Nichols and is an adaptation of a 1963 play of the same title. This romantic comedy went on to become one of the biggest hits in the late 60s and earned Redford great praise for his acting.
‘The Sting’ in 1973, became the biggest blockbuster hit of his career, as the film was nominated for a total of ten Oscars, out of which it won seven. The film collected $160 million at the box office and was chosen by the ‘Library Congress’ for preservation in the ‘National Film Registry’. The Writers Guild of America featured the screenplay at the 39th spot in their list of ‘101 Greatest Screenplays’ of all time.
Awards & Achievements
He won an Academy Award for ‘Best Director’ for the film, ‘Ordinary People’, released in 1980.
In 2002, he was presented the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 74th Academy Awards.
He was awarded the prestigious ‘The Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize’, in 2008. On October 14, 2010, he was chosen as the ‘Chevalier’ of the ‘Legion d’honneur’.
Personal Life & Legacy
He married Lola Van Wagenen in 1958 and divorced her in 1985. The couple had four children, one of whom, Amy Redford, is a popular American actress. He is currently married to Sibylle Szaggars.
In May 2011, a biography on Robert’s life, titled ‘Robert Redford: The Biography’, was published which was authored by Michael Feeney Callan.