Charles Robert Redford Jr. (born August 18, 1936), better known as Robert Redford, is an American actor, film director, producer, businessman, environmentalist, philanthropist, and a founder of the Sundance Film Festival. He has received two Academy Awards: one in 1981 for directing Ordinary People, and one for Lifetime Achievement in 2002. In 2010, he was made a chevalier of the Légion d’Honneur.
Redford’s career began in New York. He started his acting career in 1959 as a guest star on numerous TV programs, including The Untouchables, Perry Mason, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and The Twilight Zone, among others. He earned an Emmy nomination as Best Supporting Actor for his performance in The Voice of Charlie Pont (ABC, 1962). Redford’s biggest Broadway success was as the stuffy newlywed husband of Elizabeth Ashley in Neil Simon’s Barefoot in the Park (1963). Redford made his film debut in War Hunt (1962). Inside Daisy Clover (1965) won him a Golden Globe for best new star. He starred in George Roy Hill’s Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969), which was a huge success and made him a major star. In 1972, he had a critical and box office hit with Jeremiah Johnson (1972); and in 1973 the biggest hit of his career, the blockbuster crime caper The Sting, for which he was also nominated for an Oscar. The popular and acclaimed All the President’s Men (1976) was a landmark film for Redford.
The first film he directed, Ordinary People (1980), was one of the most critically and publicly acclaimed films of the decade, winning four Oscars. Redford starred in Sydney Pollack’s Out of Africa (1985), which was an enormous critical and box office success and won seven Oscars including Best Picture, proving to be Redford’s biggest success of the decade. He released his third film as a director, A River Runs Through It, in 1992. In April 2014, Time magazine included Redford in its annual TIME 100 as one of the “Most Influential People in the World” declaring him the “Godfather of Indie Film.”
Redford was born on August 18, 1936, in Santa Monica, California. His mother, Martha W. (Hart; 1914–55), was born in Texas, to Archibald Hart and Sallie Pate Green; and his father, Charles Robert Redford, Sr. (1914–91), was a milkman-turned-accountant from Pawcatuck, New London County, Connecticut, son of Charles Elijah Redford and Lena Taylor. He has a stepbrother, William, from his father’s remarriage. Redford is of English, Irish, Scottish, and Scots-Irish ancestry (his surname originates in England).
Redford’s family moved to Van Nuys, California, while his father worked in El Segundo. He attended Van Nuys High School, where he was classmates with baseball player Don Drysdale. He has described himself as having been a “bad” student, finding inspiration outside the classroom, and being interested in art and sports. He hit tennis balls with Pancho Gonzales at the Los Angeles Tennis Club to warm him up. After high school, he attended the University of Colorado for a year and a half, where he was a member of the Kappa Sigma Fraternity. While there, he worked at the restaurant/bar The Sink; a painting of his likeness is prominent in the bar’s murals. After being asked to leave the University of Colorado, he traveled in Europe, living in France, Spain, and Italy. He later studied painting at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn and took classes at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City.
On September 12, 1958, in Las Vegas, Nevada, Redford married Lola Van Wagenen, who dropped out of college to marry him. They had four children: Scott Anthony, Shauna Jean (born November 15, 1960), David James (“Jamie”) (born May 5, 1962), and Amy Hart Redford (born October 22, 1970). Lola and Redford divorced in 1985.
Scott Redford was born on September 1, 1959, and died of sudden infant death syndrome on November 17, 1959, at age 2½ months. His remains were buried at Provo City Cemetery in Provo, Utah. Shauna Redford is a painter and married to journalist Eric Schlosser. Jamie Redford is a writer and producer, while Amy Redford is an actress, director, and producer. In 1994 Jamie, suffering from liver disease, had a liver transplant. Redford has seven grandchildren.
In July 2009, Redford married his longtime partner, Sibylle Szaggars, at the Louis C. Jacob Hotel in Hamburg, Germany. She had moved in with Redford in the 1990s and shares his home in Sundance, Utah.
In May 2011, Alfred A. Knopf published Robert Redford: The Biography by Michael Feeney Callan, written over fifteen years with Redford’s input and drawn from his personal papers and diaries.