Robert Redford: The Biography
Michael Feeney Callan
The long-anticipated biography of Robert Redford.
Among the most widely admired Hollywood stars of his generation, Redford has appeared onstage and on-screen, in front of and behind the camera, earning Academy, Golden Globe, and a multitude of other awards and nominations for acting, directing, and producing, and for his contributions to the arts. His Sundance Film Festival transformed the world of filmmaking; his films defined a generation. America has come to know him as the Sundance Kid, Bob Woodward, Johnny Hooker, Jay Gatsby, and Roy Hobbs. But only now, with this revelatory biography, do we see the surprising and complex man beneath the Hollywood façade.
From Redford’s personal papers—journals, script notes, correspondence—and hundreds of hours of taped interviews, Michael Feeney Callan brings the legendary star into focus. Here is his scattered family background and restless childhood, his rocky start in acting, the death of his son, his star-making relationship with director Sydney Pollack, the creation of Sundance, his political activism, his artistic successes and failures, his friendships and romances. This is a candid, surprising portrait of a man whose iconic roles on-screen (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, All the President’s Men, The Natural) and directorial brilliance (Ordinary People, Quiz Show) have both defined and obscured one of the most celebrated, and, until now, least understood, public figures of our time.
virtually adopted the case as his own. He met Peltier in prison, campaigned for his pardon, even took the matter to the White House, where successive presidents considered, but rejected, a pardon. “You start to look twice at the institutions you take for granted,” says Redford. “It’s a healthy state of mind to reach. It’s not enough to drive a car, you ought to know something of what makes the car go.” The possibility of a gross miscarriage of justice in Peltier’s case started a train of inquiry
“The Hide-and-Seek Life of Robert Redford.” “The danger of success,” Redford told Oppenheimer, “is that it forces you into a mold. I prefer independence.” In fact, what he was seeking was a purpose beyond movies. “I was aware that all this spiritual shit was a nightmare for the family,” Redford now says. “I had anger management issues; there were a lot of unresolved conflicts.” For succor he turned to Utah, to Mormon conviviality and the mountains. In a copartnership with Stan Collins, he put up
pressures for conversion came on, very kindly, very committed, very determined. I was courted, I was given Mormon literature, and though they tried, I was not blessed. The more they pushed me to commit to the Church, the more I pulled away.” After Christmas, Stan Collins and his wife, Mary Alice, invited the Redfords on a driving trip to Lake Powell, one of the country’s biggest man-made reservoirs, in southern Utah. The couples stopped at Gallup, New Mexico, and Redford rambled around on the
business, associates. Basketball star Bill Bradley, himself nourishing political ambitions, was among the most stimulating dinner companions. In such company, says Redford, he felt intellectually stimulated in a profound new way. “The forties were the war years. The fifties were the boom years. The sixties was the revolution. And the seventies offered the payoff. All those long-haired hippies and yippies divided into two groups. There were those who’d doped themselves into oblivion. Then there
strove to keep their relationships with their father, and all suffered the strain of his fame as much as his absence. Jamie remembers the early seventies as “the time of the crazies.” There was the well-circulated magazine report about the woman who claimed she married Redford in secret in Mexico in 1956; the frequent anonymous calls to the Redfords’ unlisted numbers; and the stalkers, hustlers and paparazzi who seemed to tag along everywhere. The family struggled to maintain normalcy and unity.