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Robert Redford - Biography

The Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid actor was born in 1936

Robert Redford holding a mic and speaking to a crowd while smiling at Sundance Film Festival in 2020
Hannah Watkin
Content Writer
Updated: 21 June 2023
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Robert Redford, full name Charles Robert Redford Jr., was born August 18, 1937, in Santa Monica, California, to Charles and Martha Redford. The future Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid star's family was far from wealthy, and Charles Sr looked to his son to turn the tide - a pressure the young man didn't welcome but would eventually rise to.

Career beginnings

Just before the Natural star traveled off to the University of Colorado, his family was struck by tragedy when his mother Martha died. Then an aspiring athlete, Robert lost his baseball scholarship to the college reportedly due to his penchant for heavy drinking. Having been kicked out of the institution, Robert still made it back into education by enrolling at New York's Pratt Institute of Art following a brief period of traveling Europe to test his skills as an artist. 

The Oscar winning director eventually studied acting at the Academy Of Dramatic Arts, and had his career break while performing in the original Broadway run of Neil Simon's Barefoot In The Park. He reprised the stage role in the famed 1967 film version opposite Jane Fonda, and along with the later success of the 1969 blockbuster Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid, Robert had successfully established himself as a major Hollywood star.

Hollywood success

As an actor, Robert starred in some of the biggest movies of the 70s including: The Way We Were, All The President's Men and The Sting. In 1981 he picked up an Oscar for his directorial debut Ordinary People. More celebrated film roles and directorial stints would follow, yet Robert would strive to maintain a comfortable distance from his stardom throughout his career.

Family life

Robert wed Lola Van Wagenen on September 12, 1958. The couple had four children together, one of whom died tragically from SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). Robert and Lola chose to raise their kids in New York, however the actor continued to work in Hollywood and push his own social and political agenda while there. The couple divorced in 1985.

Other projects

In 1980, Robert established the Sundance Institute, a non-profit organization which runs year-round workshops to nurture young artistic talent. The Institute is best known for its Sundance Film Festival, which promotes independent made work. Alongside his work in the arts, Robert has also campaigned for the environment, Native American rights, and LGBT+ rights.

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