Robert Redford: Activist who wants to apologize for beauty

ANDIt was a Saturday in August 1991 and I was in Livingston, Montana filming The river flows between. Jumping Rainbow Ranch, in Paradise Valley, is immersed in one of those classic landscapes that you see in American westerns and which remain in your memory forever: green mountains, untouched nature, the Yellowstone River, noisily flowing between rocks and valleys. Space, sky. Robert Redford, 55, thin thirty-year-old build, tanned skin, blond crest., in jeans and leather boots, stood behind the camera, focused, calm. Completely comfortable.

Venice 74. Robert Redford and Jane Fonda on the red carpet, video of two legends

Venice 74. Robert Redford and Jane Fonda on the red carpet, video of two legends

I spent a day there; there was also Brad Pitt, very young, who in the movie was Norman, the rebel. The river flows between Taken from a short story by Norman McLean, Pulitzer Prize-winning American writer: the story of two brothers trained by a strict and religious father in the art of fly fishing. The action takes place in Montana in the first half of the 1900s. It took Redford years to bring it to the screen, but he never gave up on plans and dreams.

This story, so essentially Western, fascinated me, this is an American story: a family, their relationship,” he told me during a break between filming, “and then … it tells about life in the open air, about spirituality. I wonder how McLean combines seemingly incompatible elements: religion and fly fishing – a bizarre combination. I was captivated by the opening phrase: “In our family there was no clear line between fishing and religion.”

He identified with turn-of-the-century immigrants: “This is part of my heritage and the history of this country, the meaning of which we are losing,” he said. “We are full of slogans and enjoy waving the flag, bringing up the traditions of America, when in fact we know very little about them … Everything is now so mixed, homogenized. This film allows me to dust off some of our past that we have forgotten, to show who we are and how the people who created the United States lived and felt.”

Barbra Streisand and Robert in The Way We Were, 1973 (contrast)

Robert Redford: illness at 11 and connection with nature

The flow of words, extraordinary verbal enthusiasm. He talked a lot, talked for a long time: his,” he added, “was a desperate call to America and to the whole world to save our earth from imminent ecological collapse. This strong connection with nature, mountains, trees was in his blood..

In September 2018 when I met him for old man and gunhis farewell to cinema (except cameo in Avengers: Endgame) – returned to childhood, explaining how passion was born: “I think it started when I was 11 years old and I got a mild form of polio.; It took me weeks to recover and my mom took me to Yosemite National Park as a gift. This was my first trip outside of Los Angeles, and when I arrived at Inspiration Point, very excited, I said to myself: “I don’t just want to see this landscape, I want to live here”. Years and years later, I took action: I bought acres of land there so that one day I could take shelter, leaving the natural environment untouched. I decided to dedicate myself to the preservation of the environment before it is destroyed: otherwise, why on earth to give birth to children?

Robert Redford with an Oscar for Ordinary People. (Getty images)

In short, Redford’s salon talk is of little interest.. These are big existential, social and political issues that urge him to act, to fight, to expose himself. He is a true liberal, a progressive person who embraced all the democratic ideas of the last century. He uses cinema to assert his political point of view and, he clarifies, believes not in its didactic function, but in the revival caused by art. This has always been his philosophy. Constant today, as he was 40 years ago, he never once succumbed to the easy temptations of Hollywood, risked many, won many battles and lost with dignity.A: Not all of his films were well received.

Milagrofor example, which he passionately produced and directed, was underestimated by audiences and critics alike.. “Intellectually honest” is Redford’s most common definition.

Robert Redford in “Frightened” (1970)

Not protected from the onslaught of fans

Little is known about her personal life and only from gossip experts. He never talked about two marriages – the first with Lola Van Wagenen, the second with the German artist Sibylla Szaggars, concluded in 2009. Once I was at his hotel in Utah: he and Sibylla ate together, at a table in the corner, between visitors and skiers. Restrained, but not hiding: he did not need to defend himself from the onslaught of fans, no one approached him, no one bothered him for an autograph.

Redford has always disliked talking about himself., and also has a certain reluctance to discuss his films: he prefers that they speak for themselves. If we add to this his natural resistance to the press, the marketing machine and Hollywood in general, then we get a more accurate picture of the character. Born in Santa Monica and raised in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles, he left California when he was very young and returned only for work and as little as possible. He lives between Park City, Utah (in the beautiful Deer Valley); Santa Fe in New Mexico, in an adobe house (bricks of clay and straw) from which you can admire the mountains of Sangre de Cristo and New York.

Robert Redford and Jane Fonda in Barefoot in the Park. (Getty images)

“I come from a poor family of Scottish origin. he said on set The river flows between – with a similar immigration history, harsh lands and rigid discipline, with a strict code of honor and love for nature. As a child, I didn’t really like this cultural baggage: like Norman, I was rebellious and different. Today, looking back, I feel respect and gratitude for the discipline I was taught.”

Four children by his Mormon wife

School was close to him, and when his mother Marta died at the age of 40, he left home. He traveled in Europe, France, Italy, Austria; he left feeling stupid and ignorant, he returned to the States with renewed vigor, more mature and conscious. In Brooklyn, at the age of 22, he studied art: it was there that he met Lola, a 17-year-old Mormon. They got married and had four children.. He started working in television, it was never difficult for him to find a role. Then came barefoot in the park, with Jane Fonda; two years later Butch Cassidy, with Paul Newman, made him a star. It was 1969. Success came one after another: how we were with Barbra Streisand All the President’s people are from Africa with Meryl Streep … Now he was number one at the American box office.

Jane Fonda said (they made three films together) that – when she first met him at Paramount Studios for Hunting The secretaries looked at him with their mouths open. “Oh my God, it will be a star! And every time I worked with him, I fell in love again: he was handsome and kind, but it was his aura of mystery that made him so charming..

Robert Redford and Paul Newman in Butch Cassidy. (Getty images)

He always wanted to make a difference

However, Redford strove for more, success at the box office was not enough for him: he wanted to change something. It was in the early seventies when he was filming Red crow, you won’t have my scalp with Sydney Pollackwho decided to move to the wild mountains of Utah.

Protecting the environment has become one of his great battles: he founded the Resource Management Institute, which dealt with environmental disputes, and the Sundance Film Institute, a laboratory to support independent cinema. When Redford speaks, he listens in respectful silence. Because it’s straight forward, no nonsense, no friendliness, moments of trust or emotion. He doesn’t need to give interviews or entertain the press: he does it only – and rarely – to promote the film.. Inaccessibility is part of its charm: he’s a real star, old-fashioned.

However, he will be remembered for more than just his performances, movies, and “existential cowboy” sex appeal – as New Yorker – but above all for his contributions to American and international cinema through the Sundance Institute.

Robert Redford with his second wife, artist Sibylla Szaggars, 2012. (Getty Images)

The festival that changed cinema

Then the Sundance Film Festival, launched in 1978, radically changed film culture.opening the door to unknown young filmmakers – Shall we mention Quentin Tarantino and Paul Thomas Anderson? – funding their projects, allowing everyone to use the word “art” without shame. “Art is my first reason to live. Here I find happiness. And Sundance is, first of all, art,” he said during the festival. I have always attended this festival in Park City, every year: There was the excitement of discovering a new film, a new talent, a new screenwriter and director.

There were very long queues to watch films never heard of, under the snow to enter the cinema (there was only one in the beginning, the Egyptian one). No special treatment for us journalists: you bought a ticket, stood in line and watched a movie, often in the front row, with your neck stretched out and twisted. But with contagious joy and enthusiasm. In the last interview, Redford often laughed and had fun with us journalists whom he had known for many years. “Bob, is it true that as a child no one ever told her that he was handsome and charming?”.

“Never! I had red hair with buns everywhere, freckles everywhere, too big teeth. No one, under any circumstances, exclaimed: what a beautiful boy! It happened to me much, much later, and I wasn’t ready. It was a pleasant surprise, believe me.”


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