Robert Redford

Why Do People Love Robert Redford?

Robert Redford is an American actor, director, producer, and activist who has captivated audiences for over 60 years with his good looks, talent, activism and unique persona both on and off screen. But what is it exactly that makes this Hollywood icon so beloved by fans and peers alike even today?

Natural Charisma and Charm On Screen

Robert Redford possessed a natural charisma and charm that jumped off the screen, making him immediately magnetic and captivating to watch. Some key factors that contributed to his appeal include:

Classic Handsome Looks

With his chiseled jawline, piercing blue eyes, and thick head of hair, Redford was classically handsome in a way that was both rugged and refined.

Women swooned over his all-American good looks and he had no shortage of leading lady co-stars eager to act alongside him.

Cool, Suave Persona

On screen, Redford often portrayed intelligent, confident men with an element of mystery and hidden depths beneath the surface.

As an actor he had the innate ability to seem cool and suave without trying too hard. This effortless charm made audiences both relate to him but also hold him in high regard.

Subtle, Nuanced Performances

While capable of big, showy performances, Redford thrived in subtler roles that relied more on conveying emotion through small facial expressions and gestures.

In films like The Sting, Out of Africa, and The Way We Were he demonstrated tremendous range while still retaining an air of understated control.

Magnetic Chemistry with Leading Ladies

It certainly didn’t hurt Redford’s appeal that he shared sizzling on-screen chemistry with a bevy of the most talented, beautiful leading ladies of the era like Barbra Streisand, Meryl Streep, and Daisy von Scherler Mayer.

The palpable attraction and tension between Redford and his various love interests was obvious for all to see.

MovieLeading LadyYear
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance KidKatharine Ross1969
The Way We WereBarbra Streisand1973
Out of AfricaMeryl Streep1985
Indecent ProposalDemi Moore1993

Environmental Activism and Philanthropy

Away from the screen, Redford has developed nearly as much renown for his environmental activism, philanthropy and promotion of independent film as he has for his acting career. His political and social engagement has earned widespread admiration.

Early Engagement with Environmentalism

Long before most celebrities were vocal about the environment, Redford was outspoken about environmentalism in the 1970s.

He made preservation of the wilderness a personal crusade early on and lobbied Washington DC even during the height of his fame for policies that protected the planet.

Founding of Sundance Institute

In 1981 Redford established the Sundance Institute in Utah to help develop independent filmmakers and showcase their work.

By creating a space for more arts, activism and independent cinema his impact far exceeded just his own directorial career. Sundance Film Festival has become one of the preeminent festivals in the world.

Funding Activism Through Art

The commercial success of many Sundance films funded Redford’s environmentalist activism in the decades that followed.

He also put profits from certain acting projects like A River Runs Through It back into pro-environment lobbying efforts. This ability to leverage art for advocacy increased his appeal.

Lasting Legacy as a Vocal Advocate

Now well into his 80s, Redford continues using his fame as a platform to fight for the environment and organize with groups like the Natural Resources Defense Council.

That his commitment to the cause spans over 40 years now only adds to his credibility and the respect the public has for him.

Impressive Range On Both Sides of the Camera

While Redford could have coasted on his handsomeness and charm, he chose to push himself creatively throughout his career instead – racking up directing and producing credits alongside his acting resume. His ambitious creative pursuits beyond performing kept him vibrant.

Transition Behind the Camera

By the late 1960s Redford was already leveraging his success as an actor to have more control behind the scenes.

He formed his own production company, Wildwood Productions, to develop passion projects including Downhill Racer in 1969 and the 1973 blockbuster The Sting which earned seven Oscars.

Directorial Debut and Diverse Filmography

Redford made a stunning directorial debut with the emotional family drama Ordinary People in 1980 which earned him the Academy Award for Best Director.

He went on to direct several other well-regarded dramas like Quiz Show and The Horse Whisperer as well as passion projects like 1998’s The Legend of Bagger Vance.

Artistically Ambitious Efforts

Never sticking to one genre or style for long, Redford kept pushing his creative boundaries with ventures like his visually poetic adaptation of A River Runs Through It to the plot twist heavy thriller The Company You Keep in 2012. Not all his directorial efforts landed perfectly, but they were always ambitious.

Prioritizing Craft Over Commerce

While Redford had his share of commercial hits, several of the acting and directing projects he chose veered more artsy and complex over easily accessible.

This prioritization of the work over mass appeal only added to the sense of integrity with which Redford approached the profession.

Air of Old Hollywood Mystique

In an age where overexposure on social media and scandal hungry tabloids leave little mystery around celebrities, Redford has maintained an uncommon – almost old Hollywood – level of privacy and dignity around his personal and family life. This grants him gravitas.

Removes Himself From Spotlight

Save from the occasional talk show spot over the years to promote specific films, Redford always kept the spotlight firmly fixed on his creative work rather than courting media attention for its own sake. He let his films speak for themselves.

Values Personal Privacy

While Redford gave plenty of insight into his artistic motivations over time, he revealed comparatively little about his off-screen world – declining to leak much about his private life, family or interests outside work. This restraint created more mystique.

Cultivates Reverence Around Craft

Particularly in later years, Redford created an artist workshop in Utah far removed from Hollywood noise to focus purely on the craft and mentor promising voices. This monastic dedication to the work gives him an almost philosophical quality.

Graceful Aging Off Screen

The fact that Redford has been absent from screens for nearly a decade now after retiring also means audiences are left with recollections of his prime rather than watching the decline on camera. This graceful aging out of the spotlight also burnishes his legend.

DecadeMost Notable Redford Films
1960sBarefoot in the Park, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
1970sThe Way We Were, The Sting, All the President’s Men
1980sBrubaker, Ordinary People, Out of Africa
1990sA River Runs Through It, Quiz Show, The Horse Whisperer
2000sThe Clearing, An Unfinished Life, Lions for Lambs

Genre Defining Roles

Over his extensive career, Redford was often at the forefront of movies that came to define certain genres and periods. Audiences associate him with some of the most renowned films that encapsulate their era.

Golden Age of Hollywood and Rom Coms

With his debut in late 1950s theater and breakout role in 1962’s War Hunt, Redford’s rise coincided with the end of Hollywood’s golden age and rise of romance focused fare. Hits like Barefoot in the Park established Redford as a successor to legends like Cary Grant.

Rebirth of the Buddy Outlaw Film

Redford and Paul Newman’s iconic antihero pairing as the wisecracking bank robbers in 1969’s Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid sparked a resurgence of the buddy outlaw genre. Their chemistry in the comedic Western set a high bar that modern efforts still try to meet.

1970s Political Thrillers

Post Watergate, paranoid political thrillers exploded onto screens and Redford featured prominently with films like Three Days of the Condor and most famously All The President’s Men where he played Bob Woodward investigating Nixon’s scandal. The 1970s was the golden age of political intrigue on film and Redford was at the center.

Environmental Conservation on Screen

Directing passion project A River Runs Through It in 1992 based on Norman Maclean’s semi-autobiographical novella, Redford made the wilderness and its conservation a central theme on screen like never before. The film played a major role in spotlighting environmentalist issues in the early 1990s.

Embodies the American Spirit

More broadly, so much of the off-screen persona and roles Redford took on over his career came to symbolize a certain kind of American masculinity and rugged independence which audiences inherently gravitated to.

Quintessential American Hero

Clean cut, rebellious, earnest and self-made, Redford evokes almost propogandist levels of old fashioned American heroism both in iconic roles like The Great Gatsby‘s Jay Gatsby and Butch Cassidy to political films like All The President’s Men. America saw an idealized fantasy version of itself in Redford.

Draw of the American West

The mythic romantic pull of the rugged American West figures heavily in Redford vehicles like Jeremiah Johnson, The Electric Horseman and his director efforts like Ordinary People. Audiences intrinsically attach Redford to frontier spirit and wilderness freedom making him all the more idolized.

Beloved National Treasure

Now into his mid 80s yet still a vocal advocate, patron of independent film and revered elder statesman of Hollywood, Redford has fully made the transition from hunky heartthrob to beloved American institution much like Jimmy Stewart and others before him. He is Old Hollywood tradition alive.


Robert Redford has remained an enduring and acclaimed icon across over six decades in the arts because he represents both aspirational archetype – the handsome leading man, the headstrong director, the tireless activist – and the flaws of American myth making alike.

Both equally hewn and undone by relentless American dreams of MegaWatt stardom, political crusades and ever more creative frontiers to conquer without rest, Redford reflects the best and worst this country projects onto its Golden Sons. And yet in spite of the many triumphs, Redford’s stardom is also a slightly mournful reminder of Hollywood past where mystery still shrouded movie stars who kept their distance from the masses in the hills high above.

Perhaps it is this lingering sense of old world unfettered glamor and all its unattainability that makes the memory of Robert Redford, the last movie star forged under factory studio systems, still glow brighter from afar – frozen in amber at his charismatic 1970s peak. Because in the end, most stars fade when we look too closely or know too much.

And so we fall in love less with the man himself than the afterimage of American perfection stamped onto his celluloid likeness in the flickering darkness.

Frequently Asked Questions

What was Robert Redford’s breakout role?

Robert Redford had early roles on Broadway and television through the late 1950s and early 1960s, but his breakout role came as the con man Linius in the 1965 caper film Inside Daisy Clover opposite Natalie Wood. The role earned him a Golden Globe nomination and launched his film career.

What films made Redford an international star?

While Inside Daisy Clover put Redford on the map, his back-to-back hits in 1969’s Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and The Sting in 1973 catapulted him to full-blown international stardom. He won his first Oscar for 1973’s The Sting.

When did Redford make his directorial debut?

Robert Redford transitioned behind the camera in 1969 by establishing his own independent production company Wildwood Productions but he did not make his directorial debut until 1980’s Ordinary People.

The family drama won Redford the Academy Award for Best Director though it was his first time helming a film.

How did Redford contribute to independent film?

In 1981 Robert Redford founded the nonprofit Sundance Institute which went on to organise the now prestigious Sundance Film Festival for independent cinema.

Through workshops, labs and year-round programs, Sundance provides support to emerging writers and directors outside the Hollywood system.

Why is Redford seen as an activist?

In addition to programs advancing independent film, Redford has long been a vocal advocate for environmentalism.

Since the 1970s he has actively campaigned for conserving wilderness spaces and lobbied Washington for ecological policies. He uses his fame regularly to promote environmental causes.

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