ROBERT REDFORD by Michael Feeney Callan


The Biography
Email this review


The life and times of the Sundance Kid.

Biographer and novelist Callan (Arise Sir Anthony Hopkins: The Biography, 2009, etc.) marshals 14 years of self-conducted interviews with the star and his associates, generous excerpts from Redford’s personal journals and copious research to compile a revealing portrait of Hollywood’s greatest golden boy, Robert Redford. The author traces Redford’s surprising past as a diffident juvenile delinquent and aspiring artist—he studied painting in Europe and initially pursued a career in animation before turning to acting. Callan dutifully details Redford’s evolution as an actor and star, but gives equal weight to his careers as a political activist for environmental causes and founder of the independent film Mecca Sundance, a spectacular parcel of Utah landscape originally purchased by Redford to protect its natural beauty. The struggling young actor couldn’t afford it but plunged ahead anyway, highlighting an ingrained stubbornness and force of will that would characterize all aspects of Redford’s life. Difficult, uncompromising, autocratic and stubborn as a pack mule, Redford comes across as both a restless egotist and a heroically ahead-of-his-time champion of sustainable ecology and artistically progressive independent film. Callan offers intriguing insights into Redford’s film legacy, limning his complicated friendship with director and frequent collaborator Sydney Pollack, his uncredited contributions to the shaping of such signature vehicles as The Candidate and All the President’s Men, and Redford’s directorial style, informed by both his painter’s training and empathy with actors. The narrative repeatedly cites Redford’s extremely precarious finances, complicated by the Herculean task of keeping Sundance viable. An all-American beautiful jock with a brutal iron will and the soul of a visionary tyrant, Redford, under Callan’s gaze, emerges as a sui generis American figure.

A gripping, intimate treatment of one of cinema’s last great iconic stars.

Pub Date: May 5th, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-679-45055-9
Page count: 496pp
Publisher: Knopf
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 2011


NonfictionIN THE GARDEN OF BEASTS by Erik Larson
by Erik Larson
NonfictionTHE GREATER JOURNEY by David McCullough
by David McCullough
NonfictionLOST IN SHANGRI-LA by Mitchell Zuckoff
by Mitchell Zuckoff
NonfictionON CHINA by Henry Kissinger
by Henry Kissinger
NonfictionINFAMOUS PLAYERS by Peter Bart
by Peter Bart


NonfictionDE NIRO by Shawn Levy
by Shawn Levy
NonfictionPAUL NEWMAN by Shawn Levy
by Shawn Levy
NonfictionREBELS ON THE BACKLOT by Sharon Waxman
by Sharon Waxman