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.