Do I know him face to face, person to person? No.
I've gotten to know Robert Redford through my husband, John Cullum's experiences with him.
John played Judge Riley in Redford's film, "The Conspirators." Producer-director, Redford and John had long conversations. The film, shot in 2010, wasn't a big hit, but for John it was a hit experience.
Director Redford talked at length, quite passionately, about how and why he got involved with the subject of the film--the assassination of President Lincoln. Then. he explained why he needed strong energy from the Judge and dug into John's background. Though the Judge was not a major leading role, Redford patiently, persistently, searched with John for ways for John to achieve what Redford wanted.
Quite often, a director gets what he wants by encouraging the actor to do more or less what the actor does at the first group-reading of the script; sometimes, with just a few words, a director expresses his own thoughts; sometimes, what a director says is confusing, and even annoying. John says Redford's searching with him was fascinating, and very unusual.
Anyhow, though I don't know Redford, my husband's comments fit and expanded my impression. The look of Robert Redford speaks to me, and the choices he's made about what roles, which scripts, what subjects were important to him.
Many film titles come to mind--"The Candidate," and of course "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid," but there are many other favorite films and images. What I've rustled up from my years of seeing this actor, is a sense of a quiet, inner man, who feels what he feels, uses his feelings and is always himself, but never himself.
Always himself but never himself? Yes. And in each project (not because of makeup, hair, or the outfit), the man is different.
Can you say who his wife, or wives were? Does he have children? Do you know where his home is. Does he have homes in Hollywood, New York City, as well as near where his project, the Sundance Institute and Festival, takes place.
He's a busy, active movie-going movie-maker, and actor who talks about retiring, announced his retirement, and hasn't retired, who has given me (and maybe you) experiences--visions of relationships, stories, and quite often a sense of family loyalties--perhaps beyond what we have personally experienced.
When my husband John was on Broadway in the musical, "How the Grinch Stole Christmas"--one night as we were leaving the theater's stage entrance, we noticed a huge limo parked across the street. Even though he was more than a hundred away, Redford was instantly recognizable, as he was pacing near the limo, waiting for his daughter-in-law, who was also in the show.
She emerged from the stage door, said goodnight to us, and crossed to him. That's all. Redford called to us, "Good show," and waved to us.
What a guy! After all that he's done and been to the world-- the whole world--he waved.
He said once, during an interview, "All my life I've been dogged by guilt because I feel there is this difference between the way I look and the way I feel inside." He also said on more than one occasion, "I think the environment should be put in the category of our national security."
Golly, if you were to pick a career, mention a man who's hugely successful, who is still giving, sharing, teaching, offering what he is and what he knows to us--that's Robert Redford.
Here he's is, talking abut the fun he had, filming the last film he made that's gotten raves.