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 Conspiratators." As the producer and 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. After Redford explained why he needed strong energy from the Judge, he dug into John's background, and though the Judge was not a major leading role, Redford patiently, persistently, searched with John for ways for John to achieve what Redford wanted.
That's rare. 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.
Anyhow, though I don't know Redford, John's comments fit and expanded my impression.
The look of Robert Redford speaks to me -- it's based on what I've absorbed from the many films in which Redford has starred, and the choices actor Redford has 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 gee, there are so many favorite films -- 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.
Aside from the fact that I can't point out a Robert Redford style, tone, typical bearing, manner, or facial expressions, in each film (it's not the makeup or 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 mansions are, or if they are mansions? Does he have homes in Hollywood, New York City, as well as near where his project -- the Sundance Institute and Festival -- takes place? Oh yes, I certainly know there is a major festival every year, near Park City Utah.
It showcases new work from American and international independent filmmakers -- feature-length films, short films, and miscellaneous other types of films. The Sundance Institute has uniquely affected the art of making and producing films. He created it, maintains it, and has built the festival, the institute in something that sustains itself.
At present, he's doing this for the Sundance Channel on television. In occasional brief appearances, he mentions a film and tells us be sure and watch it. Redford is not selling tickets, asking for donations, not promoting the success of the title he's mentioned, just letting us know that the film coming up is special.
On TV, he's an older man, a movie-going movie-maker, 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.
I knew personally, face-to face -- Richard Burton, John Gielgud, Richard Harris, Julie Andrews, Elizabeth Taylor -- and yes, quite a few other stars -- dined, chatted, played after dinner games with them, when their professional lives intermingled with my husband's professional life.
Take what I'm saying with a few grains of salt. (A grain of salt gives flavor to the ingredients. My eye, my experiences as an artisan, director, promoter, creator, have made my eye sharp. )
When 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 -- yes to 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.