Photo credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times

Robert Redford is an Oscar-winning actor, director, producer, environmentalist, philanthropist, founder of the Sundance Film
Festival… and an alumnus of the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards! Today we join many in wishing him a very Happy 75th Birthday.

Robert Redford grew up in Santa Monica, California. While in high school, he was active in both sports and the arts. Redford looked up to writer and artist Henry Miller and hoped to follow the same path. In 1955, at the age of eighteen, he won a Scholastic Award for painting. In the Inside the Actors Studio interview below, Redford says of his teenage years, “My two interests were art and sports; because that’s the way I could get connection of any kind.”

Redford went to accept a baseball scholarship at the University of Colorado. However, the need for a creative outlet still existed. In a 1985 interview with the Greenburg Sunday Tribune-Review he said, “I used to read a lot, only I didn’t admit it because if you were a jock you simply didn’t read.” After the death of his mother during freshman year, he began to miss baseball practice and was dropped from the team. Upon losing his scholarship, he could not afford to attend college and decided to travel in Europe. After working at the Standard Oil Refinery to save money for his trip, he went off and used to thirteen-month long travels to study and practice art while living in youth hostels. On recalling his time abroad, Redford once said, “You come to live by your wits like Henry Miller used to write about. And it all gets pretty interesting, pretty interesting…”

Upon his return to the United States, he attended Pratt Institute in New York City. He soon discovered an interest in set design which led him to transfer to the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, where he was required to take an acting class. Redford would later say to Newsweek, “Acting is agony to me. It’s the hardest thing in the world to get me on the set. To do something so exhibitionist when I’m such a shy person- that’s agony and to make it look like it isn’t is agony.”

In 1959, a teacher persuaded Redford to audition for a role as a basketball player in the Broadway show, “Tall Story.” From there, he starred in numerous theatrical productions and the rest is history.

Greensburg Sunday Tribune-Review. July 28, 1985

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