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The long-anticipated biography of Robert Redford. Among the most widely admired Hollywood stars of his generation, Redford has appeared onstage and on-screen, in front of and behind the camera, earning Academy, Golden Globe, and a multitude of other awards and nominations for acting, directing, and producing, and for his contributions to the arts. His Sundance Film Festival The long-anticipated biography of Robert Redford. Among the most widely admired Hollywood stars of his generation, Redford has appeared onstage and on-screen, in front of and behind the camera, earning Academy, Golden Globe, and a multitude of other awards and nominations for acting, directing, and producing, and for his contributions to the arts. His Sundance Film Festival transformed the world of filmmaking; his films defined a generation. America has come to know him as the Sundance Kid, Bob Woodward, Johnny Hooker, Jay Gatsby, and Roy Hobbs. But only now, with this revelatory biography, do we see the surprising and complex man beneath the Hollywood façade. From Redford’s personal papers—journals, script notes, correspondence—and hundreds of hours of taped interviews, Michael Feeney Callan brings the legendary star into focus. Here is his scattered family background and restless childhood, his rocky start in acting, the death of his son, his star-making relationship with director Sydney Pollack, the creation of Sundance, his political activism, his artistic successes and failures, his friendships and romances. This is a candid, surprising portrait of a man whose iconic roles on-screen (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, All the President’s Men, The Natural) and directorial brilliance (Ordinary People, Quiz Show) have both defined and obscured one of the most celebrated, and, until now, least understood, public figures of our time.


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The long-anticipated biography of Robert Redford. Among the most widely admired Hollywood stars of his generation, Redford has appeared onstage and on-screen, in front of and behind the camera, earning Academy, Golden Globe, and a multitude of other awards and nominations for acting, directing, and producing, and for his contributions to the arts. His Sundance Film Festival The long-anticipated biography of Robert Redford. Among the most widely admired Hollywood stars of his generation, Redford has appeared onstage and on-screen, in front of and behind the camera, earning Academy, Golden Globe, and a multitude of other awards and nominations for acting, directing, and producing, and for his contributions to the arts. His Sundance Film Festival transformed the world of filmmaking; his films defined a generation. America has come to know him as the Sundance Kid, Bob Woodward, Johnny Hooker, Jay Gatsby, and Roy Hobbs. But only now, with this revelatory biography, do we see the surprising and complex man beneath the Hollywood façade. From Redford’s personal papers—journals, script notes, correspondence—and hundreds of hours of taped interviews, Michael Feeney Callan brings the legendary star into focus. Here is his scattered family background and restless childhood, his rocky start in acting, the death of his son, his star-making relationship with director Sydney Pollack, the creation of Sundance, his political activism, his artistic successes and failures, his friendships and romances. This is a candid, surprising portrait of a man whose iconic roles on-screen (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, All the President’s Men, The Natural) and directorial brilliance (Ordinary People, Quiz Show) have both defined and obscured one of the most celebrated, and, until now, least understood, public figures of our time.

30 review for Robert Redford: The Biography

  1. 4 out of 5

    B the BookAddict

    Michael Feeney Callan is such an excellent biographer; I was lucky enough to already be in thrall of the subject, the gorgeous Mr Charles Robert Redford, but even if I were not, this would still make an enormously good read. Ten years in the making with lots of family history, instances not involving his film career including his work in the Sundance wilderness conservation, personal anecdotes and some great piccies. I will read other biographies by Mr Callan. Altogether a 4.5★ read.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Kip

    I have mixed feelings about this book. I have a lot of connections to the subject. I've enjoyed many of Redford's films over the years. I was raised in Provo and spent a lot of time at Sundance. I know quite a few people who are friends with Redford and/or have worked closely with him. And I've admired Redford as a supporter of independent film and an environmental activist. So I picked up this book because I already had an interest in Redford, and I wanted to know more about what makes him tick I have mixed feelings about this book. I have a lot of connections to the subject. I've enjoyed many of Redford's films over the years. I was raised in Provo and spent a lot of time at Sundance. I know quite a few people who are friends with Redford and/or have worked closely with him. And I've admired Redford as a supporter of independent film and an environmental activist. So I picked up this book because I already had an interest in Redford, and I wanted to know more about what makes him tick. My quibbles with this book are not so much the subject but the writing. Yes, I learned a lot that I didn't know about the man. But I think that my main complaints go to Callan's approach and execution. For one thing, I often felt overwhelmed by details. There didn't seem to be a sense of proportion, with more important themes or incidents getting more in-depth coverage and others getting less. The treatment kind of hovered at about the same level from beginning to end, at least for me. As a result, I was bored at times by what to me seemed like an excess of detail, while other times I wanted to know more. For example, I would have liked to know more about his relationships with family and close friends, his interactions with Utah culture, his assessments of his career, etc. Granted, Redford is probably a hard person to know. But if that's the case, then either the book should have been shorter or Callan should have done more analysis of the evidence he amassed over ten years. I would have liked to see more of a clear focus on major themes in Redford's life, a more thoughtful exploration of the key events. I know some of that was there, but the book kind of jumped around a lot and felt unnecessarily superficial. Finally, I wish there had been more of a sense of story in the book. Some writers have a knack of capturing and rendering key events from a person's life that reveal his or her character. For me, Callan lacked the ability to tell Redford's story in a vivid or compelling way. Having read this 400 page bio, there aren't many incidents that were particularly memorable. There are some, but not as many as there should have been over 400 pages. On the whole, however, I'm glad I read the book, and I enjoyed getting a behind-the-scenes look at Redford and his career. I appreciated getting a glimpse into the events that shaped him, how he worked as an actor and director, and his influence on the motion picture industry.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Brett C

    A very in-depth and informative about one of my favorite actors. Family history, an uncle at the invasion of Normandy, his baptism into the Mormon church, his travels/studies to Italy, some of his sketches, and prison movies like Brubaker and The Last Castle. Can be exhausting and heavy detail-orientated at times but worth a read. A good book about a great actor of our time.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Courtney

    Although an actor who saw his biggest success before I was even born, Robert Redford has always held some mystery for me. After living in Provo, I became more intrigued with his concept of Sundance and how it came to be. A reclusive sort of fellow in that he doesn't grant interviews very often, the public at large doesn't know much more about Robert Redford (or Bob, as he's referred to in the book) than what they get on the movie screen. I found the writing rather tedious. So many stories seem to Although an actor who saw his biggest success before I was even born, Robert Redford has always held some mystery for me. After living in Provo, I became more intrigued with his concept of Sundance and how it came to be. A reclusive sort of fellow in that he doesn't grant interviews very often, the public at large doesn't know much more about Robert Redford (or Bob, as he's referred to in the book) than what they get on the movie screen. I found the writing rather tedious. So many stories seem to be repeated over and over again. The book goes through Redford's acting career chronologically, but it seems more of a report than anything. Very little is said about Redford's family life and all his friendships are portrayed on a movie set or in a boardroom. I wanted to know more about Redford as a person and I didn't feel like this book did that for me. Were there some interesting stories? A few. Were my questions about Sundance answered? Kind of. I felt like the reader would be better served with different chapters focusing on the different aspects of Redford's life (acting, family life, environmentalism, politics, conservation, Sundance, independent film making, directing, relationships, friendships with other actors and directors, etc.) so that the reader could dive in to each of them, not read a nasal-toned monologue of "and then this happened". I haven't read any other Redford biographies, so I can't compare this one. But perhaps Redford's destiny is to remain shrouded in the air of mystery that he has created.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Kay

    It is shocking to find that an autobiography from a political figure [George Bush] can be so amusing and interesting and then to find a biography about one of the biggest movie icons in my lifetime can be so boring!!! I have been in awe of Redford since he appeared in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and was so excited to read this book. How disappointing in both the book and him. The author devoted the first chapter to his parents, grandparents and other ancestors and the last chapter to a 'l It is shocking to find that an autobiography from a political figure [George Bush] can be so amusing and interesting and then to find a biography about one of the biggest movie icons in my lifetime can be so boring!!! I have been in awe of Redford since he appeared in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and was so excited to read this book. How disappointing in both the book and him. The author devoted the first chapter to his parents, grandparents and other ancestors and the last chapter to a 'little' of the more current Redford and his family. These were the only 2 chapters worth reading. The rest of the book is full of long sentences with long words in long paragraphs in long chapters. BORING! He concentrated mainly on his many movies which was unnecessary since we fans do know about the movies. The author should have realized that 75% or more of the readers were going to be women over 50 that have been captivated by Redford since his rise to stardom. We are too old to want to take the time to read and reread so many paragraphs to figure out what in the hell he is talking about. We're more into the enjoyable reading of Danielle Steel and Janet Evanovich. We've left the college days behind along with trying to impress and are into the age of enjoying our life- not interpreting the unnecessary language that we rarely hear in real life. Even quotes by Redford were intermixed with bullshit [the actual word] and those 6 or more syllable words. My biggest gripe toward the author while reading was not giving me a sense of who the man was really. However, after finishing the book I must admit the author may have in fact told me what he was like: self centered, pompous, intelligent but with a lack of common sense, distant, cold, and many other traits that all began with 'self'. Many said he had great wit, but until the last chapter with a short reference to some antics that Paul Newman and Redford played on each other I didn't find anything witty about the man. I found more in Newman's bio on the friendship of the two men and I thought at the time that biography was boring! His children did have a few things they shared about their father but my impression was they didn't even know him until they became adults and even then it didn't appear to be a close relationship. I didn't come out of the book with a good feeling about his first wife either. She seemed as self absorbed as him but that may have been her reaction to their relationship. It appears that there were no deep friendships but rather working relationships. I didn't expect scandals in the book but did expect to see more of the Sundance Kid in his personality rather than Jeremiah Jones. I guess my main disappointment is I wasted over 40 years in awe and respect of a man that 'just wasn't there' as I saw him. I'm just glad I finally finished this way too long book. I found myself checking each page number as I finished the page thinking I should be further along than I was! I would have given up on the book about 1/4 the way but I refuse to leave anything unfinished. My mistake in this case!!

  6. 5 out of 5

    Meijer Bjorn

    The biography of Robert Redford shares the beauty marks and blemishes of the subjects movie career and political activism. This is the first biography I have read from Micheal Callan. I am impressed by the effort, detail, and openness he has achieved in this biography. Holladay starts the investigation way, waaaay back in time to the 1600's. Possibly the evolutionary beginnings of the Redford clan. It quickly focuses on Robert's beginnings and moves forward through his life experiences. If you w The biography of Robert Redford shares the beauty marks and blemishes of the subjects movie career and political activism. This is the first biography I have read from Micheal Callan. I am impressed by the effort, detail, and openness he has achieved in this biography. Holladay starts the investigation way, waaaay back in time to the 1600's. Possibly the evolutionary beginnings of the Redford clan. It quickly focuses on Robert's beginnings and moves forward through his life experiences. If you want to know about Robert Redford, you will find it here. Callan achieves great detail with minimal white washing of Redford's movie career and political activism. I go to movies for entertainment. I read newspapers for news, and avoid political commentary for the most part. Since Redford's body of work includes many movies that are politically tinged, I avoided those works. I am ambivalent to his achievements and that translates to how I feel about his biography. I believe this book would be liked by those who agree with his political leanings and enjoy his politically based movies such as "All The Presidents Men", "The Candidate", and "The Way We Were". The strength of Robert Redford's biography is the incredible amount of information it has. At the same time it made the flow of the book rough for me. The biggest problem I had was Redford's birthday was missing. It may seem trivial. For me, though, it's huge. The date of birth is a reference point I use to pull all the events together. I use that information to add in other events of the time to get a better historical feel of the story. Unable to have his birthday as a reference point was a big problem and heavily weakened my enjoyment of the book. I had an early copy so if anyone finds Redford's birthday in their book, please add a comment to my review. If you like Redford's body of work, you will probably like this book.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Joy H.

    Added 10/24/12. I listened to the audio version of this book during October and November 2012. Interesting and enjoyable. “Revealing . . . Intriguing . . . 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.” -Kirkus *[Sui generis is a Neo-Latin expression, literally meaning "of its own kind/genus", or unique in it Added 10/24/12. I listened to the audio version of this book during October and November 2012. Interesting and enjoyable. “Revealing . . . Intriguing . . . 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.” -Kirkus *[Sui generis is a Neo-Latin expression, literally meaning "of its own kind/genus", or unique in its characteristics.] “Comprehensive . . . Callan reveals the complex man beneath the Hollywood persona. Absorbing and remarkably well documented; readers will enjoy losing themselves in this long-awaited biography.” -Booklist [Above clips found at: http://www.indiebound.org/book/978030... ] It was interesting hearing about how Redford founded the Sunrise Institute. "Sundance Institute is a non-profit organization founded by Robert Redford in 1981 that actively advances the work of filmmakers and storytellers worldwide. The Institute ... provides creative and financial support to emerging and aspiring filmmakers, directors, producers, film composers, screenwriters, playwrights, and theater artists through a series of Labs and Fellowships. The programs of Sundance Institute include the Sundance Film Festival, a premier platform for American and international independent film." FROM: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sundance... See Wiki for details of Redford's life: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_R...

  8. 4 out of 5

    Magnus Stanke

    Highly recommended biography of Bob Redford. The only drawback of biographies about living, and I'm saying that with full knowledge of its implications, but without wishing to jinx anybody, is that the author had Redford's collaboration in writing this book so in certain areas Callan has to tread carefully in order to avoid offence to his subject. I'm not saying that we´ll ever hear to totally different story, and I don't mean to be cynical or callous about other people's demise, but sometimes it Highly recommended biography of Bob Redford. The only drawback of biographies about living, and I'm saying that with full knowledge of its implications, but without wishing to jinx anybody, is that the author had Redford's collaboration in writing this book so in certain areas Callan has to tread carefully in order to avoid offence to his subject. I'm not saying that we´ll ever hear to totally different story, and I don't mean to be cynical or callous about other people's demise, but sometimes it helps to have more distance to something or someone before we can analyse in a wider context. The description of Redford's early days I found especially riveting in this context.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Michelle

    Due to my age, I was definitely late to Robert Redford fanhood. I became a great admirer in the early 90s thanks to two films: A River Runs Through It (which Redford directed) and the great acting ensemble piece, Sneakers, which he starred in. I have enjoyed discovering his earlier movies as well, so I knew this biography was a must read for me. The author definitely did his homework. Callan interviewed Robert Redford over many years, pulled from Redford's journals, and meticulously gathered quot Due to my age, I was definitely late to Robert Redford fanhood. I became a great admirer in the early 90s thanks to two films: A River Runs Through It (which Redford directed) and the great acting ensemble piece, Sneakers, which he starred in. I have enjoyed discovering his earlier movies as well, so I knew this biography was a must read for me. The author definitely did his homework. Callan interviewed Robert Redford over many years, pulled from Redford's journals, and meticulously gathered quotes from close friends and family, as well as news articles. The book is extremely thorough 3/4 of the way through, which was slow going for me at times. The writing is excellent, and I would give this biography a solid 3.5 stars. I learned many new facts about Redford, and I am impressed by how many times he could press forward after personal tragedies. I felt that the films Redford made in the 2000s were quickly glossed over; the author seemed to rush to finish the book around this point. I also felt there was too much detail about his political activism, which wasn't that interesting to me. I kept wishing that Robert Redford had taken an interest in improving Utah public schools instead of his focus on environmental issues. That would be a story I would really want to read.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Bruce Kirby

    As one review stated it's a detailed account. In his case not everything is as it seemed. Childhood, young adulthood and throughout his life he was a talented but restless soul like all the greats. Good read, you'll learn a lot. They aren't any Redford's, Newman's, Fonda's, Streep's, DeNiro's, Nicholson's Pacino's .... anymore. As one review stated it's a detailed account. In his case not everything is as it seemed. Childhood, young adulthood and throughout his life he was a talented but restless soul like all the greats. Good read, you'll learn a lot. They aren't any Redford's, Newman's, Fonda's, Streep's, DeNiro's, Nicholson's Pacino's .... anymore.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Agnieszka Mlynarczyk-Mikos

    I huge respect for Robert Redford and the writer, Michael Feeney Callan.

  12. 5 out of 5

    DoubleM

    First, I am, and always have been, a big fan of Robert Redford's works, environmental concerns, cultural/Spiritual ideas, and what I perceive to be his politics. Most of the things set forth in this book, I already knew, but I thought I might learn something new, so I downloaded it to my Kindle. I wish I had read the earlier reviews before I took the journey of reading this boring book. Second, the author must have been paid by the word as he compiled as many words as possible; no wonder it took First, I am, and always have been, a big fan of Robert Redford's works, environmental concerns, cultural/Spiritual ideas, and what I perceive to be his politics. Most of the things set forth in this book, I already knew, but I thought I might learn something new, so I downloaded it to my Kindle. I wish I had read the earlier reviews before I took the journey of reading this boring book. Second, the author must have been paid by the word as he compiled as many words as possible; no wonder it took him ten years to write it. To paraphrase one of Redford's quotes, on page 368 (Kindle): "Do we really need to know such a huge amount of detail about the minutiae of every person and event of the lives of every person who ever interacted with Robert Redford?" My answer is NO; we wanted to read about Redford, not every person with whom Redford ever came into contact with.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jill

    Robert Redford is a rather elusive actor. His contemporary movies are few and far between and aside from his participation at Sundance and its annual film festival, you don't really hear about him in the news. He is one of my favorite actors (I may be only 30 but "The Way We Were" and "The Sting" are two of my favorite films) so it was a wonderful opportunity to get inside his head, which is not an exaggeration since biographer Michael Feeney Callan frequently quotes Redford's own personal journ Robert Redford is a rather elusive actor. His contemporary movies are few and far between and aside from his participation at Sundance and its annual film festival, you don't really hear about him in the news. He is one of my favorite actors (I may be only 30 but "The Way We Were" and "The Sting" are two of my favorite films) so it was a wonderful opportunity to get inside his head, which is not an exaggeration since biographer Michael Feeney Callan frequently quotes Redford's own personal journals. At 400 pages, it might seem intimidating but I found it well paced and, well, maybe not a "quick" read but it kept my attention and I quickly became immersed, fascinated by the story and the way it was told.

  14. 4 out of 5

    High Plains Library District

    Happy Birthday, Robert Redford! In honor of one of my favorite people on this planet I want to suggest this biography. But if this bio doesn't ring your bell - then I suggest you pick some person, anybody, that fascinates you and read their biography and/or memoir. I find it enlightening and somewhat humbling to read about other people and what fuels them. ~Victoria Happy Birthday, Robert Redford! In honor of one of my favorite people on this planet I want to suggest this biography. But if this bio doesn't ring your bell - then I suggest you pick some person, anybody, that fascinates you and read their biography and/or memoir. I find it enlightening and somewhat humbling to read about other people and what fuels them. ~Victoria

  15. 5 out of 5

    Aaron

    The book earns points for having the luxury of Redford's actual diary entries, which is a first, considering it's not a posthumous effort. Once the film career begins, it's absorbing and extremely revealing of the man's character via many of his colleagues (Sydney Pollack, Paul Newman) who provide insights. The Redford childhood and youth sections are less effective, mostly because author Callan seems emotionally committed to characterizing Redford as a tormented artist and rebel. But it's hard The book earns points for having the luxury of Redford's actual diary entries, which is a first, considering it's not a posthumous effort. Once the film career begins, it's absorbing and extremely revealing of the man's character via many of his colleagues (Sydney Pollack, Paul Newman) who provide insights. The Redford childhood and youth sections are less effective, mostly because author Callan seems emotionally committed to characterizing Redford as a tormented artist and rebel. But it's hard to sympathize with a rich kid stealing hubcaps and facing the police forces of Beverly Hills, Westwood and Van Nuys. The other parts of the book dedicated to Redford's Sundance Institute and its numerous side operations, which include ski facilities and restaurants, can be interesting or extremely boring. This depends on the reader's interest in tax shelters and business plans. Luckily, the movie sections are detailed and 3-dimensional.

  16. 5 out of 5

    James Perkins

    This is an interesting, thoughtful biography of movie star Robert Redford, documenting his life in detail up until its publication in 2011. Author Callan had access to personal papers, including journals, script notes, and correspondence, and spent plenty of time with his subject, giving an insight rarely seen in modern biographies. Yet despite the voluminous source material, there is something missing. Sometimes Callan gushes like a fanboy, gives some movies almost no attention, glosses over so This is an interesting, thoughtful biography of movie star Robert Redford, documenting his life in detail up until its publication in 2011. Author Callan had access to personal papers, including journals, script notes, and correspondence, and spent plenty of time with his subject, giving an insight rarely seen in modern biographies. Yet despite the voluminous source material, there is something missing. Sometimes Callan gushes like a fanboy, gives some movies almost no attention, glosses over some of the more controversial and personal issues, and he is overly sentimental on several occasions. However, as a biography, it does its job: you feel you know Redford much better by the time you get to the end. It just could have been a little more comprehensive and a little less saccharine.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Cathy

    I have always been a fan of Robert Redford. Now I feel I know him a bit better, not just through the movies he chose to make, but his concern for the environment and future of the movie industry. He learned to use his celebrity to further the causes that were important to him; not just for his own personal ego boost. There is so much more to him than the movies he made. I was a fan before I read the book, but I now admire the man that Mr. Redford is in person. He is so much more than any charact I have always been a fan of Robert Redford. Now I feel I know him a bit better, not just through the movies he chose to make, but his concern for the environment and future of the movie industry. He learned to use his celebrity to further the causes that were important to him; not just for his own personal ego boost. There is so much more to him than the movies he made. I was a fan before I read the book, but I now admire the man that Mr. Redford is in person. He is so much more than any character he ever played.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Evalyn

    Very thorough, especially about Redford's career/craft, in fact almost more than I wanted to know. I loved the movie facts because I have always been a movie buff and a fan of his movies. The other "connection" I felt with Robert Redford is a love for the beauty of this land and the majestic landscape of the west. Very thorough, especially about Redford's career/craft, in fact almost more than I wanted to know. I loved the movie facts because I have always been a movie buff and a fan of his movies. The other "connection" I felt with Robert Redford is a love for the beauty of this land and the majestic landscape of the west.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Sherrywd

    I learned to ski at Sundance and it was always a thrill to stand next to Redford in the lift line. This biography fills in the background and motivation of a "Utah" boy made good - his love of the land and family never wavered. I learned to ski at Sundance and it was always a thrill to stand next to Redford in the lift line. This biography fills in the background and motivation of a "Utah" boy made good - his love of the land and family never wavered.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Nancy

    This book is incredibly dense....you'll learn more about Robert Redford than you have every really wanted to know. But it doesn't pull any punches about Redford as a person. Unless you're a big fan, doubtful you'll enjoy it. This book is incredibly dense....you'll learn more about Robert Redford than you have every really wanted to know. But it doesn't pull any punches about Redford as a person. Unless you're a big fan, doubtful you'll enjoy it.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Jane S.

    I have been interested in this man for a long time. in my opinion is he is total human. we all have our loads to carry. He does good work.i have seen and enjoyed his work and admire his intellect and dedication.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Mark

    Interesting book. Got a little bogged down in Enviromental Politics etc..

  23. 4 out of 5

    Steve Brooks

    Sweet read.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Faye Capehart

    A little difficult to read in order. Interest was to know about Robert Redford, but not as interested as expected. His Movies were more interesting

  25. 5 out of 5

    Joyce

    Tough and Radical Golden Boy When I began reading this pre-publication biography of Robert Redford, I thought I would be learning about a laid-back guy from California who fell into acting via the gift of his good looks combined with perfect timing. Not so. His life totally surprised me. I know he is a conservationist with liberal political leanings, but I was not aware of the layers of this man's ambition and intellect. Brought up without money by a wonderful, supportive mother and a critical fa Tough and Radical Golden Boy When I began reading this pre-publication biography of Robert Redford, I thought I would be learning about a laid-back guy from California who fell into acting via the gift of his good looks combined with perfect timing. Not so. His life totally surprised me. I know he is a conservationist with liberal political leanings, but I was not aware of the layers of this man's ambition and intellect. Brought up without money by a wonderful, supportive mother and a critical father, Redford (Bob) was a rebellious child and teen-ager who was constantly aspiring to find what would make him happy. Michael Feeny Callan organizes fourteen years of interviews with Redford, his friends and associates to disclose the essence of the man. He also had access to Redford's personal journals and diaries which gives the reader both sides of this man. He gives equal credence to the golden boy of Hollywood, his political activism for the environment and founder of the independent film Mecca Sundance, a magnificent tract of land located in Utah. Redford has been obsessed with the wilderness, it has brought him peace, solace and helped him transform the landscape of film making. Redford comes across as a restless egotist. He worked himself beyond fatigue and his stubbornness was uncompromising. He surprised many directors and fellow actors with his demands regarding his characters in movies and plays. What looked so easy for him on stage and film was the product of endless study and overwhelming analysis of the character in the movie or play. It is surprising that Redford is somewhat of a tyrant. He is an autodidact, a self-taught intellectual, who challenges himself and anyone who will not allow him to proceed as he envisions. I am sure not too many fans know that he is an artist, a painter first before an actor. With his unending talent and ambition, his creativity embraced him as young boy to present day. There were facets of Redford that were revelatory; his obstinacy gave rise to an autocratic man in all aspects in his life. On the other side, he has not been credited for shaping such memorable movies as The Candidate and All the President's Men. He is brilliant and does not give in. His ability to tough life through appears to be his credo for parenting. He does not appear to be an overly-sympathetic husband or father. There is little revealed in this book about Lola, a Mormon and his first wife; I felt she was short-changed. I also was rather shocked that neither parent sought to investigate their son's illness from childhood. Labeled irritable bowel syndrome, the parents seemed to "let him work it out." Jamie, instead, looked for all types of cures and later discovered he had ulcerative colitis which had been untreated. Later, Jamie was diagnosed with end-term liver disease with a transplant his only hope for survival. After two transplants, Jamie experienced wellness and has a portfolio of educational and artistic accomplishments. Callan's fourteen years of research and study is evident in this biography. He technically is brilliant as he meshes the chronology of Redford's life with solid interviews and most of all, we hear Redford's voice through his interviews and diaries. Redford's personal and professional relationship with Sydney Pollack serves as a virtual backdrop for the vicissitudes of Redford's life. Callan's writing elevated Redford on an intellectual level, and I recommend the book. Unfortunately, my uncorrected proof did not contain photographs, which certainly would have enhanced my reading!

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jake

    By way of confession, I approached Robert Redford the biography in an attitude of hero worship. Since childhood, I have unquestionably regarded him as an iconic American actor. The first time I watched he and Paul Newman go into haunting freeze frame at the end of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is etched in my mind. My parents used The Natural as a practical tool for schooling me in allegory. While a college student in Utah, I felt the Redford mystique grow during regular trips into Salt Lak By way of confession, I approached Robert Redford the biography in an attitude of hero worship. Since childhood, I have unquestionably regarded him as an iconic American actor. The first time I watched he and Paul Newman go into haunting freeze frame at the end of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is etched in my mind. My parents used The Natural as a practical tool for schooling me in allegory. While a college student in Utah, I felt the Redford mystique grow during regular trips into Salt Lake City to watch indie films, including a Sundance Film Festival screening. Robert Redford the book provided big discoveries for me. Author Michael Feeney Callan spent years drumming up over 300 interviews in addition to many sessions with Redford. He also gained access to notebooks, journals and other original research. Initially the book was mesmerizing. Redford’s roots seamlessly interwove with 20th Century American history. After about 100 pages, my reading slowed. The book became less fun--not less worthwhile--just less recreational. It turns out Redford isn’t much like what I assumed. His silver screen gravitas belies the reality of an often erratic and stubborn personality. In fact, I found the early Redford to be arrogant and annoying. Still, whether deflating or ingratiating, Callan’s study effectively peeled back the glossy Hollywood veneer. I came to see Redford and his colleagues as real people engaged in risky creative endeavors. As a work of serious biography, Robert Redford has a couple of weak points. At times Callan’s narrative feels soupy and convoluted. Some passages combine a dizzying list of names and minutia with an 'Oh by the way' quality, leaving me unsure of their particular significance. On a related note, the passage of years is not always apparent. At times I felt disoriented as some major developments were mentioned off the cuff. The variable pace of Redford’s career was difficult to track. In fairness, some of these criticisms probably boil down to the challenge of delivering a cohesive account of a disjunctive professional life. From the days of his “breakthrough” performance as the Sundance Kid, Redford’s acting career took on a Sugar Ray Leonard quality. He has seemed ever on the verge of retiring or staging a comeback. Ultimately, I have great admiration for Callan’s stalwartness as a biographer. This is no slapdash expose. And if Robert Redford the book is sometimes a rough read, it is in large part because Redford the man is hard to read. About two-thirds of the way through I sent an e-mail to my Mom saying how much I was enjoying the book, even as it chopped Redford down to eye-level. I summed up my newly seasoned appreciation for him this way: "Oddly, I respect him just a bit less but identify with him a great deal more." Viewing Recommendation: Obviously a reading of this biography benefits from having seen Redford’s major films. I strongly suggest watching both Jeremiah Johnson and Downhill Racer before or while reading this book. These films are often revisited by both Callan and Redford as major touchstones in “Bob’s” artistic development.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Mediaman

    I could write pages about this failed, verbose book (450 pages!), but let's just say that there are two major problems. First the author (who isn't even from America) is completely clueless about our country, movies, history, and pop culture. Because of that the book is filled with incorrect interpretations of events or flat-out errors. For example, he mentions Redford going a hundred miles outside Utah to "Iowa." Well, he means Idaho. If he can't look at a map right, then how can we trust him wi I could write pages about this failed, verbose book (450 pages!), but let's just say that there are two major problems. First the author (who isn't even from America) is completely clueless about our country, movies, history, and pop culture. Because of that the book is filled with incorrect interpretations of events or flat-out errors. For example, he mentions Redford going a hundred miles outside Utah to "Iowa." Well, he means Idaho. If he can't look at a map right, then how can we trust him with the rest of the book? Or he says that the reason Streisand made The Way We Were without her lover Ryan O'Neal is that their movie What's Up Doc "opened and failed." Um, it opened at #1 at the box office and grossed $66 million on a $4 million investment. It was the #3 movie of the year. That's not a failure--it was a huge hit and made more than The Way We Were! Namely, this guy doesn't know what he's talking about. And no matter how much research he does he can't put together a narrative that balances correctly the filmography with the politics. Plus many of his interviews are 14 years old! He did get Redford to cooperate, but the book seems to handle the star with kid gloves. There's little said about his raging temper and nothing about his alleged affairs. He is painted as an environmental saint. And all the movies are treated as if they were great--when in truth Redford has many more flops than successes. Second, Redford himself comes across as a weirdo commie tree hugger. I had no idea Redford was so strange. He was a little well-to-do suburban L.A. cool kid that grew up with famous neighbors, only to become a rebel in his teen years who did a lot of terrible things. The guy throughout the book is unlikable, makes bad decisions, seems to constantly rage against the system for no reason, and is nothing as he's portrayed in the media. He doesn't even come across as that good of an actor--just a guy making money in movies when he'd rather be by himself in a mud hut in Utah (oddly, he wants to live outside while his family is inside a little distance away!). The biggest shock here is his supposed spirituality and Mormonism. Though he never officially committed to the church, his wife was raised in it and he bought into it. Is it worth reading? Only if you can accept the poorly-organized and lengthy stories by an author that doesn't understand America. And are willing to come away disliking Redford for being so mean, liberal, distant, and weird.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Steve

    It took biographer Michael Feeney Callan ten years, using interviews and correspondence with more than three hundred people connected with Robert Redford’s world, several interviews over a fourteen year period with the iconic star himself, not to mention the actor’s own diaries since 1957, to bring “The Sundance Kid’s” story to life. These twenty-four chapters, spanning 398 pages, cover nearly fifty years of Redford’s career as an actor and or director between 1962 and 2011. Fans and trivia buffs It took biographer Michael Feeney Callan ten years, using interviews and correspondence with more than three hundred people connected with Robert Redford’s world, several interviews over a fourteen year period with the iconic star himself, not to mention the actor’s own diaries since 1957, to bring “The Sundance Kid’s” story to life. These twenty-four chapters, spanning 398 pages, cover nearly fifty years of Redford’s career as an actor and or director between 1962 and 2011. Fans and trivia buffs of Redford will find the back of this book a gold mine. Callan gives them very detailed lists of the cast and crew of all 42 films Redford appeared in as either an actor or director. You’ll also find a chronological list of Redford’s 26 principal television performances between 1959 and 1964 as well as his six theatrical performances in the same five year period. Very few details are given, however, about Redford’s involvement with eighteen additional films and television productions in the 28 year period between 1980 and 2008. Callan spends an equal amount of time focusing on Redford’s passion for saving the planet. Long-time Redford associate and attorney, Mike Frankfurt believed it was his friend’s plan to “make Hollywood movies to pay for Sundance, and he was going to utilize Sundance primarily as a base for his other operations in independent movies and environmental politicking.” Much of this biography is a documentary on Redford’s efforts at preaching conservation and energy restraint. Speaking of politics, several times in this volume, Callan tries to make the point that Redford is a political independent. And yet, in Callan’s treatment at least, Redford has nothing but mud to throw at Richard Nixon and both presidential Bushes, Number 41 and 43. At the same time, Redford campaigns long and hard for only progressive Democrats and left-leaning, environmental causes. Robert Redford a non-partisan? I’m not buying it.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Lucy

    I got this book for Christmas, and was really looking forward to reading it, I took the excuse of the snow last weekend to actually do pretty much nothing but read! We start off with a bit of a history lesson that put me in mind of 'The Nearest Faraway Place' By Timothy White, who delved into the heritage of Brian Wilson, I like this style as it shows us the stock as it were that made these people so great! Redford has Irish heritage that he was very proud of, he also became very interested in th I got this book for Christmas, and was really looking forward to reading it, I took the excuse of the snow last weekend to actually do pretty much nothing but read! We start off with a bit of a history lesson that put me in mind of 'The Nearest Faraway Place' By Timothy White, who delved into the heritage of Brian Wilson, I like this style as it shows us the stock as it were that made these people so great! Redford has Irish heritage that he was very proud of, he also became very interested in the American Indians, and had like Jim Morrison a profound moment or two as a result. I did enjoy the book, I felt very impressed by Redford for the good that he has done, and I don't just mean in his films, of which of course I love, especially 'Barefoot in the Park', and 'All the Presidents Men', and Mum's fav 'Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid'. Someone like Redford holds a special place in our lives; a constant, in fact years ago when I lived in Paris and the folks came to visit me, we went to the pictures on the Champs de Elysee and it was a Redford film we went to see, 'Sneakers' and I remember Mum commented that the last time she had been to the pictures was in act 1969 to see the aforementioned 'Butch and Sundance' :-) It is therefore sad for me to report that the book did not live up to my expectations, I realise it is a biography not an autobiography of which I love, but it would appear the author Michael Feeney Callan was given full access, i just felt when I had finished that I had sat and read a 400 odd page C.V! there wasn't much depth, I still didn't know who Robert Redford is, except for the film and political choices he has made. For someone who is merely interested in the films this will be great, but for someone like me who would like to know more of the person it was a disappointment.... still a good read, just not the book i had envisaged.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Lisa-Michele

    This is a 400-page exhaustive biography of Redford, tracing his life from his poor Southern California Sawtelle upbringing to the rarefied air of superstardom and Sundance Film Festival. Redford collaborated with the author by providing his journals, scripts and personal recollections. The book reveals a man choosing art and activism over money at many critical junctures in his career, and succeeding in Hollywood even as he was rejecting everything it stood for. Redford puts much of his own mone This is a 400-page exhaustive biography of Redford, tracing his life from his poor Southern California Sawtelle upbringing to the rarefied air of superstardom and Sundance Film Festival. Redford collaborated with the author by providing his journals, scripts and personal recollections. The book reveals a man choosing art and activism over money at many critical junctures in his career, and succeeding in Hollywood even as he was rejecting everything it stood for. Redford puts much of his own money where his mouth is, such as funding his own environmental lobbying group in the 1970s called the National Academy of Resources, funding an early form of solar energy in 1978, and organizing the Bering Sea Accord in 1984 where he brought together 19 oil companies to guide offshore drilling policy. The political/environmental activism is a consistent tenet of his life, not a quirk. I enjoyed the behind-the-scenes story about each of his 70-plus films, which usually feature Redford clashing with a director or an actor or someone who understands the story differently than he does. I also enjoyed the genuine love he has for the wilds of Utah. He personally built his first Sundance house for himself: “We had moose and deer, a mountain lion, bald eagles, every sort of wilderness creature – but no running water. When the winter snows came, we boiled water to cook and bathe with…My whole psychological framework changed. Simply the day-to-day work, carving stone, digging, seeing this house grow like a flower in the landscape, touched me very deeply. I already felt I belonged in the canyon, that it had a hold on me. Now I felt that what I had just accomplished was far more important than Broadway.”

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