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Summary Article: Redford, Robert
From Green Culture: An A-to-Z Guide

Robert Redford is an American actor, director, producer, philanthropist, and founder of the Sundance Institute, the Sundance Film Festival, and the Sundance Channel. A firm and unwavering proponent for the environment since the early 1970s, he has devoted much of his energy and resources since that time to advocate preservation and conservation of nature and its resources, Native American rights, and the arts.

Born Charles Robert Redford, Jr., on August 18, 1936, in Santa Monica, California, Redford is the son of Martha W. (née Hart) and Charles Robert Redford, Sr., a milkman from Pawtucket, Rhode Island, who later become an accountant. After graduating from high school in 1954, Robert Redford, Jr. attended the University of Colorado before dropping out to attend the École des Beaux Arts in Paris in pursuit of his ambition to become a painter. Upon returning to the United States, he continued coursework in painting at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn and theatrical set design at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York.

Redford's career as an actor began in 1959, when he appeared as a guest star on many programs, including The Untouchables, Perry Mason, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Route 66, Dr. Kildare, and The Twilight Zone. Four years later, he experienced great success as the uptight newlywed Paul in Neil Simon's play Barefoot in the Park (1963), a role that he later took up again opposite Jane Fonda in the 1967 film version. In 1969, he costarred with Paul Newman in George Roy Hill's highly successful classic Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Three years later, his career swung into high gear with the release of the films Jeremiah Johnson (1972), The Candidate (1972), The Way We Were (1973), and The Sting (1973), a film for which he received an Oscar nomination. In the following years, he continued these successes by appearing in The Great Gatsby (1974), The Great Waldo Pepper (1975), Three Days of the Condor (1975), and All the President's Men (1976), all enormous hits with the general public.

In 1979, he produced The Solar Film, a short film about solar energy that was nominated for an Academy Award. Other documentaries he has produced include the award-winning Yosemite: Fate of Heaven (1989) and the feature-length documentary Incident at Oglala (1992). In the area of feature films, he went on to both direct and produce The Milagro Beanfield War (1988) and A River Runs Through It (1992), two films with environmental themes.

Although Redford has continued to participate in the making of many other mainstream Hollywood movies from the 1980s to present time, since 1981, he has invested much of his energy in the nonprofit Sundance Institute he founded in Park City, Utah, to provide much-needed support for independent filmmakers. In addition to the institute, Redford also created the Sundance Film Festival and the Sundance Channel, all three of which are located in and around the Park City region north of the Sundance ski area he had purchased several years before creating the institute. Dedicated to the support and development of promising screenwriters and visionary directors, the Sundance Film Festival has been internationally recognized as a vital source of independent cinema. Launched in 1996, the Sundance Channel, a cable network, offers viewers independent feature films, shorts, documentaries, and world cinema.

An ardent conservationist and environmentalist, Redford has served for several decades as a trustee of the board of the Natural Resources Defense Council. Actively engaged in promoting social responsibility and involvement in the political process, he has also advocated many legislative initiatives, including the Clean Air Act (1974-75), the Energy Conservation and Production Act (1974-76), and the National Energy Policy Act (1989).

Well known internationally for his environment work, Redford has received many awards for his activism, including the 1989 Audubon Medal Award, the 1987 United Nations Global 500 Award, the 1993 Earth Day International Award, and the 1994 Nature Conservancy Award. In 2004, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) bestowed upon him the Forces for Nature Lifetime Achievement Award.

In addition to his work with the NRDC, he is also a board member of the Gaylord A. Nelson Environmental Endowment at the Institute for Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin and serves on the National Council of the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of the American Indian.

In 2007, Redford launched a block of ecothemed television programming entitled The Green on his Sundance cable channel, an endeavor designed to put the spotlight on individuals and the creative solutions they are proposing and inventing in the face of the current environmental problems facing the planet. In this programming, the channel focuses on a different green theme each week in order to inspire audiences to merge green thinking and practices into all facets of their daily lives.

Redford was one of the few Hollywood celebrities to voice his opinion on the Gulf oil spill of 2010, the worst oil spill in U.S. history. Weighing in on the crisis, he severely criticized efforts by major energy companies to show off their environmental credentials. He also voiced the opinion that Americans need to move away from their dependence on oil in favor of alternative energy sources such as wind and solar power.

See Also:

Art as Activism, Communication, Global and Regional, Communication, National and Local, Corporate Green Culture, Corporate Social Responsibility, Education, Native American Culture and Practices, Popular Green Culture, Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council, and National Wildlife Federation, Sundance Channel, Television, Cable Networks, Television Programming

Further Readings
  • Quirk, Lawrence J. The Sundance Kid: A Biography of Robert Redford. Lanham, MD: Taylor Trade, 2006.
  • Redford Center. (Accessed September 2010).
  • Sundance Channel. “It's the Green Sundance Channel.” (Accessed September 2010).
  • Roth-Johnson, Danielle
    Copyright © 2011 by SAGE Publications, Inc.

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