Rebel with a cause

Pasatiempo - - Onstage This Week - robert red­ford

Robert Red­ford be­came a cul­tural icon at a time when be­ing a cul­tural icon still meant some­thing. And he did it the old-fash­ioned way: by ris­ing to the top of his pro­fes­sion as an ac­tor and then turn­ing around and work­ing tire­lessly to give some­thing back. A bit of a badass as a kid, he learned com­mit­ment when he be­gan study­ing act­ing at the Amer­i­can Academy of Dra­matic Arts in New York in the late 1950s. That sense of pur­pose (along with a gen­er­ous sup­ply of tal­ent and the gift of look­ing like Robert Red­ford) drove him to the pin­na­cle of the film world, and it’s been driv­ing him in deeper di­rec­tions ever since.

He be­came an en­er­getic ad­vo­cate for a lot of dif­fer­ent en­vi­ron­men­tal causes. In the early ’70s, he con­sid­ered a run for the U.S. Se­nate but aban­doned the idea, per­haps warned off by his movie The Can­di­date (1972). In 1981, around the time he was win­ning his first Os­car (as Best Di­rec­tor, for Or­di­nary Peo­ple), Red­ford cre­ated the not-for-profit Sun­dance In­sti­tute in Utah to pro­mote in­de­pen­dent film. It was a field that at the time was badly in need of pro­mo­tion. “When we started Sun­dance there was no in­de­pen­dent film,” Red­ford told The New Mex­i­can’s Robert Nott ear­lier this year. “In­de­pen­dent film, in 1980, was a dead cat­e­gory. It was pretty much rel­e­gated to Na­tional En­dow­ment grants. In fact, I started Sun­dance with a grant from the Na­tional En­dow­ment for the Arts for $25,000.” Sun­dance spawned the world’s most pres­ti­gious in­de­pen­dent film fes­ti­val, a cable chan­nel, and a lot of sat­is­fac­tions and headaches for its cre­ator. Red­ford’s “in­spi­ra­tion to in­de­pen­dent and in­no­va­tive film­mak­ers ev­ery­where” earned him an Hon­orary Academy Award in 2002.

An­other is­sue that has been a part of Red­ford’s aware­ness since he first drove through New Mex­ico with his mother in the early ’40s is the plight of Na­tive

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