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The Good, The Bad & The Badass: Robert Redford

Mar. 31, 2014by: Chris Bumbray

Last week, we took at the career of action icon Arnold Schwarzenegger. This week’s subject is far less brawny, but in his own way just as much of an icon – both on and off screen.

Robert Redford

There's no doubt that Robert Redford is one of the most important icons in the history of modern film. If his legacy was limited to his work in front of the camera, he'd already be more than worthy of being called a legend. Throughout his fifty-year career, Redford's probably never strayed to far from his comfort zone as an actor. He seems to realize that he has a range, but he plays it to perfection. From his two classic teamings with Paul Newman (BUTCH CASSIDY & THE SUNDANCE KID, THE STING) to the real life intrigue of ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN, to the paranoia of THREE DAYS OF THE CONDOR, and the romance of OUT OF AFRICA, Redford always – to a certain extent – played Redford.

Handsome, sophisticated, and suave in a sort-of wholesome way, Redford has often played idealists and heroes. Off-screen, he seems to be a man of strong convictions and opinions, and truly it's his work off-camera that's made him a true hero of American cinema. While Redford mostly made his career in mainstream cinema (even his directorial projects – the the Oscar-winning ORDINARY PEOPLE were embraced by establishment) his passion for independent cinema and unconventional storytelling resulted in the Sundance Film Festival and Institute. As a frequent visitor to Park City, I can't even begin to do justice to what an amazing, passionate, film-saavy organization they've got going there. So many people, from Quentin Tarantino, to the Coen Bros to Doug Liman, Jon Favreau, Richard Linklater and more owe their careers to Sundance, and the man who made it all happen – Redford. I'd wager that outside of Steven Spielberg and Martin Scorsese, there's not another figure working in American film today who's done as much for the craft as Redford.

His Best Role

While Redford's best work with always be the Sundance Film Festival, in terms of his movies this is a tougher call than you'd think. If you look at my Top Five below, pretty much all of those movies are bonafide classics. Heck, even movies that didn't make the cut (like BRUBAKER, SNEAKERS and ALL IS LOST) are amazing. Still, as far as his absolute best goes, I'd have to choose BUTCH CASSIDY & THE SUNDANCE KID. The impact of this movie cannot be overrated. Think of all your favourite buddy-pairs, like Riggs and Murtagh from LETHAL WEAPON, TANGO & CASH, and more. None of them would exist without Butch & Sundance. Whether or not Paul Newman and Robert Redford's portrayal of the outlaws have any semblance to their real-life counterparts doesn't matter. Here, “reel” life is arguably more important than “real” life anyhow. Even though they only made two movies together, Newman & Redford are arguably the most iconic buddy-pair of all time, and this is their masterpiece.

His Most Overrated Role

Last summer, I finally sat down and watched THE WAY WE WERE. While many consider this a classic, I was surprised at what a soapy, often dopey movie this wound up being despite its classic status. Barbara Streisand and Redford have virtually no chemistry, and of the pair Redford fares especially bad, with his WASP-y golden boy coming off as a brainless him-bo, who abandons his “true love” because she just can't keep her mouth shut and fit in. This hasn't aged well at all, although the theme song is good. It should also be said, Redford made for a boring Jay Gatsby in THE GREAT GATSBY.

His Most Underrated Role

One of Redford's best (and toughest) roles was in JEREMIAH JOHNSON. While it was a smash in the seventies, nowadays it's somewhat obscure. It's ripe for rediscovery. Redford plays a mountain man who aspires to live the live of a hermit. Through circumstance, he's forced to adopt a surrogate family, including an Native wife, and an orphaned child, and to his surprise he ends up finding true happiness as a husband and father. His ideal life is ruined when the U.S Army forces him to violate sacred Native ground, which leads to a blood feud with a local tribe, who slays his family and sends their best warriors to kill him. To their surprise, he ends up being a more than worthy opponent. If this sounds like a generic revenge thriller, you'd be wrong as JEREMIAH JOHNSON never goes in the direction you'd assume.

His Most Memorable Scene

ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN is filled the the brim with memorable scenes, but none is more famous than Redford, as the real-life Bob Woodward's, encounter with the shadowy Deep Throat (Hal Holbrook) who helps him blow the lid off Watergate by telling him to "follow the money."

His Top-Five Films

5. THREE DAYS OF THE CONDOR
4. ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN
3. JEREMIAH JOHNSON
2. THE STING
1. BUTCH CASSIDY & THE SUNDANCE KID

Up Next

Fresh from his acclaimed turn in ALL IS LOST, Redford's shaking things up a bit by appearing in the massive CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER, where he plays S.H.I.E.L.D operative Alexander Pierce. Following that, he teams with the comedy-drama A WALK IN THE WOODS, opposite future Good/Bad/Badass subject Nick Nolte.

Source: JoBlo.com

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11:03PM on 03/31/2014

The Natural

I have to agree with the comment sarah1980 mentioned below. Why isn't The Natural even mentioned? Redford was about 5 years ahead of all the baseball movies that came out in the late 80s and really defined what a sports-drama should be.
I have to agree with the comment sarah1980 mentioned below. Why isn't The Natural even mentioned? Redford was about 5 years ahead of all the baseball movies that came out in the late 80s and really defined what a sports-drama should be.
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12:56PM on 03/31/2014
I'm really unfamiliar with his earlier works and his more recent offerings have left me completely uninterested. That said I do agree Jeremiah Johnson is an excellent film.
I'm really unfamiliar with his earlier works and his more recent offerings have left me completely uninterested. That said I do agree Jeremiah Johnson is an excellent film.
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12:07PM on 03/31/2014

TRULY A FORCE OF NATURE

He did stick to his range but with Perfection and crafting a niche for his movies. Also the whole point of The Way We Were is to say she was clearly out of his league. Don't forget to add Indecent Proposal, a brilliant movie and having Redford made it a challenge to watch otherwise what would have seem like a typical sleazy part.
He did stick to his range but with Perfection and crafting a niche for his movies. Also the whole point of The Way We Were is to say she was clearly out of his league. Don't forget to add Indecent Proposal, a brilliant movie and having Redford made it a challenge to watch otherwise what would have seem like a typical sleazy part.
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10:11AM on 03/31/2014
I'm not as well versed in his earlier films. I have seen Butch Cassidy, and Chris is exactly on point with his praise of the film and his role. I also thoroughly enjoyed his role in Spy Game with Brad Pitt. More recent, I know, but I thought he was great in it.
I'm not as well versed in his earlier films. I have seen Butch Cassidy, and Chris is exactly on point with his praise of the film and his role. I also thoroughly enjoyed his role in Spy Game with Brad Pitt. More recent, I know, but I thought he was great in it.
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10:06AM on 03/31/2014
Glad he got featured in this column, it's about time! In terms of iconic actors who have also done incredible directing work, he's rivalled only by Clint Eastwood. Seeing him and Scarlett Johansson in Captain America: The Winter Soldier conjured up thoughts that it was just a really out there sequel to The Horse Whisperer.
Glad he got featured in this column, it's about time! In terms of iconic actors who have also done incredible directing work, he's rivalled only by Clint Eastwood. Seeing him and Scarlett Johansson in Captain America: The Winter Soldier conjured up thoughts that it was just a really out there sequel to The Horse Whisperer.
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8:37AM on 03/31/2014
Reading that 'Jeremiah Johnson' is now considered "somewhat obscure" makes me feel old. And grumpy.
Reading that 'Jeremiah Johnson' is now considered "somewhat obscure" makes me feel old. And grumpy.
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7:59AM on 03/31/2014
I'm so glad he's stepping back in front of the camera again. All is Lost was amazing and a great showcase for the subtleties of his acting. My favorite directing jobs of his are A River Runs Through It and Quiz Show.
I'm so glad he's stepping back in front of the camera again. All is Lost was amazing and a great showcase for the subtleties of his acting. My favorite directing jobs of his are A River Runs Through It and Quiz Show.
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7:36AM on 03/31/2014
One of my heroes growing up.
One of my heroes growing up.
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+2
7:11AM on 03/31/2014
The Sting would be #1 for me - and gotta have Sneakers in the top 5!
The Sting would be #1 for me - and gotta have Sneakers in the top 5!
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6:51AM on 03/31/2014
grew up watching him since seeing The Natural at the age of 4 why no love for that film
grew up watching him since seeing The Natural at the age of 4 why no love for that film
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4:00AM on 03/31/2014
Redford is badass indeed. He's a versatile actor and talented director. Worth mentioning are Ordinary People and Quiz Show. Both are great movies. As for his performance, I like him best in Three Days of the Condor and All is Lost. Especially All is Lost, if it's not for Robert Redford, it would be just another movie.
Redford is badass indeed. He's a versatile actor and talented director. Worth mentioning are Ordinary People and Quiz Show. Both are great movies. As for his performance, I like him best in Three Days of the Condor and All is Lost. Especially All is Lost, if it's not for Robert Redford, it would be just another movie.
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2:32AM on 03/31/2014

One of the last giants...

I had the chance to check his hand at the french premiere of " lions for lambs " here in Paris, what a charismatic and charming man....
I have seen this week end " captain america 2 " and he was great in this !
In his top five films : honorable mention for " all is lost "
I had the chance to check his hand at the french premiere of " lions for lambs " here in Paris, what a charismatic and charming man....
I have seen this week end " captain america 2 " and he was great in this !
In his top five films : honorable mention for " all is lost "
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