From an early age, Robert Redford refused to let others define his image, so he's how the young actor made himself a movie star. While the veteran star has left some wiggle room for a future movie return, it appears The Old Man & The Gun will be Robert Redford's final leading role. The movie caps off a distinguished, decades-long career as both an acclaimed actor and director.
Like most actors of his generation, Redford's career began in the theater, before moving on to roles in TV shows like The Twilight Zone and The Untouchables. The young Robert Redford certainly had the looks of a movie star, so it wasn't long before he started appearing in movies like War Hunt, This Property Is Condemned and The Chase, with Marlon Brando. Redford soon became concerned with the quality of the material he was being offered, however, finding most of the roles bland.
Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid would prove to be a defining project for young Robert Redford, in more ways than one. The movie paired him with screen icon Paul Newman, and their chemistry combined with a fantastic script and direction made the film an instant classic. It also proved Redford was more than a pretty face, with the role giving the star a chance to show off his range.
Redford also wanted to take control of his image and turned down major projects that didn't speak to him including The Graduate, Rosemary's Baby and Superman. He also gravitated towards projects that had something to say and spoke to his own political beliefs, such as The Candidate and All The President's Men. Redford had an uncanny knack for choosing great material during the 1970s, starring in a string of future classics including Three Days Of The Condor, Jeremiah Johnson and he re-teamed with Newman for The Sting.
This isn't to say everything he touched turned to gold, and there were occasional box-office duds like The Hot Rock, but on the whole, his career was booming. The star turned to directing in 1980 with Ordinary People, starring Timothy Hutton and Donald Sutherland (Trust). In addition to being a financial success, the film won Best Picture and Best Director at the Academy Awards. He also used his success as a star to champion new voices and independent cinema, becoming the founder of what was initially known as the Utah/US Film Festival, but was eventually rebranded as the Sundance Film Festival, in honor of Redford's character from Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid.
While young Robert Redford was blessed with the looks and charisma of a movie star, he refused to let that be his defining trait. He sought and developed projects that would stretch him as an actor and artist, producing a lot of work that was both successful upon release and would last the test of time. Even in his later career, Robert Redford would select movies that challenged him, such as the near-silent survival drama All Is Lost or even his role as Alexander Pierce in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, which he chose to see what a comic book movie was like to work on.
From an early stage, Robert Redford decided what path he wanted to take as an artist and stuck with it. His legacy was assured long before he decided to call it a day with The Old Man & The Gun, and he's an example of what a movie star can be.