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Robert Redford turns 85: A heartfelt congratulations

  • Tanja Kokoska

    fromTanja Kokoska


Actor Robert Redford turns 85. Of his numerous talents, one particularly stands out: Nobody runs like him.

To say it right from the start: This is going to be a terrible crush. But isn’t it appropriate? After all, from a completely objective point of view, this man is one of the most attractive actors in the world. Quite apart from its external advantages, the semi-blonde hair, the disarming grin, the blue eyes, which sometimes appear green or gray, depending on how the light falls on the set: there is – completely objectively – nobody who does can run elegantly like Robert Redford.

Well, maybe today, at 85 years of age, he’s not quite as fast anymore. But how he ran in “The Clou”! In the 1930s Chicago setting, he played Johnny Hooker, the dazzlingly handsome, dazzlingly cunning street crook who makes the mistake of stealing the wrong person – a messenger from the relentless gang boss, Doyle Lonnegan. There were a lot of reasons to run, to run damn fast, and when Redford aka Hooker ran, his legs galloped in a steady, graceful rhythm, then the pinstripe suit tails fluttered, and then he even had the grandeur, his hat with one hand to hold on.

Robert Redford turns 85: racing is part of the total work of art

That was 1973. Four years earlier he had made his breakthrough in Hollywood with a role in which there was a lot to run, and it was also that of a crook: Redford was the bank robber The Sundance Kid, as in “The Clou” he played at the side of Paul Newman – another one to rave about – and together they were “Zwei Banditen”, as the film was called somewhat stupidly in the German translation. In the legendary final scene they still try to overcome a superior force of armed Bolivian police officers and ironically discuss: “You call that covering?” – “You call that racing?” Yes, he called that racing, but that helped “Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid “in the end nothing more.

As the name suggests: “Barefoot in the Park”, 1967. imago images (5)

© imago images / Everett Collection

It may be that racing is not one of the mandatory requirements of an actor. At Redford it is part of the total work of art. A handsome man to whom this beauty seems to mean little – which it only strengthens. Who shows his body without making a cult around it. An actor (and director) with a flair for subtlety, boldness and, yes, also for the depths. A sunny boy with depth – a rare, irresistible mixture. Coupled with the ability to fully immerse yourself in your role, to step back from the figure.

Robert Redford turns 85: He also ran in “The Untouchables” (1976)

Robert Redford also ran in “Die Unbrechlichen” (1976). The film traces the clarification of the Watergate scandal in the USA. This time he played the real hunter of a real crook, the Washington Post journalist Bob Woodward. His research and that of his “Post” colleague Carl Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman) ultimately led to the resignation of US President Richard Nixon. Redford’s full facial and physical mastery is particularly evident in one scene: Woodward meets his informant “Deep Throat” in a parking garage in the middle of the night. He leaves it alone, you can see him walking down a dark, deserted street from behind.

Cult: Robert Redford as the Sundance Kid with Butch Cassidy (Paul Newman) in “Zwei Banditen”, 1969,

© Everett Collection / Imago

The finest nuances can be seen how the fear of possible pursuers overwhelms him: first a slight hesitation, a listening, a slowing down of the steps, a crouching, pulling the head between the shoulders. Then an acceleration of the steps, at first slowed down by the worry of drawing attention to oneself, then driven by increasing fear. He begins to run, we see his back, his shoulders, his head, everything as if frozen in fear and yet running, trembling. We even think we can hear his heartbeat, like the pounding of a piston propelling his legs. Finally he pauses, turns – and stares into nothing. Nobody is behind him. There’s just the fear that’s in his eyes. And which we had long recognized in it, although we did not see its face from the front.

Robert Redford celebrates his birthday: the actor has made a lasting impact

It is all the more astonishing that he did not get an Oscar for any of his roles (he was only nominated for “The Clou”); his directorial debut, “A Completely Normal Family”, won an Oscar in 1981. His life’s work, on the other hand, was honored, Oscar, Golden Globe, Golden Lion, César. Robert Redford has made a lasting impact, and not “just” on the screen: He founded the Sundance Institute, which promotes independent filmmakers. He is active in the environmental movement and is committed to climate protection. And he has provided a DVD collection of romantic films in countless households that one (or rather a woman) likes to watch over and over and over again. “Out of Africa”, of course, with Meryl Streep, “As we were” with Barbra Streisand, “Up close” with Michelle Pfeiffer. So much for the terrible crush.

Today Robert Redford lives in Sundance, Utah, with his German wife, the painter Sibylle Szaggars. “Deep down in me” he once wanted to be an artist, “I wanted to paint,” said Redford in an interview with “Welt” in 2014 about his youth. He has become an artist. When it comes to painting, however, running is more of a hindrance. But Robert Redford, born on August 18, 1936, still seems far too young to stand still.



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