With his bride of barely a year Lola and still heady from their elopement to marry in Las Vegas, Redford seemed on top of the world.But by the next morning Scott was dead, the victim of cot death, a syndrome that back then did not even have a name.The murder of his daughter Shauna’s fiancé Sid Wells, in Boulder, Colorado, in 1983, is another deeply personal tragedy that he prefers not to examine too closely.
But when confronted with the most emotional moments of his life he is reticence personified.
Yet the screen legend does admit to a crushing guilt, the sense that by choosing to lead the frivolous life of an actor and winning such lavish rewards he has invoked a karmic backlash from the gods. A darkness right on top of me.” Yet he does not want to explore that darkness or revisit it – and this reveals much about himself and the wounds that have yet to heal.
“Redford had become beloved in the drinking circles but was regarded as a loose cannon,” writes his biographer, who omits details of his escapades only to conclude: “The University of Colorado had made it clear he wasn’t welcome back.” On the subject Redford says not a word.
It’s not that he is taciturn: he speaks at length about finding his motivation for a role, the intricacies of working with co-stars, his political activism and the splendour of the Wild West’s natural beauty.
After years of trying to squeeze emotional memories out of the actor, Callan confesses: “I felt his spirit was still evasive.” The death of Scott was a devastating blow but only after the biography had been written did the actor speak publicly about the loss, saying in January: “It was really hard. In 1998 he confessed in an interview: “People think it’s been easy for me. There have been so many hits on our family that no one knows about and I don’t want them to for my family’s sake.” Tragedy almost struck again when his second son Jamie was born seven weeks’ premature suffering extreme hyaline membrane disease, a respiratory problem that almost killed him.
Redford devotes just a few words to this heartache.
Detectives informed Redford’s family: a mark of how deeply they remain connected to the tragedy.
Another seminal incident in Redford’s life is conveniently glossed over in the biography: the behaviour that got him thrown out of the University of Colorado.
And yet in his biography Redford utters not a word on this horrendous period.
While Jamie is voluble on the subject Redford remains silent.
“I was not into shared soul searching,” the superstar confesses. I like to face the issues alone.” The book, simply titled Robert Redford, offers a fascinating insight into the actor’s mind, as much for what it does not reveal as for what it does.