For decades, Robert Redford has been a pillar of Hollywood, known for his acting, his directing, and for creating the Sundance Film Festival. But, over the last few years, the star hasn't been acting as frequently, and there has been a lot of discussion about whether he is officially retiring or not. The 85-year-old Redford himself has gone back and forth as to whether or not he's done with acting—after saying he was finished in 2018, he made a surprise appearance in another movie.
But, regardless of whether or not he is officially retired, Redford is not in the spotlight as much as he once was, and that has been a purposeful decision on his part. Read on to find out more about the state of his career and for what he's said on the topic.
He said he was retiring after two final movies.
In 2016, Redford was interviewed by his grandson, Dylan Redford, for Walker Art Center and said he was "getting tired of acting." He continued, "I've got two acting projects in the works: Our Souls at Night, with Jane Fonda, a love story for older people who get a second chance in life, and Old Man with a Gun, a lighter piece with Casey Affleck and Sissy Spacek. Once they're done then I'm going to say, 'Okay, that's goodbye to all that,' and then just focus on directing."
Then in 2018, Redford again stated that he would, most likely, stop acting after The Old Man&the Gun. "Never say never, but I pretty well concluded that this would be it for me in terms of acting," he told Entertainment Weekly (via The Guardian), "and [I'll] move towards retirement after this 'cause I've been doing it since I was 21. I thought, 'Well, that's enough.' And why not go out with something that's very upbeat and positive?"
Then, he said announcing his retirement was a mistake.
"That was a mistake. I should never have said that," Redford told Variety at the premiere of The Old Man&the Gun 2018. "If I'm going to retire, I should just slip quietly away from acting, but I shouldn't be talking about it because I think it draws too much attention in the wrong way. I want to be focused on this film and the cast."
When he was asked if The Old Man&the Gun was his final film, he responded, "I'm not answering that. Keep the mystery alive."
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He made a surprise return to an existing role.
A year after The Old Man&the Gun came out, Redford made a surprise cameo in the 2019 Marvel movie Avengers: Endgame. He played the same character five years earlier in Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
The writers of Avengers: Endgame, Stephen McFeely and Christopher Markus, spoke to The New York Times about Redford's role. "That whole time, they're announcing Old Man With a Gun as Redford's last appearance on film," said McFeely. "It's the last time you're going to see Robert Redford. And we're going—[shoots conspiratorial look at Markus] [Laughter]."
He also stepped back from Sundance.
In 2019, Redford said that he would not be involved in the Sundance Film Festival in the same capacity that he had been. "I think we're at a point where I can move on to a different place, because the thing I've missed over the years is being able to spend time with the films and with the filmmakers and to see their work and be part of their community," he told an audience at the opening of that year's festival, according to Entertainment Weekly. "I don't think the festival needs a whole lot of introduction now: It runs on its own course, and I'm happy for that, so let me just say I am grateful that you're here."
He's not giving up directing and producing.
In the interviews he's given about his retirement from acting, Redford has mentioned that he's still interested in directing; his last feature, The Company You Keep, came out in 2014. He's also still been producing. Recent credits include the 2021 documentary The Mustangs: America's Wild Horses and the upcoming TV series Dark Winds.
He'd also like to get back into painting.
In his interview with his grandson, Redford talked about how he was a visual artist before becoming an actor and is interested in doing more painting now that he has more time.
"I'm an impatient person, so it's hard for me to sit around and do take after take after take," he said. "At this point in my life, age 80, [painting would] give me more satisfaction because I'm not dependent on anybody. It's just me, just the way it used to be, and so going back to sketching—that's sort of where my head is right now."