Before Robert Redford was a celebrated Hollywood actor, he was just a restless kid in Los Angeles who allegedly stole beer for all-night drinking parties and was a member of a high school gang. However, the “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” star said it was his mother, Martha Hart, who encouraged him to change his life for the better.
“[I] had a lot of criticism, but I didn’t have a lot of support,” Redford told audiences at the Sundance Film Festival Utah Women’s Leadership Celebration, as reported by Closer Weekly Thursday.
“Why do I feel this strong connection to women?” said the 81-year-old. “I think it probably has to do with my mom… The one person who stood behind me was my mother. She believed that all things considered, she just had faith that I had something in me that was going to turn out OK.”
The actor described his mother as “the strong member of the family” who “always had a smile [and] was very, very adventurous."
“She came from Texas, and she carried that kind of robust, jocular goodwill," he said. "She saw things in a positive light.”
However, the magazine added Hart wouldn't live to see her son achieve international success as a movie star, filmmaker and philanthropist. Hart died in 1955 at age 40. Redford was only 18 at the time.
“She had a hemorrhage tied to a blood disorder she got after losing twin girls at birth 10 years after I was born,” explained Redford. He went on to reveal that while his mother was warned by doctors about the dangers of another pregnancy after his own difficult birth, she was determined to pursue her own dreams.
“She wanted a family so badly, she got pregnant again,” said Redford, adding his mother's death “seemed so unfair.”
“I took [her] for granted because that’s the way kids were at that age,” Redford admitted. “My regret is that she passed away before I could thank her.”
Redford found solace in a Mormon girl named Lola Van Wagenen. The couple married in 1958 when he was 22.
“Obviously, I don’t want to denigrate the person I married, there were a lot of good reasons [why we married young],” he said. “But I have to say it was to save my life. That’s what it felt like at the time.”
The couple stayed married for 27 years, even after their first child died in 1959 of sudden infant death syndrome. The pair went on to have three children. However, Redford and Van Wagenen divorced in 1985.
“It was mutual and it was right to move on,” Redford told The Telegraph in 2001, confirming his growing success in Hollywood put a strain on the marriage over the years. “We still have great love, great affection, great friendship. It is wonderful, and I think we probably deserve credit for it because the kids are great, they came through it OK.
"I never wanted to be one of those divorced showbusiness casualties — so predictable! I wanted to prove that a marriage could last and prove the business wrong. But I couldn’t.”
Redford remarried in 2009 to artist Sibylle Szaggars. Still, the actor never regretted marrying so young after his mother’s death.
“[My family] feared that I was going to go off the deep end, or that I would never amount to anything, or die at an early age,” said Redford. “I wanted to prove them wrong.”