With his first acting money, Redford bought two acres for $500 and built a cabin with no running water. His first wife, Lola, was from the area, and they returned in good times and bad, burying their first child, Scott, in nearby Provo after he died of sudden infant death syndrome in 1959.
But it wasn't until the oppressive and giddy days of the 1970s that he considered making Sundance a refuge for his three kids, Jamie, Shauna, and Amy. They went to Dalton, a prestigious school in Manhattan, but Redford felt the walls closing in around them.
It's hard to exaggerate Redford's seventies celebrity. Some of the experiences were funny, if scary. While in a Manhattan office building, Redford was chased into the basement by a group of nurses who'd heard he was in the building. "I plowed out through a couple of nurses, out into the street, and they followed me," remembers Redford. "They started pulling at my clothes and my hair." He jumped into a taxi, where the radio was playing "Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head," from Butch Cassidy. "I thought, ‘This is too much.' "
Redford liked to take the kids to Trader Vic's in New York, but it became increasingly impossible. After countless well-wishers interrupted one trip, Redford's son trailed behind the rest of the family on the walk home. Redford asked him what the matter was and Jamie answered with a question.
"Why don't those people like you?"
"I think they like me."
"Then why would they come bother you if they liked you?"
Soon after that, Redford started assembling a compound behind the stone gates. (Not much has changed: "People still come at that guy like he's public fucking property," says 'All Is Lost' director J.C. Chandor.) We head up to the family's original A-frame, the successor to the cabin, and run into Eric Schlosser, Redford's son-in-law and the author of 'Fast Food Nation' and 'Command and Control.'
"Hey, Eric," Redford calls out, "just showing him the old homestead."
Schlosser smiles. "All made by hand," he says.
Redford chuckles, acknowledging that his son-in-law might have heard the Sundance creation story a few times. We drive on in the idyllic setting, deer prancing in the fields, a grandson's bicycle tilted over. That afternoon, Redford was leaving for a day of meetings in L.A. about a film adaptation of Bill Bryson's 'A Walk in the Woods,' which he'd originally wanted to do with Paul Newman and that was now creeping forward with Nick Nolte in the Newman role. "I grew up in L.A. I can't do it anymore. I can't take it. Down in L.A, I'm a dick."
Redford will tell you that he hates L.A. because of the traffic, the pollution, and the movie-making industrial complex. But it's also because of a grueling childhood that he airbrushed out of his bio for years, only becoming comfortable talking about it in his later years.
His father was a milkman working 12 hours a day who had little time for his only child. (Redford was named after his father, Charles, but has always gone by his middle name.) His mother tried to make up for it, but there are some things a mom can't do. Bob became close to his uncle David, who taught him how to throw a football and hit a baseball. It was the seed planted by David Redford that started his nephew on a path stretching from American Legion baseball star to skiing in 'Downhill Racer' to doing his own hitting in 1984's 'The Natural.'