Utah gives Redford a standing ovation | ParkRecord.com

Utah gives Redford a standing ovation

Nan Chalat NoakerIn the same state where he was once hung in effigy for his environmental efforts, Robert Redford was recently celebrated with a hero's banquet.

In November, Utah leaders paid tribute to Robert Redford citing his contributions to the state s cultural, economic and environmental landscape. Photo by Nan Chalat Noaker

On Nov. 9, Utah Governor Gary R. Herbert hosted a star-studded event in Redford’s honor, calling him a "true American icon" and lauding him for his contributions to the state’s cultural, economic and environmental landscape.

The event highlighted many of Redford’s well-known accomplishments — including a litany of blockbuster movie roles — but also underscored his deep commitments to nurturing independent filmmakers and preserving Utah’s natural beauty.

According to the Governor, "Redford is truly one of a kind, and certainly more than an American icon of film and entertainment. He has elevated Utah’s visibility through a premiere ski resort, a world-class film festival and one of the most successful catalog companies in the nation."

And with a light-hearted nod to Redford’s left-leaning politics, he added. "This transcends politics He loves Utah and wants to preserve its distinct beauty. Moreover, he’s created jobs and enhanced Utah’s film and tourism industries in a meaningful way."

During the evening, Redford was serenaded by the Tony-award winning opera and Broadway diva Audra McDonald (who crooned a sentimental rendition of "The Way We Were") and applauded dozens of times as guests watched a highlight reel of scenes, many filmed in Utah, that have since become a part of America’s collective family album – from "The Sting," to "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid," "Jeremiah Johnson," "Downhill Racer," "All The President’s Men," and many more.

Redford humbly accepted the accolades ("It makes me shy," he admitted) and reminisced about his first attraction to Utah. In 1961, his career in Hollywood was just beginning to ignite and on one of his frequent trips between Colorado and California he stopped in Utah to marvel at its stunning mountains, specifically Mt. Timpanogos, which he described as "a citadel of rock embracing the land below." There he purchased two acres of land, "as a home away from the madding crowd, a place to raise my children, in the hope that their experience in the mountains would shape who they became in life."

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Eight years later, Redford opened Sundance resort which Gov. Herbert referred to as "a gem" in Utah’s portfolio of ski areas.

As Redford’s film career gathered steam, he said he became disillusioned with Hollywood and began looking for a place to nurture independent filmmakers. "I wanted to create a sense of community, to do projects that weren’t run-of-the-mill," he said. So, in 1980, the ski resort became home to The Sundance Institute.

Despite its high profile founder, the Institute at first, had to run "lean and mean." Redford explained the Sundance catalog, featuring western-themed and environmentally conscious clothing, art and home décor, was created to help fund the Institute’s efforts.

The pairing worked, and as the Institute began to draw more interest, Redford said the festival was established "to showcase the work being done here."

The result, 30 years later, is a vibrant institution that serves as an incubator for filmmakers around the world who are exploring social change and experimenting with new technology. The Institute has also become famous for presenting one of the world’s premier film festivals.

All of the success, however, has not gone to its golden-haired founder’s head. In fact, he told the black-tied crowd in November, "I feel humbled, lifted and shrunk at the same time. The tribute has been overwhelming."

Redford added, "What touches me most about tonight is that whatever differences may exist we could all come together on something we all agree on – our love for this state."

And the governor responded with a sentiment echoed by many Utahns, "Utah is a better place because you made it your home."