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The Great Gatsby

LOWELL -- The so-called "godfather of indie film" is coming to the Mill City, and he'll tout his advocacy platforms, pushing climate change reform, in a sit-down chat at the Lowell Memorial Auditorium.

In celebration of the 16th anniversary of the Middlesex Community College Celebrity Forum, the college's foundation will host acclaimed actor, director, environmentalist and Sundance Institute founder Robert Redford on June 20.

Redford, an impassioned artist and advocate for the environment, was named one of Time magazine's 100 most influential people this year. He'll be interviewed by Executive Director of Public Affairs Patrick Cook in "An Evening with Robert Redford," starting at 8 p.m.

Cook said Redford's history in Hollywood is extensive, but he'd like to steer the conversation toward the icon's recent conservation efforts and opinions on climate change. Redford will come to Lowell just after completing filming for A Walk in the Woods, due out in 2015.

Redford, 77, is well-known for his stellar acting roles in classic films such as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, All the President's Men, The Natural, The Horse Whisperer and The Great Gatsby in 1974. Interestingly enough, Redford attended the University of Colorado on a baseball scholarship and spent years as an oil worker, according to the New York Times, before pursuing acting.


Redford most recently starred in All is Lost, where he was the only on-screen actor throughout the entire film. There are few words spoken throughout the movie as Redford's unnamed character struggles to survive on a sinking yacht.

Redford has won two Academy Awards -- Best Director in 1980 for Ordinary People, which won four Oscars overall, and then in 2002 he received the Academy's prestigious lifetime achievement accolade. Before that, Redford was nominated for Best Actor in 1973 playing opposite Paul Newman in The Sting, which took home seven Oscars. Redford was additionally nominated for Best Director of the 1992 film Quiz Show. He has directed other films including A River Runs Through It and The Legend of Bagger Vance.

Redford, throughout his prolific career, has worked with Hollywood stars including Newman, Barbra Streisand, Jane Fonda, Dustin Hoffman, Faye Dunaway, Glenn Close and Meryl Streep. Streep recently spoke at UMass Lowell in April through the Chancellor's Series. Asked how she enjoyed working with Redford in the 1985 film Out of Africa, she responded, "Way too much."

In 1981, Redford, known for being a bit of a recluse as well as a 1970s heartthrob, set out for rural Utah. With a group of friends, he formed the first Sundance Institute Filmmakers and Directors Lab, where emerging filmmakers work with leading writers and directors to develop original independent film projects. The Sundance Institute has since grown and every year the Sundance Film Festival is held. In Time's piece, the magazine said if not for the actor's efforts, celebrated directors including Steven Soderbergh, Quentin Tarantino and Kevin Smith may have had a "rockier road" to stardom.

Aside from his strides in the entertainment industry, a few of Redford's causes include Greenpeace, the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign and the James Redford Institute for Transplant Awareness. Redford is also a trustee of the Natural Resources Defense Council. Last week, he published an opinion article for CNN entitled "Take the Path to Clean Energy." In that, he wrote a "preponderance" of scientific research shows climate change, caused by fossil fuel pollution, is having a "tremendous" impact on our world already.

"We can avoid the most destructive impacts of climate change -- but only if we move quickly to convert to energy supplies dominated by clean power," he said.

Robert Redford
Robert Redford

Middlesex Community College's 16th annual Celebrity Forum speaker series is Friday, June 20, at 8 p.m. Forum speakers have included Walter Cronkite with Doris Kearns Goodwin, Colin Powell, former President George Bush with former First Lady Barbara Bush, Rudy Giuliani, Jay Leno, Barbara Walters, Michael J. Fox and former First Lady Laura Bush. Premium seating availability is heading into its final numbers, with limited group seats available, according to MCC and the Lowell Memorial Auditorium. Tickets prices at both $65 and $45 can be ordered by contacting the auditorium box office at 866-722-8881 or 978-937-8688.

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  • Have a question for Robert Redford? Ask it on Twitter by sending a question to Middlesex Community College at @middlesex_cc. It just might be answered on stage during the celebrity forum. Tag the college's handle and use the hashtag #MCCRedford.