Robert Redford Reveals His Inspiration For Roy Hobbs In ‘The Natural’
Robert Redford is a man of many talents and certainly has plenty of accolades to back that up.
The 79-year-old Redford is an Academy Award-winning director, winning for his work on 1980’s Ordinary People, and was also honored with a Lifetime Achievement Oscar in 2002. Redford was given the coveted Cecil B. DeMille Award at the 1994 Golden Globes, which was the last of his six Golden Globe wins. He’s the creator of the Sundance Film Festival, which led Time to declare Redford the “Godfather of Indie Film” in their 2014 “Most Influential People In The World” issue. And of course, it’s impossible to forget that Robert Redford is one of the truly great actors of the past 50 years and has given moviegoers numerous performances that will be remembered for generations to come.
From Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid to Jeremiah Johnson to The Sting to All the President’s Men to Out of Africa, reaching a new generation with Indecent Proposal and An Unfinished Life, getting in on the superhero craze in Captain America: The Winter Soldier and soon appearing in the Disney remake of Pete’s Dragon, Robert Redford has done it all. But it’s nearly impossible to mention the name Robert Redford without thinking of perhaps the most iconic role of his career, that being Roy Hobbs in the 1984 baseball classic, The Natural.Based on the 1952 Bernard Malamud novel of the same name, The Natural follows Redford as Hobbs, a promising baseball phenom whose career is derailed after being shot by a serial killer while on his way to try out for the big leagues. He resurfaces many years later and after a shaky start helps the fictitious New York Knights get back on track and provides baseball movie fans with two fantastic moments, the first of which comes in his debut at-bat as he literally knocks the cover off of the ball. And then there’s the final at-bat of the movie in which Redford’s character wins the big game with a towering home run that crashes into the stadium lights, which creates a sky of sparks as Redford rounds the bases.
It turns out that Robert Redford actually wanted to be a big-league ballplayer when he was growing up in Santa Monica, California in the 1940s. However, with no Major League teams in the state at that time, he had to find a team on the East Coast to root for and settled on the Boston Red Sox for one reason: Ted Williams. As in No. 9 Ted Williams, the same number that Redford wore on his Knights uniform in The Natural.In a recent interview with the Boston Globe, Redford spoke on what drew him to “Teddy Ballgame” as a youngster.
“Ted was my hero when I was a kid. He was from California, and I was from California. He was left-handed, and I was left-handed. And I wanted to be a professional ballplayer.”
As Redford does, he carefully prepared for this role by modeling his swing after Williams’ and it’s really no coincidence that in the movie version, Hobbs hits a home run in the final at-bat of his career, which is exactly what Ted Williams did on September 28, 1960. In the book, written eight years before Williams’ last game, Hobbs fails in his final turn at the plate and leaves baseball as a forgotten man, obviously much different than what Redford did on the screen. Ironically enough, the Red Sox retired Williams No. 9 only a few weeks after the release of The Natural in May 1984.Even after his hero retired, Robert Redford continues his love of the Red Sox to this very day.
“I realized there was more to [the Sox] than just Ted Williams. I had the joy of my life a few years ago when I sat behind the catcher at Fenway and they beat the Yankees.”
Yep, that certainly sounds like a Red Sox fan. And now we know that one of the greatest baseball movie characters of all time was inspired by one of the greatest hitters of all time, which just seems, well, natural.
[Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images]