"I started as an actor in the theater playing a lot of character parts, and suddenly, I found myself in this place where it felt like I was getting locked into a kind of a stereotype, and it did bother me," he says. "And then I would hear, 'Well, but that's easy for you.' Or, 'You look like somebody who's educated in the East,' which I wasn't. 'And came from an elegant background,' which I didn't."
Fortunately, Robert was able to break the stereotype and star in a wide variety of cherished films, including Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid, The Sting, All the President's Men, Out of Africa, Spy Game and The Natural. And while his acting put him on the map, Oscar® came calling after Robert stepped behind the camera. He won his first Oscar for his directorial debut with Ordinary People, and he took home a second statuette in 2002 for lifetime achievement.
Despite his brilliant career in the movies, Robert says the path he pioneered for independent filmmakers is his most meaningful accomplishment. In 1981, he founded the groundbreaking Sundance Institute and Film Festival, which remains one of the most prestigious festivals in the world.
"I'd worked hard, done a lot of movies, and I thought: 'Okay, stop. Take a break and see how you want to go forward after this point," he says. "I came up with the idea [that] the thing that would satisfy me the most would be to do something that would create opportunities for others, and particularly new artists with new voices and perspectives."