The Real Reason Robert Redford Got Kicked Out Of College

As a child, Robert Redford grew up in a difficult neighborhood and struggled early on to find an outlet for his creativity. "I grew up in a situation where you were either gonna drown in it or you were gonna swim out of it," he told Esquire in 2017. Fortunately, the future acting icon found a teacher who had a profound impact on his artistic pursuits. In order to incentivize Redford to pay attention in the third grade, the teacher cut a deal with him. "Every Wednesday, we're gonna give you 15 minutes to draw a story," the "All is Lost" actor recalled.

Later, when the family relocated to the San Fernando Valley, Redford struggled to find his path. "There was no culture, it was very oppressive," he told the Los Angeles Times in 1990. That's when he took up a pastime that would impact his collegiate career. "It's one of the reasons I did sports a lot to work things out," Redford added.

When it came time to choose a college, Redford opted "to get out of Los Angeles," and instead elected for the scenic pastures of the University of Colorado Boulder. "I realized that nature was going to be a huge part of my life," he said on NPR's "Fresh Air" in 2018. Although the legendary actor was able to leave the city, he was not able to leave his wild streak behind, which quickly led to issues while at college.

Why Robert Redford lost his scholarship

Academics became an afterthought during Robert Redford's time at the University of Colorado Boulder, as he spent ample time drinking, riding motorcycles, and drag racing, per NPR. The actor earned a somewhat nefarious reputation around campus. "Redford had become beloved in the drinking circles but was regarded as a loose cannon," author Michael Feeney Callan wrote in "Robert Redford: The Biography" (via Express). His days at the college were numbered. "The University of Colorado had made it clear he wasn't welcome back," Callan added.

That tumultuous time in Redford's life coincided with the death of his mother, which happened when he was an 18-year-old freshman, as revealed to NPR in 2018. According to the "The Sting" star, he was very close with his mother. Redford's habit of partying late into the night did not mesh well with his responsibilities. "I lost my (baseball) scholarship pretty quick after I discovered drinking," he told the Los Angeles Times in 1990.

With his mother dead, and after being kicked out of school, Redford embarked on a journey of self-discovery. He went to Europe to pursue his first passion: art. "I think in a way when that happened I was kind of freed up in terms of family responsibilities. I'm sad but I'm free," he revealed to Esquire in 2017. Personally, Redford struggled. "I was a mess. I was somewhat in trouble socially," he admitted to the LA Times. Although that mindset allowed him to take risks which paid off.

Robert Redford believes in taking chances

Once his brief time at college was finished, Robert Redford took it as an opportunity to have a fresh start outside of the United States. "I just want to get out of this country. I want to get to a new environment, new culture, and try to be an artist in new territory," he recalled to Esquire in 2017. It was not until years later that the "All is Lost" actor realized the true impact his mother had on his life, and how she had inspired him. "Oh my God, she really did encourage me to go out there and take chances," he recalled thinking.

Following his European sojourn, Redford moved back stateside and lived in New York City, where he took up acting. This helped quell the fiery side that saw him kicked out of school. "I think part of the reason I became an actor is to deal with that exhibitionistic side of yourself," he told the Los Angeles Times in 1990. "I liked to fool around (in public) and that needed to be satisfied," Redford added.

In 2015, the film legend returned to school, but this time it was to give a commencement speech at Colby College. During the speech, Redford echoed the sentiments instilled in him by his mother. "I think not taking a risk is in fact a risk, so don't be afraid to take a risk. Don't be afraid of failure," he told the students.