Robert Redford was born 80 years ago in Santa Monica. Today is his birthday.

He graduated from Van Nuys high school in ’54. Alienated, unsettled. Booted out of the University of Colorado in Boulder after a year and a half. Travelled to Europe in ’56, drinking and painting and kicking around. Down and out and despairing at 20. But a year or two later Redford knew he wanted to act, and by ’59 he was out of the woods and into the groove. And he was getting a lot of TV-series work by ’60. So he’d found himself by age 23 and was a semi-success by age 24.

But he had at least tasted a bit of that lonely-guy, who-am-I?, “where the fuck am I going and how will I pay for it?” angst, and he drew upon that creepy feeling time and again, of course, when he became a big-name actor in the late ’60s.

Hitting 80 is not that big of a deal these days (80 being the new 70), but it still feels a bit strange to think of Redford — the smiling, well-built, good-looking towhead — being paired with that number.

Speaking of which, Redford bailed on the blonde-hair thing when…? The early to mid ’90s? I know that ever since I started going to Sundance in ’93 his hair was mostly copper-colored. Back in the early ’80s I interviewed an old high-school friend of his, some drawling dude, who said that Redford’s Van Nuys nickname was “Red.”