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Robert Redford turns 80: Why is he so cool?by Chris Serico

Robert Redford celebrates his 80th birthday on Aug. 18. And let's face it: The guy is ridiculously cool.

Yes, he won an Academy Award for directing the 1980 movie "Ordinary People," but his trophy case isn't what makes him a favorite among fans and Hollywood A-listers alike.

The guy's an independent spirit.

We're not just talking about how he founded Sundance, America's largest indie film festival.

We're talking about the wanderlust of a college dropout. Before becoming a matinee idol, Redford backpacked through Europe and studied painting at New York City's Pratt Institute. "I've spent most of my life focused on the road ahead," Redford said while accepting an honorary Oscar in 2002.

He's also got swagger.

Without that confidence, he couldn't star in "Indecent Proposal" and make audiences wonder if accepting his character's $1 million offer to spend the night with one's spouse is worth consideration.

In addition to being a ladies' man in motion pictures, his on- and off-screen bromance with his "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" co-star Paul Newman is the stuff of legend. (The embedded clip of perhaps that movie's most iconic scene contains one word that's both NSFW and hilariously executed.)

Redford's a star-maker as a director, too. Thanks to his work behind the lens, the world found a new appreciation for his younger doppelgänger, Brad Pitt, in "A River Runs Through it." They'd collaborate again nine years later and bring double the handsome as stars of the thriller "Spy Game."

The same thing happened when Redford the director helped inspire a breakthrough performance from his young co-star, Scarlett Johansson, in "The Horse Whisperer." Sixteen years later, Redford re-teamed with Johansson as actors to face off in "Captain America: The Winter Soldier."

He's also been a passionate advocate for countless causes.

While being honored as a keynote speaker at a 2013 gala for Equality Utah, Redford allied himself with the LGBT community, and prided himself on Sundance's early inclusion of films made by and geared toward its members.

He's also a fierce environmentalist.

As a trustee of the Natural Resources Defense Council, he's advocated for measures and legislation in an effort to combat climate change.

During a 1986 interview on NBC's "Today," Redford reflected on his life as he approached his 50th birthday. "I can't relate to age," he said. "And I think so much is in the mind anyway. I don't really think much about it. I suspect I should, but I don't." Here's hoping he feels the same way at 80.