Entertainment

Robert Redford's son James dies at 58 after liver cancer battle


James Redford – son of acting legend Robert Redford – has died at the age of 58 following a battle with liver cancer. 

Wife Kyle confirmed that he died on Friday at his home in Marin County, California, of bile-duct cancer, which he had been battling since November last year.

Redford had a history of liver problems stemming from rare auto-immune disease primary sclerosing cholangitis, which saw him have two transplants in the 1990s.

Two years ago he was told the disease had returned, and last year the decision was made to undergo a third transplant. 

While having a scan ahead of the transplant, doctors discovered the cancer.

Kyle paid tribute to her husband, saying she is ‘heartbroken’, praising his ‘beautiful, impactful life’ and adding that ‘he will be missed’.

‘As his wife of 32 yrs, I’m most grateful for the two spectacular children we raised. I don’t know what we would’ve done w/o them over the past 2yrs,’ she added.

Meanwhile a spokesman for father Robert said: ‘The grief is immeasurable with the loss of a child. Jamie was a loving son, husband and father.  

Gone too soon: James Redford - son of acting legend Robert Redford - had died at the age of 58 following a liver cancer battle, as the father and son are seen in December 2018

Gone too soon: James Redford – son of acting legend Robert Redford – had died at the age of 58 following a liver cancer battle, as the father and son are seen in December 2018

'He lived a beautiful life': On Monday morning his wife, Kyle, took to Twitter by posting a gallery of photos of the filmmaker and activist to commemorate his life

‘He lived a beautiful life’: On Monday morning his wife, Kyle, took to Twitter by posting a gallery of photos of the filmmaker and activist to commemorate his life

Celebrities including Mark Ruffalo and Kiefer Sutherland paid tribute to Redford on Twitter as news of his death spread

Celebrities including Mark Ruffalo and Kiefer Sutherland paid tribute to Redford on Twitter as news of his death spread

‘His legacy lives on through his children, art, filmmaking and devoted passion to conservation and the environment.’

She added that the actor is ‘mourning with his family during this difficult time and asks for privacy.’ 

Celebrities including Mark Ruffalo and Kiefer Sutherland also paid tribute, describing him as ‘great, sweet and kind’ and ‘a wonderful writer and a wonderful man’. 

James has two children with Kyle – 29-year-old actor son Dylan and actress Lena – and they were featured in a couple of photos in the tribute gallery. 

His struggles with health had began from childhood as he received two liver transplants in 1993.

Inspired by the experience, he founded the James Redford Institute For Transplant Awareness in 1995 to produce films aimed at educating people about transplants.

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In 1999, he helped to produce a documentary entitled The Kindness of Strangers about the impact that transplants have on donors, recipients, and their families.

Directed by best friend Maro Chermayeff, the film screened at the Sundance Film Festival – founded by James’s father – to publicity and acclaim. 

In 2005, along with his father, he founded The Redford Center which aims to produce films and give grants to filmmakers working around the issue of climate change and the environment.  

Robert Redford and his son James attend a screening of Spin screening at the AFI Fest in 2003

Robert Redford and his son James attend a screening of Spin screening at the AFI Fest in 2003

Family first: James has two children with Kyle - 29-year-old actor son Dylan and actress Lena (seen second from left) - as they were featured in a couple of photos in the tribute gallery; James, Lena, Robert, and Amy Redford are seen left to right in December 2017

Family first: James has two children with Kyle – 29-year-old actor son Dylan and actress Lena (seen second from left) – as they were featured in a couple of photos in the tribute gallery; James, Lena, Robert, and Amy Redford are seen left to right in December 2017

'Together we will carry forward': He later founded non-profit The Redford Center with his father Robert which has the goal of producing films and even providing grants to filmmakers who focus in on the environment and climate in hopes of finding a solution to climate change as director Jill Tidman shared this tribute on Monday

‘Together we will carry forward’: He later founded non-profit The Redford Center with his father Robert which has the goal of producing films and even providing grants to filmmakers who focus in on the environment and climate in hopes of finding a solution to climate change as director Jill Tidman shared this tribute on Monday

Jamie with his mother Lola Van Wagenen and father Robert in New York City in 1969

Jamie with his mother Lola Van Wagenen and father Robert in New York City in 1969

Executive director of the charity, Jill Tidman, also shared the news of his passing on Instagram writing: ‘It is with profound sadness that we grieve the loss of James Redford, our Co-Founder, our inspiration and our friend.’

‘With Jamie came love and contagious joy. He approached everything he did with kindness and warmth, and an openness that spread itself easily among others.

‘Jamie worked tirelessly to build a healthier world for us all, and particularly for those most in need of support.

‘He always led with his enormous heart and was guided by his curiosity and creative spirit. He was a fierce protector of the natural world and believed that everyone deserved a healthy environment in which they could thrive and play.’

James – whose mother is Lola Van Wagenen – knew from a young age that his life would lead him into film making, but he eschewed the big-budget Hollywood movies that his father was known for, in favor of films tackling social issues.

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Speaking about his father’s legacy and the expectations it placed on him in 2003, he said: ‘I’ve grown up with a sense that there’s always a preconception.

‘Over time, I’ve just learned to shrug it off. … I just am who I am.’  

Tremendous trio: Ever the family man, his first documentary was released in 2012 - titled The Big Picture: Rethinking Dyslexia - and was inspired by his son Dylan's struggles with dyslexia in high school; James, Robert, and Dylan are seen left to right at the premiere of the film in New York back in October 2012

Tremendous trio: Ever the family man, his first documentary was released in 2012 – titled The Big Picture: Rethinking Dyslexia – and was inspired by his son Dylan’s struggles with dyslexia in high school; James, Robert, and Dylan are seen left to right at the premiere of the film in New York back in October 2012

Robert skis with his son in Utah in 1969. James had suffered with his health since childhood

Robert skis with his son in Utah in 1969. James had suffered with his health since childhood

In 2012, after years working behind the scenes, James took on his first directorial role with the release of documentary The Big Picture: Rethinking Dyslexia.

The film was inspired by his son, Dylan, and his battles with dyslexia in high school. 

What is primary sclerosing cholangitis?

Primary sclerosing cholangitis is a rare liver condition which affects the bile ducts and gallbladder.

Bile ducts inside and outside the liver become progressively smaller due to inflammation and scarring of the ducts, though the cause is unknown.

The condition often occurs alongside other intestinal conditions including IBS and ulcerative colitis, and there is no specific treatment.

Symptoms can be mild and include itching and abdominal discomfort, but may become severe and include jaundice and fever, shaking or chills.

The disease can lead to cirrhosis of the liver and liver failure, while also increasing the likelihood of various liver cancers.

The following year he produced two more films – Toxic Hot Seat, which examined health problems caused by flame-retardant chemicals used in furniture; and Paper Tigers, which focused on school discipline reform.

Toxic Hot Seat was credited with a change in California law barring the use of such chemicals, which expanded nationwide, after they were found to cause cancer.

The film also inspired a change to the way California firefighters received health care benefits when they contracted cancer from exposure to such chemicals. 

In 2016, his film Resilience looked at the impact of stress on people’s lives, in 2017 he released  Happening: A Clean Energy Revolution about renewable energy, and his most recent film, Playing for Keeps, was released this year.

The film examines the health benefits of play time, for children and adults.

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James was working on another film, Where the Past Begins, that was about the immigrant journey of author Amy Tan, when he died. 

Born in 1962 seven weeks premature, Robert said that doctors had given James just a 40 per cent chance of survival, but he ‘hung in’.

James then developed more health problems as a teenager, which were first misdiagnosed as irritable bowel syndrome, and then as ulcerative colitis.

He collapsed in 1981 of what doctors then thought was a colitis attack, before moving to Chicago with then-girlfriend Kyle Smith, who he had met at the University of Colorado while studying film and creative writing.

There, he was diagnosed with sclerosis cholangitis, an autoimmune disease that had damaged his liver, and was told he was eligible for a liver transplant.

James and Kyle married in 1988, earned his Master’s degree in literature, and the couple relocated to Denver where he launched a career as a screenwriter.

In 1993, he received the first of what turned out to be two liver transplants, after the first one failed, sparking a scramble for a second.

Robert (left) hugs his son James (right) at a movie screening in 2003

Robert (left) hugs his son James (right) at a movie screening in 2003

Bond: James and father Robert seen at the HBO premiere of The Kindness Of Strangers  in September 1999

Bond: James and father Robert seen at the HBO premiere of The Kindness Of Strangers  in September 1999

Anxious to give his son ‘something to hang in for’, Robert arranged for him to become a screenwriter on a film adaptation of Tony Hillerman’s detective novel Skinwalkers, which was eventually released in 2002.

Following the release of documentary The Kindness of Strangers in 1999, James scored his first independent screenwriting credit on Cowboy Up, starring Kiefer Sutherland and Daryl Hannah.

James made his directing debut in 2003 with Spin – a fictional film about an interracial romance, which he also wrote.

He and Kyle eventually settled in California, though since a recurrence of his liver disease two years ago, had been living in Arizona while awaiting a transplant.

Redford is survived by his wife, Kyle, and two children, Dylan and Lena; his parents, Robert Redford and the historian Lola Van Wagenen; his stepmother, the painter Sibylle Szaggars Redford; his stepfather, George Burrill; and his sisters, painter Shauna Redford Schlosser and filmmaker Amy Redford. 

An older brother, Scott, died in infancy. 



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