Marin snapshot: Two liver transplants spurred James Redford to help others
James Redford, 47, the son of actor Robert Redford and his former wife Lola Van Wagenen, received two life-saving liver transplants in 1993 after a rare complication to ulcerative colitis blocked his own liver's bile ducts. Redford, a screenwriter who has lived in Fairfax for the past 13 years with his wife and two children, founded the James Redford Institute for Transplant Awareness in 1995 and recently participated with his father and sister in creating the Redford Center in Berkeley, a nonprofit designed to promote positive social and environmental change through the arts.
Q: You were 25 when you were told you would need a liver transplant within the next several years. How did you react?
A: I felt like I was headed for the underworld. I didn't think I was going to die but I thought that a transplant would render me sort of half alive. I went into denial for a little bit and tried all kinds of different alternative therapies. I don't think they had a sense then how well people would do.
Q: You waited seven months for your first transplant?
A: In fact, I was hospitalized for internal infections and bad fevers when I was transplanted.
Q: And then the first transplant failed due to blood clot?
A: That's when I really came close. My mom was worried. But after the second one everything went well and it has been smooth sailing ever since. Every once in a while I have an episode of rejection and I have to adjust my meds a little bit.
Q: Why did you start the Institute for Transplant Awareness?
A: I felt when I came back out of the whole thing now I was a different person. No one gave any thought to the miracle of the donor family. Think about it. You're in a hospital. A loved one has just been injured in an accident; they've gotten a head injury that causes brain death. The idea that people say yes at that moment, which has to be the worst in anybody's life, is unbelievable. So I went about starting a nonprofit with the goal of creating content to celebrate the true story of organ donation.
Q: Are you working on any film projects?
A: I just finished a short film called "Bad Dad," starring Jason Patric and some Marin County kids are in it. We shot it here in Fairfax. I'll send it to film festivals this summer. I've got a new mystery I'm shopping around, and I'm writing some television pilots.
Q: In addition to writing, you also play guitar with a band called the Phat Barbees?
A: I also play in another band with Stefanie Coyote, Peter Coyote's wife. She's the lead singer.
Q: Speaking of dads, is it true that you once discovered a poster of your father in the bedroom of a girl you were dating?
A: Eighth grade. There are weird moments. It's definitely a different reality in some ways. I'm so grateful I grew up when I did and not today. To be a celebrity offspring today is a unique curse, given the blogosphere and the Internet.