"She's younger than I am, and European, which I like," the actor says of German-born artist Sibylle Szaggars

By Tim Nudd
January 21, 2011 07:00 AM

Robert Redford is about as ruggedly American as actors get. But his German-born second wife is giving him a whole new perspective.

“She’s a very special person,” Redford, 74, says of his artist wife of two years, Sibylle Szaggars, in the March/April issue of AARP The Magazine. “She’s younger than I am [in her early 50s], and European, which I like, so that’s a whole new life.”

If new love is helping Redford stay young, so is his renowned love of the outdoors, which is hardly diminished as he navigates his eighth decade.

“I ride horses, ski, play pretty hard tennis,” he says. “I still have energy. When that starts to shut down, I might start to think about age.”

The famously press-shy Redford, who admits he’s “never interested in talking about myself,” nonetheless opens up elsewhere in the interview about several painful episodes in his past – in particular, the death of his infant son Scott of SIDS in 1959, and his own mother’s death at age 40 after a difficult pregnancy, when Redford was a teenager.

“It was really hard,” Redford says dealing with Scott’s death with his first wife, Lola. “We were very young … We didn’t know anything about SIDS, so the only thing you think is that you’ve done something wrong. As a parent, you tend to blame yourself. That creates a scar that probably never completely heals.”

Of his mother’s death, Redford says: “It seemed so unfair. But, in an odd way, it freed me to go off on my own, which I’d wanted to do for a long time.”

Redford is still working and planning to make more movies, both as an actor and a director. And he believes he brings a new perspective to his work these days.

“When you get older, you learn certain life lessons,” he says. “You apply that wisdom, and suddenly you say, ‘Hey, I’ve got a new lease on this thing. So let’s go.’ ”