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How The Internet Learned ‘The Nodding Man’ Meme Is Actually Robert Redford, And Why Everyone’s Freaking Out

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One of the most famous memes on the Internet has been lying to us the whole time. You have probably seen it before: the “slow-mo” video of a man with scruffy blond hair, a burly beard, and kind eyes. The video zooms in on his face and he slowly nods, comforting us and letting us know we did a good job. The meme has affectionately been referred to as “The Nodding Man” meme.

For years, everyone thought the meme featured actor Zach Galifianakis. That’s why in July 2019 it came as a shock when people discovered the man isn’t Galifianakis but instead esteemed actor Robert Redford. Once people discovered the real identity behind the meme, they couldn’t help but share their thoughts on social media.

But First, Who’s Robert Redford?

Robert Redford has managed to continually grasp people’s attention since he began acting in the late 1950s. He appeared in mostly forgettable films throughout the mid-1960s, with the cult favorite The Chase and the film adaptation of Barefoot in the Park being exceptions. But the turning point of his career was when he starred with icon Paul Newman in the 1969 western, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, as well as the 1973 Academy Award-winning western, The Sting. 

In the 1970s, Redford became a Hollywood heartthrob, stealing hearts while starring alongside Barbara Streisand in The Way We Were. He was an obvious choice to portray Jay Gatsby in the 1974 adaptation of The Great Gatsby, and he proved to be equally compelling in All the President’s Men and Out of Africa, starring opposite Meryl Streep. Regarded as one of the best actors of all time, Redford, now 82, is still making movies and impressing fans with his ever-so-classy performances.

The Film In Question

While Redford is known for many films, people were recently discussing his 1972 adventure drama, Jeremiah Johnson. In the film, Redford plays a Mexican-American War veteran, who heads to the mountains to live in isolation. He learns the necessary survival skills from a seasoned mountain man [Will Geer].


Because he looks like a mountain man, that’s why Redford looks almost unrecognizable in the now-viral meme. People were confident the man was actually The Hangover trilogy star Galifianakis. So, they were shocked to learn they had been wrong the entire time. If you look closely, Galifianakis and Redford don’t look anything alike and fans don’t know how they confused the two actors. Of course, fans discussed the meme on Twitter and it quickly became a viral topic.

Going Viral

It didn’t take long for the topic to go viral on Twitter in July 2019. Once people discovered “The Nodding Man” is actually Redford, they had to share the news with others. One user (@YouGotSnowd) shared, “I just found out that this gif is Robert Redford and I am shooketh.” She couldn’t believe it was Redford the whole time, except she didn’t think it was Galifianakis. Instead, she thought it was a random man, not a famous celebrity.

While some users were shocked the meme features Redford, others were upset people confused Redford with Galifianakis in the first place. One user (@SamRossiOH) commented, “There were, in fact, movies before 2002, people. And, yes, several of them were quite good.” Another user (@poniewozik) asked, “Do you people not watch movies?” If you’re a movie fan, you should know the difference between the two stars.

Scaring Fans

While the meme became a viral topic, more people were confused about why Redford’s name was trending on Twitter. For many fans, they were immediately worried the elderly actor had passed away. Users commented that they almost had a heart attack, but then sighed with relief when they learned he is alive and healthy. They pleaded to other Twitter users never to scare them again. Fans who fantasized about him in the 1970s and ‘80s aren’t ready to say goodbye to him just yet.

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