Robert Redford’s old pal and ex-roommate Jack Brendlinger tells Closer Weekly that before the movie star found fame, he was kicked out of his college and struggled to find his way.

Brendlinger palled around with Robert for a year and a half at college, traveled with him in Europe for several months, then roomed with him in LA. In those days, Robert had no real interest in acting, much less fame, Brendlinger tells Closer.

“He didn’t know what to do with himself,” Brendlinger tells Closer. “At times he was quite moody. He was struggling with his existence.”

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Robert in 1970.

Robert’s identity crisis coincided with the unexpected death of his mom in 1955. “He was devastated,” Brendlinger says of Robert. Robert turned to booze to ease his pain, and his drinking got him kicked out of the university.

Brendlinger joined him as he jetted off to Europe, where they hit jazz clubs in Paris and lived in a mansion on the beach in Majorca, Spain; Robert also studied art in Florence, Italy.

MORE: Robert Redford Is Retiring From Acting — Find out Why!

“We often questioned what we were going to do with ourselves when we got home,” Brendlinger tells Closer. “We thought the film industry was a good idea, and Bob wanted to be a storyboard artist.”

“We showed up in 1957 with our long hair and beards, and the landlady immediately hated us,” laughs Brendlinger. “She warned the guys to stay away from four young women from Provo, Utah, who’d moved in upstairs.”

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Robert in The Sting.

That backfired, of course. “After two or three get-togethers, Bob started dating Lola Van Wagenen, whom he later married, and I started dating Marsha, who’s still my wife,” says Brendlinger, author of Don’t Get Mad, Get Even: Stories of the Aspen Practical Joke Years.

MORE: Go Inside Robert Redford and Paul Newman’s 40-Year Friendship

Still, Brendlinger has fond memories of the old days and went to the star’s 80th birthday party last year, where he met up with Robert’s second wife, Sibylle Szaggars. “When we were together, Bob was a phenomenal pal,” he says. “He’d do anything for you.”

For more on Robert, pick up the latest issue of Closer Weekly, on newsstands now!

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