Robert Redford received his only acting nomination for portraying Johnny Hooker in The Sting.
Robert Redford's only Oscar nominated performance is one of those oddities, since one usually says Robert Redford was only nominated once, and for this film. It is most certainly a lightweight role, and not really the traditional type of role that one really is usually Oscar nominated for. Just due to the fact there is not bearing of soul to be found here, but rather just a leading man going through a plot.
That does not exactly mean his performance is bad though, since if someone is a great leading man, they deserve all the praise they can get, I can't really say Redford is a great leading man in this film though, not a bad though either. His performance just is not really all that charismatic just, or entertaining to watch, and frankly the show really is stolen right out from under him. It is not that he is not fine as Johnny Hooker, he is charming enough, and easy enough to follow through the plot, but really he never does more than enough. The problem really is that I feel the likes of Robert Shaw as the villain Lonnegan, and Paul Newman as the more experienced conman Henry Gondorff give far more interesting and effective performances with less overall screen time.
Redford is believable in the part as the young con man learning the ropes, and trying to pull off the big con, he realistic enough in his reactions to the various situations he finds himself in at the different phases of the con. Although he is never amazing or all that interesting, nor is he really ever boring or wooden either. This really is not a bad performance by any means, yes he could have been the scene stealer but he just wasn't. The film works fine really with the other characters around him being more entertaining and interesting frankly. I think he did not really need to be nominated though, especially since really if they wanted to nominate a performance from the film there were two much better choices than he. Its not great its not bad, its fine in the context of the film.