THE WAY YOU ARE: Why Robert Redford didn't want to work with Barbra Streisand in iconic 'The Way We Were'

THE WAY YOU ARE: Why Robert Redford didn't want to work with Barbra Streisand in iconic 'The Way We Were'
Barbra Streisand and Robert Redford in 'The Way We Were' 1973 (elisa biagianti/Youtube)

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA: In an oral history session, director Sydney Pollack recalled Robert Redford expressing his reservations about working with Barbra Streisand because of her rumored "controlling" reputation on the set of the classic romance 'The Way We Were' in 1973. The couple, five decades later, are good friends today. 

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According to Robert Hofler’s 'The Way They Were: How Epic Battles and Bruised Egos Brought a Classic Hollywood Love Story to the Screen', Redford told Pollack, "She has never been tested. Her reputation is as a very controlling person. She will direct herself. It’ll never work." While director Pollack died in 2008, author Hofler compiled years of past interviews for his book. The book goes on sale on January 24, 2023. 

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"Barbra had never worked with a really strong leading man," Pollack said. "She has a tendency to take over a picture, just by the size of her talent and larger-than-life presence. It’s hard for a costar to stay in the same ring with her." According to Pollack, only Redford could go together with the star. "In acting, you have to sense that there’s a reserve somewhere, that you’re seeing the top of the iceberg," Pollack said. "Redford makes you come to him as a performer. He holds his ground, and you either enter his turf or you don’t get it. Period. He will not court you. I spent literally eight months beating him to death in order to get him to do it. I would not let him off the hook."

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Redford was also concerned with Streisand’s musical background, saying, "She’s not going to sing, is she? I [don’t] want her to sing in the middle of the movie." While Streisand and the director were determined to get Redford to commit to the role, the studio and producer Ray Stark pushed for Ryan O’Neal. Streisand said, "Ray Stark seemed to think that any blond actor would do, but I wouldn’t give up on Redford."

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Oscar Winner Robert Redford Poses For A Photograph With Actress Barbra Streisand After He Received An Honorary Award From The Board Of Governors Of The Academy Of Motion Picture Arts And Sciences, Backstage At The 74Th Annual Academy Awards March 24, 2002 At The Kodak Theater In Hollywood, Ca.
Oscar Winner Robert Redford Poses For A Photograph With Actress Barbra Streisand After He Received An Honorary Award From The Board Of Governors Of The Academy Of Motion Picture Arts And Sciences, Backstage At The 74Th Annual Academy Awards March 24, 2002 At The Kodak Theater In Hollywood, Ca. (Photo By Getty Images)

The popularity of 'The Way We Were' sparked speculation of a follow-up movie, with Redford and Streisand supposedly receiving $8 million each for the project. The sequel, 'The Way We Changed' was written by Arthur Laurents and focused on Redford's bond with his daughter. But Redford claimed that he was done playing Hubbell. Redford stated, "I didn't, but Barbra did," in regards of wanting to make a sequel.

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Streisand said, "It’s a powerful love story, and the sequel was important to me because these characters were so compelling. I wanted to know how their lives unfolded and I envisioned a story in which their daughter, now in college and politically active herself, inadvertently brings them back together. Both have changed in ways that make them more aligned politically, while their feelings for each other remain the same, so it’s inevitable that they reconnect. I still regret that we didn’t make it."

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