Barbra Streisand looks back on how she convinced Robert Redford to star in the 1973 film The way we were after turning it down twice.
The romantic drama follows an unlikely couple, Katie Morosky (Streisand) and Hubbell Gardiner (Redford), who fall in love despite political and historical events. The couple must navigate their relationship while trying to overcome basic societal beliefs.
In an excerpt from her upcoming memoir: My name is Barbrain Vanity fairthe actress-singer talks about what she and director Sydney Pollack went through to get Redford to star opposite Streisand.
“Bob is that rare combination…an intellectual cowboy…a charismatic star who is also one of the best actors of his generation,” she wrote. “But like my husband, he’s almost apologetic about his appearance, and I liked that about him.”
Streisand continued, “So I wanted Redford for Hubbell. But he turned it down.”
Then she asked Pollack for help because she knew he was so close to Redford.
“I have to give credit to Sydney. He was as persistent as I was, because we both felt that only Redford would make the film work,” Streisand wrote. “It’s just like playing tennis… I knew that if I faced a strong player, my own game would improve.”
But Streisand explained in her memoir that she discovered that one of the reasons Redford didn’t want the role was because he felt “the script was so focused on Katie that Hubbell’s character was underdeveloped.” (He was right.)”
The segment continued: “Bob asked Sydney, “Who is this man? He is just an object…. He doesn’t want anything. What is this guy doing want to?’ According to Bob, he was “shallow and one-dimensional.” Not very realistic.’ “A reverse pin-up girl,” as Sydney put it.
Streisand knew Redford was meant for the role, so she told Pollack to give him everything he wanted: “Write more scenes to strengthen his character.” Make it even.” They even hired two writers, David Rayfiel and Alvin Sargent, to expand Hubbell.
“But Bob’s answer was still no. I was devastated,” she wrote.
Although producer Ray Stark wanted to move on and hire someone else, Streisand said Pollack begged for another week to try to convince Redford.
“I told Ray to give it to him and kept praying. The negotiations went to the wire. I was in the middle of filming Into the sandbox in Africa, and one day I received a telegram from Sue Mengers that simply said, ‘Barbra Redford!’” Streisand wrote in her memoir. “Then I knew he had finally said yes… and I was so happy!”
She added: “The courtship had been tough, but Bob’s reluctance had a major impact on the script and ultimately resulted in a richer, more interesting character.”
The film went on to win two Oscars, including best original song for “The Way We Were,” which Streisand sang, and best original dramatic score.
Streisand’s memoirs My name is Barbra hits shelves on November 7.