Barbra Streisand recently shared in her memoir, “My Name is Barbra,” the story of how she persisted in casting Robert Redford in the 1973 romantic drama “The Way We Were,” despite his initial refusal. The film, directed by Sydney Pollack, starred Streisand and Redford as Katie and Hubbell, a couple who fall in love and navigate various political and historical events.
In her memoir, Streisand praised Redford, calling him “that rare combination… an intellectual cowboy… a charismatic star who is also one of the finest actors of his generation.” She appreciated his humility about his looks, which was something she found endearing.
However, Redford initially turned down the role of Hubbell. Streisand turned to Pollack, who was friends with Redford, for help in convincing him to take the part. Streisand wrote, “I have to give Sydney credit… He was as persistent as I was, because we both felt that only Redford would make the picture work.”
In her memoir, Streisand revealed that Redford had concerns about Hubbell’s character being underdeveloped and lacking depth. She quoted Redford as asking, “Who is this guy? He’s just an object… He doesn’t want anything. What does this guy want?” Redford saw the character as shallow and one-dimensional, not very real.
Determined to have Redford star opposite her, Streisand instructed Pollack to “give him whatever he wants” and hired two excellent writers, David Rayfiel and Alvin Sargent, to enhance Hubbell’s character. But even after these efforts, Redford’s answer remained no. Streisand was heartbroken.
Despite the initial refusal, Pollack and Streisand were granted one more week to change Redford’s mind. Eventually, Streisand received a telegram from Sue Mengers that simply said, “Barbra Redford!” This message confirmed that Redford had finally agreed to take the role, and Streisand was thrilled. The courtship had been tough, but Redford’s reluctance influenced the script, resulting in a richer and more interesting character for Hubbell.
Barbra Streisand’s memoir, “My Name Is Barbra,” will be available starting November 7.