Director Sydney Pollack, Barbra Streisand and Robert Redford
But half a century after its release, two riveting new books expose the behind-the-scenes nightmare, with Redford desperate to walk out on the film, Streisand’s diva demands, a muddled plot, countless delays and rewrites, on-set tensions, and a director. exhausted that he cut 15 minutes of the film overnight.
Even the movie’s title song, which hit the top of music charts around the world, was scrapped by the producers who thought it didn’t fit the movie.
“The Way We Were has set the standard for romantic movies for three generations,” says Tom Santopietro, whose book, The Way We Were, is out this month in the US and is coming to Britain in March.
“It works because it’s a story of opposites attraction and because everyone can relate to someone who falls for the wrong person in a romance that doesn’t work out.
“There’s a natural desire for a happy ending, but The Way We Were ends on a very bittersweet note that resonates with audiences. But the movie almost didn’t get done. So many obstacles got in the way.”
The film was written as a showcase for Streisand in 1972, fresh off her breakout role in Funny Girl. Producer Ray Stark envisioned it as a musical film in which Streisand would play a voice teacher who trains a blind children’s choir in Brooklyn, New York.
This is not how it ended. The Way We Were follows the unlikely romance between the raucous Jewish Marxist activist Katie Morosky and the seemingly unattainable and devastatingly handsome white Anglo-Saxon Protestant novelist Hubbell Gardiner.
MATCH BREAKER: She expected a real romance, she thought she talked too much
They meet in college in 1937, meet again and fall in love in 1944, divorce in the 1950s amid the communist Red Scare witch-hunt, and when they finally meet again in the 1960s, they poignantly reminisce about what they were like and the love they lost .
“Robert Redford really didn’t want to make this movie,” says Robert Hfler, whose own book, The Way They Were, is out Jan. 26.
“She repeatedly turned him down for eight months straight. She felt that she was a Barbra Streisand vehicle and that her character was just a ‘Ken Doll,’ a pretty face with no substance.”
In fact, Redford called the original script “garbage”.
As the film’s long-suffering director Sydney Pollack recalled, Redford “didn’t like the script, he didn’t like the character, he didn’t like the concept of the film, he didn’t think the politics and the love story mixed. There was nothing he liked.”
Redford considered his role as Hubbell as “a weak, spineless male sex object”. But intimidated by Pollack, who promised major rewrites, he finally relented, admitting, “I took the part on faith.”
Streisand enjoyed top billing, but Redford had the higher salary: $1.2 million versus $1 million. Streisand may also have hoped for a real-life romance with Pollack confirming: “She had a crush on him.”
She would be disappointed.
Screenwriter Arthur Laurents, who had written the book for the Broadway hits West Side Story and Gypsy, was fired after refusing to make changes to the script. And Columbia Pictures, struggling financially, wasn’t sure whether to make a movie that had been turned down by other studios.
A Columbia executive chided Pollack: “You’re going to make a movie where Barbra plays a Jewish communist and she doesn’t sing a note. Are you trying to destroy this company?”
The studio went into a frenzy when the film went over budget with additional location shooting and a series of 11 new writers trying to salvage the plot.
“No one had faith in the image,” Pollack confessed.
With the script in disarray and its stars miserable, Arthur Laurents was rehired to repair the damage. Redford, unhappy that every shot was ignited to make Streisand look better at his expense, snubbed Laurents and did not speak to him again for ten years.
As the film’s troubles spiraled, Streisand’s diva style was in full swing.
Oscar-winning costume designer Dorothy Jeakins quit after creating most of Streisand’s 56 costumes, which the star approved, then rejected, then approved revised versions, then changed her mind again.
Filming began in Schenectady, in upstate New York.
When shooting began in Schenectady, in upstate New York, Streisand stayed in a large Victorian rental house; Redford and Pollack stayed at a modest Holiday Inn. Redford likened filming to “doing overtime in Dachau,” says Santopietro.
“They had opposite approaches to filming,” explains Hofler. “Streisand discussed and analyzed every line, talking late into the night. Redford hated rehearsing and discussing scenes, preferring the spontaneity.”
Redford complained that: “Barbra talked and talked and talked and it drove me crazy.” In fact, she talked so much that her co-star nicknamed her “Blah-Blah.”
One of the film’s biggest hits was its title song, The Way We Were.
Unknown 29-year-old composer Marvin Hamlisch wrote the song to specifications, and even then the studio asked him to write a second version because they thought his original was “too simple”. Sung by Streisand, it won an Oscar and became the biggest hit of 1974, eventually selling more than two million copies.
“It’s right up there with Over the Rainbow, As Time Goes By, and Moon River as one of the best songs in the movies,” says Hofler. “But Redford didn’t want her to sing: he didn’t want to be in a Barbra Streisand musical.”
After all its production problems, the film’s success seemed unlikely. The audience at the first test screening was so bored by the film’s many political scenes about communist witch-hunts and Hollywood blacklisting that, overnight, Pollack and producer Ray Stark brutally cut 15 minutes. movie.
“The public just wanted the love story,” says Santipietro. “But the cuts made much of the plot pointless.”
Streisand advocated for the scenes to be reinstated, but was turned down: a decision that ultimately led her to make her own films, saying, “I directed because I couldn’t be heard.” Says Hofler, “Even today, Barbra is furious, and scenes were cut that explained why Katie divorced Hubbell.
“They cut the scene showing that she divorced him to save him from the Hollywood blacklist and instead made it look like she left because he had a one-night stand with another woman.”
Reviews were mixed, but the film broke box office records and earned six Academy Award nominations, including one for Streisand, now 80. The film won Oscars for Best Song and Best Original Score.
Reviews were mixed, but the film broke box office records.
“Redford didn’t attend any of the film’s New York or Los Angeles premieres,” says Hofler. “He told me that he drove to the New York premiere, he saw all the commotion and kept driving.”
Three sequel scripts were written, and Streisand laments, “We tried for 20 years to make the sequel, but now it’s too late to do it.” Redford, now 86, stated: “I’m not a big fan of sequels. The Way We Were: I think it should be left alone.”
Despite all the battles, the film was a lasting success. “Streisand and Redford are one of the best screen couples, along with Bogart and Bacall, and Elizabeth Taylor with Montgomery Clift,” says Hofler.
“The Way We Were is in the top five romantic movies of all time with Casablanca and Gone with the Wind. I think 50 years from now we will still be talking about it.”
- Robert Hofler’s The Way They Were (Citadel, £26.99) is out on 26 January. The Way We Were: The Making of a Romantic Classic by Tom Santopietro (Applause, £28) is published on Applause on March 15
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