The 1973 film The Way We Were, based on the book of the same title, featured two of the biggest movie stars of all time, Robert Redford and Barbra Streisand. Celebrating the 50th anniversary of the film’s debut, critic and author Robert Hofler released a book detailing many behind-the-scenes secrets about the making of the movie: The Way They Were: How Epic Battles and Bruised Egos Brought a Classic Hollywood Love Story to the Screen.
The book claims that the film was “a nightmare to make, with a difficult cast, a jumbled plot about mismatched partners, countless delays and rewrites, on-set tensions between everyone involved, difficulties at every step of the production, the skyrocketing demands of Ms. Streisand, a leading man who happily ditched premieres on both coasts and mixed critical reviews.”
One of the craziest revelations from the book was Redford’s alleged attempt to keep things professional between him and his female co-star during intimate scenes.
Redford had apprehensions about being in the film
Redford had apprehensions about signing on to star in the film. It took director Sydney Pollack eight weeks of convincing before Redford agreed to become the leading man. Actor Ryan O’Neal was almost up for the role as a result of Redford’s resistance.
Even when he did agree, Redford still questioned things about the film, including having Streisand as his co-star. Hofler quotes Redford as saying, “She’s not going to sing, is she? I [don’t] want her to sing in the middle of the movie,” referring to her strong musical theater background.
Hofler claims working with Streisand had its complications
When they first started shooting, it was clear there was a spark between the two actors that meant the film was going to be a success. However, filming was not without its issues. To begin, each actor had their own style in which they preferred to act. Redford preferred to ace a shot in one take. The first was his strongest, then “maybe the second, rarely the third, never the fourth,” Hofler wrote. “From there, he tended to lose energy and concentration.”
Streisand, however, was the complete opposite. Streisand liked to redo takes over and over, ensuring that they made the scene perfect. Pollack said she “had never worked with a really strong leading man,” and that 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 co-star to stay in the same ring with her.” During one scene, Redford lost his patience with her and looked at Pollack who had to tell Streisand, “I think we’ve got it.”
Redford doubled up on his undies
Streisand also had a reputation for her romantic relationships with co-stars. She “was a star who reportedly had affairs with many of her leading men.” While filming with Redford, she apparently became “infatuated” with him. This was problematic, considering he was “a happily married family man with four children when he signed to do ‘The Way We Were,'” Hofler explained.
While filming the steamier scenes, Hofler claims that Redford actually wore two layers of underwear to try and keep things professional. Producer Ray Stark had wanted to keep the film as clean as possible so that it could reach a larger audience. He didn’t even want a “heavily shadowed [intimate] scene.”
Redford wore his “two athletic supporters” while Streisand wore a bikini. Still, filming the intimate scenes was a struggle and in the end editor John Burnett was said to be “amazed at how much footage he had to work with to put together the simple [bedroom] scene.”
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Despite what seems to have been a difficult movie to film, Redford and Streisand maintained a strong friendship for decades.