The truth behind that famous scene between Barbara Streisand and Robert Redford in ‘The Way We Were’

Robert Hofler’s book, ‘The Way They Were: How Epic Battles and Bruised Egos Brought a Classic Hollywood Love Story to the Screen,’ describes a variety of behind-the-scenes exclusives from the making of the film.

One of the claims made by the author regards a supposed crush on one star from another.

Robert Redford

Producer Ray Stark had a hard time filming the first sex scene between stars Rober Redford and Barabara Streisand for “The Way We Were.” The scene took two days to complete, which is much more time than was expected. 

In honor of the 50th anniversary of its release, Robert Hofler recently published a book about the 1973 making of the film:  “The Way They Were: How Epic Battles and Bruised Egos Brought a Classic Hollywood Love Story to the Screen.”

In the book, Hoefler explores how the classic 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.”

“Streisand asked for take after take with Redford atop her,” Hofler explained to Fox News Digital. “There’s no reason a scene like that should take two days. That’s how many takes there were. The movie was already going over budget and over schedule. Ray Stark was particularly upset that it took two days to film. The only thing I can think of in terms of why it took two days to film is because Barbra Streisand wanted to do take after take. Redford does nothing in the scene. He’s lying there asleep and at one point, he moves on top, kisses her on the neck and falls asleep.”

While the scene should not have taken nearly this long, Hoefler explains in the book that there may have been a not-so-secret reason for all of the retakes. The writer claims that Barabara was “infatuated” and “mesmerized” with Robert Redford. The actor reportedly called his role one of a “Ken doll” at one point as well.

“Various people on the set told me that Streisand had a mad crush on Redford, and in previous interviews, both [director] Sydney Pollack and [writer] Arthur Laurents said the same thing,” Hofler explained. 

“It was very obvious to everyone that she had a crush on him. One thing that I did in the book is that I talked about all the other actresses who co-starred with him, who also admitted to having crushes on him. Meryl Streep admitted to having a crush on him. She once said, ‘Robert Redford is the best kisser in Hollywood.’ Now, she’d already made several films with some great-looking guys. Natalie Wood also thought he was a gorgeous man.”

However, the actor never participated in anything salacious. Rumors implied that the same could not be said for Streisand.

“But by the time Redford worked with Streisand, he was a happily married man with four kids,” Hofler shared. “He was never one of those people you heard about, even in the grapevine, having affairs. He kept things extremely professional. And he didn’t even want to meet with Barbra in the first place. When it came to his films, he wanted everything to be spontaneous… It was also very well known in Hollywood that Barbra had affairs with her leading men. Not all of them, though. She loathed Walter Matthau in ‘Hello Dolly.’ They loathed each other.”

Obviously, Redford was a target of her affection, something that led to the lengthy amount of retakes in their sex scene. Hoeffler explained:

“But when it came to that love scene, Barbra asked for take after take. Robert finally gave a look to [director] Sydney Pollack — one that said, ‘I’ve had enough.'”

RENO, NV – OCTOBER 29: Actor Robert Redford during an interview on October 29,1969 in Reno, Nevada. (Photo by Santi Visalli/Getty Images)

According to the book, Redford wore “two athletic supporters” to “protect himself in more ways than one,” while Streisand “chose to don a bikini.”

However, Hoeffler explains that Redford did not wear these things as protection from his co-star. The author said:

“He didn’t use it to protect himself from her. Nowadays, you would have an intimacy coach… I did a book called ‘Sexplosion,’ which is about movies and novels that broke sexual taboos between 1968 and 1973. One of the movies I covered was ‘Midnight Cowboy.’ In Jon Voight’s bedroom scene, they glued something over his crotch. It was very gooey and supposedly a total mess.

“But there were all kinds of intimacy things that actors did. When it came to filming those types of scenes, there’s some kind of material that people used to protect themselves from each other, private-wise. I did an interview once with a very young actress. She’d never done a love scene before. There was a very famous actor — I won’t tell you who — but he said to her, ‘Don’t be offended if I’m aroused, and don’t be offended if I’m not aroused.’”

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Thankfully, things were not so uncomfortable between Redford and Streisand.

“… in the case of Redford and Streisand, the supporters were simply an intimacy thing even though Redford refuted it. But if you look at the scene, he could be wearing armor… And I thought it was kind of clever of Streisand… It was a very closed set. I talked to a couple of people who were there, and they just talked about it going on and on.”

In the second love scene between their characters, Redford was scripted to say the line, “It will be better this time.” The star reportedly refused to do this particular line, as he did not want the perception that he was untalented in bed.

“Through an email exchange, I asked him why he refused to say the line and Redford did not answer my question, although he answered several other questions,” said Hofler. “Again, Ray Stark was furious and wanted the scene reshot with the line clearly spoken, ‘It’ll be better this time,’ which the producer thought was ‘chivalrous’ of [the character] Hubbell. But by that time, Pollack had taken Redford’s position on the line, saying it was ‘superfluous.’ Previously, Pollack had found the line important. Laurents also found it important and freaked out in a memo about Redford’s refusal to say it.”

Robert Redford and wife Lola attend the 53rd Academy Awards circa 1981 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Bret Lundberg/IMAGES/Getty Images)

According to the book, Pollack was exhausted from his work on the film shortly after it began. Its two stars possessed undeniable chemistry, but Redford began the filming with major reservations about Streisand while the famed singer and actress often contacted the director with notes. 

“Streisand had this habit of calling Pollack every night to discuss what had happened that day and what they were going to do the next day,” Hofler explained. “He spoke very highly of Streisand, but he thought, ‘Can you just relax?’… And there was a bit of a tug-of-war between Redford and Streisand. He was reluctant to work with her. He didn’t think she had been tested as a dramatic actress. He also feared that she would be very controlling and end up directing the movie. He just didn’t want the film to be turned into a Barbra Streisand musical.”

Hoefler provides an additional anecdote for context in the book, saying, “I knew an actor from ‘Funny Girl’ who played the delivery boy who gives Streisand a bouquet at the train station before she sings ‘Don’t Rain on My Parade. He said it took three days to film his coming in and giving her a bouquet of roses… He said he’d never seen anyone so arrogant on set as Barbra Streisand.”

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Redford’s worries and objections centered on the script one other time.

“At the very end of the film in front of the Plaza Hotel, when Streisand pushed back the bangs on Redford’s forehead for the fourth and last time, Redford was supposed to say ‘gray,'” said Hofler. “But the word was clearly crossed out.”

Much like the star did not want to be seen as a bad lover, it appears he did not want to be portrayed as aging, either. 

Despite its challenges, “The Way We Were” went on to be a critical hit. Filmed with a $5 million budget, it grossed ten times that amount in the box office that year. In 1974, Streisand’s title song for the film was ranked as Billboard’s top single that year. The movie also ranked at spot number 6 in the American Film Institute’s list of top romantic movies.

Clearly, the conflicts among its stars did not hurt its success.

Robert Redford attends “conversation with” during the 18th Marrakech International Film Festival -Day Nine- on December 07, 2019 in Marrakech, Morocco. (Photo by Dominique Charriau/Getty Images)