While portraying the infamous real-life outlaws Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, actors Paul Newman and Robert Redford formed a close bond, although it’s worth noting that during filming, Paul Newman did harbor some resentful feelings toward the young Robert Redford.
Their ability to convincingly portray the Wild West companions, Newman as Robert LeRoy Parker, alias “Butch Cassidy,” and Redford as Harry Longabaugh, known as the “Sundance Kid,” truly showcased their acting prowess. The duo brought to life the tales of these notorious criminals who evaded the law while engaging in a series of bank and train heists.
The cinematic masterpiece released in 1969 chronicling the escapades of these real-life outlaws secured four coveted Oscars and endures as one of the finest Westerns ever crafted. Four years later, the two handsome heartthrobs teamed up again for another heist-themed movie, “The Sting” (1973).
Paul Newman and Robert Redford, both revered legends in the entertainment industry, collaborated to create enchanting cinematic magic. Yet, have you ever pondered the dynamics of their relationship off-screen? In a candid conversation with BBC’s Talking Pictures, Newman shared, “We have a lot of fun together, we bounce off each other real well.” He went on, “I would have preferred to have played Sundance. I feel a little more comfortable with that cooled-out kind of quality. I suppose it’s the easier part!”
Robert Redford, a rising star, had already gained recognition for his role alongside Natalie Wood in the 1965 film “Inside Daisy Clover,” which earned him a Golden Globe for New Star of the Year. Paul Newman, on the other hand, had attained superstar status through appearances in notable films like “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” with Elizabeth Taylor (1958) and “Cool Hand Luke” (1967).
Interestingly, Robert Redford came into the role of the Sundance Kid when Steve McQueen turned it down. McQueen would later decline roles in films like “Dirty Harry” (1971), “The French Connection” (1971), and “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” (1975). This decision led to Redford playing alongside Newman, who was not only garnering awards for acting but also directing.
According to Newman’s biography, “The Extraordinary Life of an Ordinary Man: A Memoir,” as reported by the BBC, the two actors weren’t particularly close friends during that time. Newman candidly mentioned, “You can’t depend on Redford. You’re never sure he’s going to be there. That’s simply discourteous.”
Claire Newman Soderlund, Paul Newman’s youngest daughter from his second marriage to Joanne Woodward, believed that their tensions were rooted in differing work approaches. She explained, “My father was very much a stickler for timeliness and Bob, that was never really his strength. It was hard work for dad. He worked very hard at it because he wanted to be good and he wanted to be successful, and Bob was more of a free spirit.”
Tragically, Paul Newman succumbed to lung cancer in 2008. In a conversation with ABC News, Robert Redford, then 86, reflected on their relationship, noting, “It was just that connection of playing those characters and the fun of it that really began the relationship.” He further elaborated, “And then once the film started, once we went forward, we then discovered other similarities that just multiplied over time, a common ground that we both had between us, interests and so forth, and differences.”
Following their portrayals of the iconic outlaws and their subsequent roles as con artists in “The Sting,” Newman and Redford contemplated collaborating on a third film, though it never came to fruition.
An almost opportunity emerged with “A Walk in the Woods,” the 2015 film adaptation of Bill Bryson’s 1998 book. This buddy movie follows two older, out-of-shape men and their quest to hike the rugged Appalachian Trail. Redford, who starred in and produced the film, initially chose the script in 2005 with Paul Newman in mind.
In a 2015 interview with Yahoo, Redford explained, “It started with Paul, because Paul and I had been looking for a third film to do together. A lot of time had gone by, and I just couldn’t find it. When I read this book… I thought of Paul right away.” Redford, then 79, sent the book to Newman, who expressed uncertainty about meeting the physical demands of the role. The part ultimately went to Nick Nolte.
The relationship between Paul Newman and Robert Redford, both highly acclaimed actors, deepened significantly since their initial collaboration in “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.” Their camaraderie developed to a brotherly level, with both actors residing in Connecticut, just a mile apart, and their families maintaining close ties.
Following Newman’s passing, Redford reflected, “We both got to know each other’s flaws pretty well. Of course, I outweighed him on that front. But knowing each other’s flaws, we just played them to the hilt and we’d try to trick each other… it became like a scenario unto itself.” He added, “Paul really likes to have fun, and he loves to laugh, and he really especially loves to laugh at his own jokes, and some of them are just really awful. So the fact that he enjoyed them so much, you forget about the joke and you’d start to laugh with him because you’re so caught up in his enjoyment of them.”
Paul Newman and Robert Redford’s extraordinary chemistry in portraying the timeless duo left an indelible mark. Feel free to share your thoughts on their on-screen relationship and the genuine camaraderie they shared off-screen!