Tonight, Robert Redford stars opposite Nick Nolte and Emma Thompson in the 2015 adventure film A Walk in the Woods, which airs from 6.55pm on Film4. It follows the true story of American travel writer Bill Bryson who decides to go on a soul-searching trip and hikes the Appalachian Trail. On his travels, Bryson is joined by Stephen Katz, one of his oldest and dearest friends.
Redford, who takes on the role of Bryson, was hands-on during the production of A Walk in the Woods, acting as a producer.
The 86-year-old has made a habit of getting involved with the other side of the film process, often taking on the roles of director and actor, including in 1980’s Ordinary People, which saw him claim a Best Director Oscar gong.
With such an involvement, Redford has often made no mistake of voicing his opinon on the cast and other Hollywood stars. Nowhere was this more clear than during the production of the 1973 romance drama The Way We Were, where he had a few choice words about on his co-star Barbra Streisand.
He said he felt Streisand had a “controlling” reputation, and as such questioned whether they would be compatible on-screen together. It is a clash that is discussed in Robert Hoflers upcoming book The Way They Were: How Epic Battles and Bruised Egos Brought a Classic Hollywood Love Story to the Screen.
According to the book, Redford told the film’s director Sydney Pollack: “She will direct herself. It’ll never work.”
He was also concerned about Streisand’s musical background, expressing doubt over whether musical numbers may be included in the film: “She’s not going to sing, is she? I [don’t] want her to sing in the middle of the movie.”
Pollack, who won the Academy Award for Best Director in 1985 for Out of Africa, also questioned his actress, reportedly claiming that she had “never worked with a really strong leading man”.
He continued: “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.”
But Pollack argued that Redford would be the one star able to handle Streisand, herself an Oscar winner, adding: “In acting, you have to sense that there’s a reserve somewhere, that you’re seeing the top of the iceberg.
“Redford makes you come to him as a performer. He holds his ground, and you either enter his turf or you don’t get it. Period. He will not court you … I spent literally eight months beating him to death in order to get him to do it. I would not let him off the hook.”
Following the film’s success, a sequel was touted, provisionally titled The Way We Changed, but Redford denied ever getting involved with the film. He did, however, note that Streisand had held talks about the film.
More recently, Streisand was back in the public eye following an interview with The Guardian, discussing her career, as well as the correct way to say her name. She noted that many people call her “Strei-zand” as opposed to the actually pronunciation of “Strei-sand”.
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She said: “It’s the funniest thing to me that people still can’t seem to get my name right,” she said. “Even today, I had to correct my new assistant.”
Meanwhile, A Walk in the Woods was originally floated as becoming a film in 2005, when Redford first announced his interests in it. Among those reportedly linked to the flick included directors such as Chris Columbus, Barry Levinson and Larry Charles.
Redford had originally wanted fellow Hollywood icon Paul Newman to co-star with him, but following his death temporarily abandoned the project, believing he was unable to fill the role.
However, he would later say of the project: “It’ll be fun. I don’t know when I’ve read a book that made me laugh so loud. Also, it’s a chance to take a look at the country… The backdrop is pretty terrific; if you stop to think of all the visuals that are possible as they go along that trail.”
A Walk in the Woods airs from 6.55pm on Film4 tonight.