Robert Hofler discusses The Way They Were: How Epic Battles and Bruised Egos Brought a Classic Hollywood Love Story to the Screen

Main image for event titled Robert Hofler discusses The Way They Were: How Epic Battles and Bruised Egos Brought a Classic Hollywood Love Story to the Screen
Jan 25, 2023  |  7:00PM - 9:00PM

It's one of the greatest movie romances of all time. Fifty years on, the chemistry between Barbra Streisand as Jewish working-class firebrand Katie Worosky and Robert Redford as all-American golden boy Hubbell Gardiner remains potent. Yet the friction and controversy surrounding The Way We Were was so enormous, the movie was nearly never made at all.

Screenwriter Arthur Laurents wrote the role of Katie with Streisand in mind. Casting Hubble was another matter. Redford, already a superstar, was reluctant to play what he perceived as the "Ken doll" to Streisand's lead, and demanded his role be changed and expanded. Laurents resisted, telling director Sydney Pollack, "You'll ruin the movie if it ends up being about two people. It's Katie's story, not Hubbell's." Despite his protests, ten writers--among them Francis Ford Coppola--were brought on to rework the script.

Laurents's fears were well founded, and the first preview was disastrous. Producer Ray Stark and Pollack, with Redford's approval, cut several scenes, upsetting Streisand and Laurents. Yet the edits worked. Such was the movie's success that Redford was open to making a sequel, though Laurents's script was never greenlit. Some of those lost scenes are now being restored to the film for its 50th anniversary.

It's also the deep, surprising love story at the heart of The Way They Were that makes it so memorable, and Robert Hofler explores its inspiration--the relationship between Laurents, a Jewish Brooklyn-born college leftist, and his longtime partner, Tom Hatcher. Drawing on a vast trove of Laurents's and Pollack's unpublished writings, as well as interviews with Streisand, Redford, and other key players, this is the definitive account of a film that changed the rules of moviemaking and defined romance ever since. (Citadel Press)