‘The Way We Were’ is one of Redford’s political movies, but it showcased his comedic side. Sydney Pollack’s romantic drama, taking place during the investigations by the ‘House Un-American Activities Committee’, portrayed Redford’s character as complicit with the Republicans’ corrupt witch hunt. His complicity drives a wedge into his marriage. The film premiered on October 16, 1973, two years before the committee was abolished.
The movie, based on the novel and screenplay by Arthur Laurents, costarred Barbara Streisand. The diva contributed a song to the soundtrack, which, of course, saturated the airwaves. Her immense draw as a performer, combined with Redford’s appeal—who played her love interest—helped make Pollack’s six-time Oscar-nominated work an amazing success at the box office. ‘The Way We Were’ grossed $50 million.
The Sundance Kid
Despite the bumpy start with the studio, 'The Sundance Kid' was the role Robert Redford was made to play. “When I read it, I thought, ‘This is perfect for me,’” Redford informed the Salt Lake City Tribune. He told them, looking back at the film 50 years later, he always related to the “outlaw sensibility,” ever since he was a kid. The studio, on the other hand, wanted him to play Butch in the 1969 Oscar-winning film 'Butch Cassidy' and the 'Sundance Kid'.
“The studio did not want me,” Redford explained, “and they tried everything to keep me out of the film.” But Paul Newman and writer William Goldman stood up to the studio until they kept him in. Paul Newman basically said he would only be in the movie if Redford played The Kid. Redford responded, “I never forgot that.” The two remained friends and developed a very close, decades-long bond since that shoot. In the end, The Academy passed Redford by, he missed a Golden Globe nomination, but the 'Sundance Kid' was granted a BAFTA from across the pond.
Reuniting with Paul Newman, Redford starred in 'The Sting', the top-grossing film of 1974 and the magnum opus of Redford’s career, earning him an Oscar nomination. Playing a two-bit swindler, he teamed up with revered con man Henry Gondorff (Newman). Redford, as Johnny Hooker, does his part to set the silver screen ablaze in this revenge crime caper set in 1936. The movie was beyond popular in the seventies, identified by a brilliantly catchy ragtime soundtrack.
Prior to its many accolades and being preserved by the Library of Congress, Redford was concerned about his part and felt that his character may be running around so much that there would be little acting involved. For his consternation, he was awarded a “Looney Tunes” Road Runner sculpture as a gag gift when filming wrapped up. And, fun fact, despite the great success, ironically, Redford did not view the film until 2004. He went to see it with his grandson during Christmastime at a movie theater in Utah.
All the President’s Men
In 'All the President’s Men', Redford played investigative journalist Bob Woodward, with Dustin Hoffman, who played fellow Washington Post reporter Carl Bernstein. The movie follows the pair as they unravel a string of corruption that eventually brought President Nixon down. It’s Redford’s most political movie and it was another huge triumph. The 1976 film won the Oscar for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Supporting Actor, and Best Supporting Actress. In all, it was nominated for 8 Academy Awards.
Redford missed a nomination, but he dove into the role. He haunted the backrooms and news desks of The Post for weeks, studying and observing reporters and getting into the headspace of an investigative reporter, and of the man who uncovered the Watergate Scandal that ultimately forced Nixon’s resignation. He met Nixon when he was 13. Redford was receiving an athletics award. “When I went up [to the stage] and Nixon handed me the ribbon and shook my hand, I got just a bad vibe,” Redford recalled, “And that stuck with me.”
Redford was Obsessed with Watergate
A couple of years before starring in 'All the President’s Men', Redford would be completely captivated by the impeachment hearings of the president. The entire nation was fixated on the daily broadcasts which were aired live on television. Redford was no different.
At the time, however, he was on location filming Francis Ford Coppola’s 'The Great Gatsby' (1974). The movie, based on Fitzgerald’s 1925 novel, starred Robert Redford as Gatsby and Mia Farrow as Daisy Buchanan. Farrow, frustrated as the very-distracted Redford’s love interest, blamed his Watergate-watching obsession for their lack of cinematic chemistry. The movie was not received well. The New York Times called it “frivolous without being much fun.”