Even though they were born in separate regions of the country and were 11 years apart in age, Paul Newman and Robert Redford were a big-screen match made in heaven. The older of the two, Newman was a rascally native of Ohio with those piercing blue eyes. After serving in World War II, he attended Kenyon College and completed a year at the Yale School of Drama before making a beeline for Hollywood in the middle of the 1950s. Redford, a native Californian who was born in Santa Monica and raised in Van Nuys, struggled through school, gained notoriety as the male lead in Mike Nichols’ 1963 Broadway production of “Barefoot in the Park,” and four years later, when he recurred in the role alongside Jane Fonda in Gene Saks’ hugely successful film adaptation, became a legitimate movie star.
Even while Newman and Redford were formidable enough on their own, they created a dazzlingly captivating bond for “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” in 1969 that audiences had never before witnessed. Unfortunately, despite the fact that both actors consistently produced throughout the following few decades, we only got to witness their on-screen interaction once more (in 1973’s Best Picture winner “The Sting”). Paul Newman asserted that there was a very solid explanation for this.
One last ride required one very special script
A few weeks before he won his first Best Actor Oscar (for “The Color of Money”), Newman explained the lack of a third Redford-Newman collaboration in an interview with Russell Harty of “Film 87” from 1987:
“There are no good scripts out there. [Robert] Redford and I made ‘The Sting’ 13 years ago. George Roy Hill [who directed both Newman-Redford combos], Redford and I have been looking for a script to do together for 13 years. We haven’t been able to find one that we liked enough for the three of us to be in it together.”
A third collaboration was conceivable when Redford bought the film rights to Bill Bryson’s best-selling book “A Walk in the Woods” in the 2000s. A tragic conclusion to the two actors’ film relationship would have been provided by the story of the old men on a trek, but sadly, Newman passed away in 2008 before the movie could be completed. Given the mixed reviews of the final adaptation in which Redford and Nick Nolte starred, it’s probably for the best that these legendary stars of the silver screen left us wanting more. Why bother if they couldn’t die like Butch and Sundance did, in a blaze of glory?