As iconic outlaws, Paul Newman envied Robert Redford but in real life, they shared brotherly love

Despite their on-screen camaraderie as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Paul Newman admitted to harboring some resentment towards the younger Robert Redford during filming.

In their roles as the infamous outlaws, Newman portrayed Butch Cassidy while Redford embodied Harry Longabaugh, known as the Sundance Kid. Their performances in the 1969 film, depicting the escapades of the Wild West duo, earned critical acclaim and four Oscars.

Following their success, the duo reunited four years later for another hit, The Sting (1973), solidifying their status as Hollywood legends.

However, Newman confessed in an interview with BBC’s Talking Pictures that he initially coveted Redford’s role as the Sundance Kid. Reflecting on their dynamic off-screen, Newman remarked, “We have a lot of fun together, we bounce off each other real well.” He added, “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!”

Redford, already gaining recognition as a rising star, had earlier garnered a Golden Globe for his performance in the 1965 film Inside Daisy Clover, showcasing his talent and potential in Hollywood.

Newman had already achieved stardom with notable roles in films such as Cat on a Hot Tin Roof alongside Elizabeth Taylor (1958) and Cool Hand Luke (1967).

When Steve McQueen declined a role in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, as he did with other major films like Dirty Harry (1971), The French Connection (1971), and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975), Robert Redford stepped in to star alongside Newman, who was receiving acclaim for both his acting and directing.

According to Newman’s biography, “The Extraordinary Life of an Ordinary Man: A Memoir,” the two actors were not particularly close during filming. Newman expressed frustration with Redford’s perceived unreliability, stating, “You can’t depend on Redford. You’re never sure he’s going to be there. That’s simply discourteous.”

Newman’s daughter, Claire Newman Soderlund, attributed their tensions to differing work ethics. She remarked, “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.”

Reflecting on their relationship, Redford spoke fondly of their connection forged during Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. However, plans for a third collaboration, including the film adaptation of Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods, ultimately fell through. Redford, who produced and starred in the film, initially envisioned Newman for a role but ultimately cast Nick Nolte after Newman expressed concerns about meeting the physical demands of the character.

Newman and Redford, both esteemed actors, developed a deep bond following their collaboration on Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

Their relationship evolved into one resembling that of brothers, with the actors residing in Connecticut just a mile apart, and their families maintaining a close connection.

Reflecting on their dynamic after Newman’s passing, Redford remarked, “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. We’d try to surprise each other, and it was so damn much fun that it became like–it became like a scenario unto itself.”

He continued, “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.”

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