Coinciding with its 50th anniversary, this intriguing and impeccably researched book is the first ever exploration of the movie that has earned an annual spot in the AFI’s Top 10 movie romances and a place in the hearts of millions of moviegoers, revealing the full story behind the controversies, challenges, rivalries and romance surrounding The Way We Were.
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 Morosky and Robert Redford as all-American golden boy Hubbell Gardiner remains potent. Yet the friction and controversy surrounding The Way We Were were so enormous, the movie was nearly never made at all.
Impeccably researched and eye-opening, The Way They Were reveals the full story behind the challenges, rivalries and real-life romance surrounding the movie. Even the iconic casting was fraught. Screenwriter Arthur Laurents wrote the role of Katie with Streisand in mind, but finding Hubbell was another matter. Redford was reluctant to play what he perceived as the “Ken doll” to Streisand’s lead, and demanded his role be beefed up, with ten writers—among them Francis Ford Coppola—called in to rework the script.
The first preview was disastrous. Several scenes were cut, angering Streisand and Laurents, yet the edits worked. The new version was a resounding success, and its appeal endures, earning it a regular spot in the AFI’s annual Top 10 movie romances.
The Way They Were also explores the deep, surprising love story that inspired the screenplay—the relationship between Laurents, a Jewish Brooklyn-born college leftist, and his longtime partner, Tom Hatcher. Drawing on a vast trove of Laurents’s unpublished writings, as well as interviews with Streisand, Redford, and other key players, this is the definitive account of a film that changed the rules of moviemaking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 has defined romance ever since.
Robert Hofler is the lead theater critic for TheWrap, and in 2020, he received the award for Best Theater Reviews from the Los Angeles Press Club. Previously, he has been an editor at several magazines and newspapers, including Life and Variety. He lives in New York City.