Hollywood Legends Barbra Streisand and Robert Redford
November 16, 2010
Legendary performer Barbra Streisand's star was born in Brooklyn, New York, to parents Emmanuel and Diana Streisand. When she was just 18 years old, Barbra walked into a small Manhattan club where she entered and won a singing contest. This helped launch one of the most spectacular careers in show business.
Not long after Barbra began singing professionally, Broadway beckoned. She played Funny Girl Fanny Brice when she was 21 years old, a role she recreated in her film debut. The onscreen performance earned her an Oscar® for Best Actress.
Then, in 1983, Barbra made history when she stepped behind the camera for the film Yentl. She was the first woman to produce, direct, write and star in a major motion picture.
Over the years, Barbra has also sold more than 70 million albums and sang for devoted fans around the world. In her five-decade career, she's won two Oscars, 11 Golden Globes®, one Tony®, eight Grammys® and five Emmys®, making her a true living legend.
Despite her monumental success, Barbra says she doesn't spend much time thinking about her past. "I try to live in the moment," she says.
Barbra's continuous drive comes from the fact that she bores easily, she says, but she's also motivated by her family history. "I do think that maybe there's some psychological connection to the fact that my father died at 35," she says. "He was so incredible from what I've read about him, and he's listed in a book of leaders of great education. He was a PhD, and his life was cut short. And I think, 'What could he have accomplished?' ... What I'm surmising from my own subconscious conscious mind is that I'm almost living his life, trying to accomplish many things that perhaps he could have done."
While Barbra is hailed as one of the best voices of all time, she once told Oprah that she never intended to be a singer. "I love singing when it's me and the music alone. When I'm recording, I love singing with an orchestra, and there's nobody judging it at the moment," she says. "When you come out and perform in front of people, it's pressured. It's something else. It's 'Oh, now I'm aware you're watching me, or you've paid money to see me.' And again, I think I've said this before: I don't want to disappoint anyone."
Barbra has been married to actor James Brolin for 12 years, and she says her husband is more emotional than she is. "There's a part of me that's probably cut off from my childhood or something like that," she says.
Marriage has taught Barbra that she doesn't like being alone, she says. "It's nice to have companionship. ... You do have to work at it. You've got to watch yourself."
The Way We Were, a film about the ill-fated love affair between an outspoken activist and a gorgeous golden boy, is considered one of the great movies of our time. The chemistry between the actors was electrifying, but Barbra and Robert have never before done an interview together...until today. Thirty-seven years after the film's debut, the still-sexy co-stars are sharing Oprah's stage.
It's hard to imagine any other actor playing the male lead, Hubbell, but Robert says he turned down the role at first. "I thought it was a good script. I thought it was great for Barbra. But the character in the initial script was, I felt, one dimensional," he says. "So [director] Sydney [Pollack] and I got together, and we worked something that felt good to me, which was a character that appeared a certain way and people would ascribe certain things to him that he didn't really know were true."
Barbra was always rooting for Robert to take the part, she says. "They were talking about other people because he had turned it down so many times," she says. "I was hoping and praying, but it didn't look good. And then, I was in Africa making a movie and ... a friend of mine at the time sent me a telegram, and it said 'Barbra, Redford,' and I knew he had signed on."
The chemistry between Robert and Barbra in the film was magnetic. "I saw her [sing] way back in the '60s, and I thought she was really, really good. Really talented. Unusual. I found her attractive in that way," Robert says. "So when Sydney talked about her playing the role, I said, 'Well, I think that's pretty interesting.'"
Before shooting the first scene, Robert says Sydney asked him to talk to Barbra in her trailer because she was nervous. Robert said no. "I said: 'It feels like that's appropriate. If she's nervous, that's good. We'll meet on the set in the scene,'" he says. "To me, that was more organic. And then, of course, as Barbra and I started to work together, it did become organic."
Barbra had similar intentions when she created her character's signature gesture—brushing aside Hubbell's bangs. "I wanted to find some gesture that I could do that I could repeat at certain times of the film," she says. "That's why I did that in the first scene, because I thought I would recreate it later when it would have more meaning."
In one scene of The Way We Were, Barbra's character, Katie, tells Hubbell that everything seems to come easy for him, and Robert says that line struck a chord for him personally.
"I started as an actor in the theater playing a lot of character parts, and suddenly, I found myself in this place where it felt like I was getting locked into a kind of a stereotype, and it did bother me," he says. "And then I would hear, 'Well, but that's easy for you.' Or, 'You look like somebody who's educated in the East,' which I wasn't. 'And came from an elegant background,' which I didn't."
Fortunately, Robert was able to break the stereotype and star in a wide variety of cherished films, including Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid, The Sting, All the President's Men, Out of Africa, Spy Game and The Natural. And while his acting put him on the map, Oscar® came calling after Robert stepped behind the camera. He won his first Oscar for his directorial debut with Ordinary People, and he took home a second statuette in 2002 for lifetime achievement.
Despite his brilliant career in the movies, Robert says the path he pioneered for independent filmmakers is his most meaningful accomplishment. In 1981, he founded the groundbreaking Sundance Institute and Film Festival, which remains one of the most prestigious festivals in the world.
"I'd worked hard, done a lot of movies, and I thought: 'Okay, stop. Take a break and see how you want to go forward after this point," he says. "I came up with the idea [that] the thing that would satisfy me the most would be to do something that would create opportunities for others, and particularly new artists with new voices and perspectives."
Barbra and Robert both agree that seeing each other instantly transports them to the time they spent together filming. "I remember the fun we had," Robert says. "I remember liking her energy and her spirit; it was wonderful to play off of. I also really enjoyed kidding her. She was fun to kid."
Unlike millions of moviegoers, Robert says he never saw the finished cut of The Way We Were. "I was in another country when the film came out," he says. "I wasn't prepared for its success. Not that I thought it was a failure, I just wasn't prepared for the impact."
Barbra says she's always wanted to do a sequel to The Way We Were, but Robert wasn't interested. "There was a great story with our daughter, who would have become a political activist as well, at Berkeley in 1968, the year of the Democratic Convention," she says. "There was a very interesting story there."