I received this book from Kensington Books in exchange for an unbiased review.
It’s hard to believe it’s been fifty years since the movie The Way We Were came out. This book celebrates that anniversary by giving behind the scenes details on the tug of wars between the writer, the producer and the director as well as the efforts to get Robert Redford on board to play the part of Hubbell.
As a regular person who doesn’t know much about the various personalities of the Hollywood scene, the first few chapters were challenging. There was a lot of name dropping without context and I had to stop reading to google who these people were and why they might be important to the book. That was a bit annoying. I think the author might have done a better job in the opening chapters in introducing the people involved a bit better. It felt as if the reader was dropped into a cocktail party where everyone knew each other and were gossiping about others not present and the reader was at sea without a navigator.
After getting myself oriented, the book moved a bit quicker. There were still a lot of names dropped in here and there and trying to remember who was who took me a while but eventually, things smoothed out and I enjoyed the read.
The writer of the story the movie was based on, Arthur Laurents, was really an interesting person and not in a good way. He seemed like an ego maniac and very focused on what he wanted even if it wasn’t best for the movie. Sydney Pollack deserved some sort of award just for what he had to put up with from that man. It sort of surprised this reader that they were actually able to get the movie made and on the screen in a form that made sense. Lots of filming scenes that never got used and cutting scenes they spent a lot of money making and it seemed to this reader that the film should have been a disjointed mess based on all this moving around of scenes. It sure didn’t seem as if they made the movie they started out to make.
Disagreements among all the principals about what the movie was actually about was a theme running through the whole book.
Sydney Pollack must have been a relentless man. His pursuit of Robert Redford for the lead male part and his commitment to make the role larger to get Redford on board was tenacious. I felt sorry for Redford with how hard Pollack tried to get him to agree to play the part.
I expected more gossip about Barbra Streisand as we’ve all read how much of a diva she is but the parts about her were mild compared to the parts about the writer, Laurents. He was much more of a diva than she was—at least in how the book portrayed them. She was definitely a control freak, but Laurents and his shenanigans put her in the shade.
Overall, I liked the book. I read it quickly after the first couple of chapters. It gave a lot of insight into the movie and the battles to get it on the screen. The author clearly did a lot of research and interviewed a huge number of people. His work paid off in an intriguing and informative work. A comprehensive bibliography and index showed exactly how much effort he put into this book.