“Are you crazy? The fall will probably kill you.”
BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID
Directed by George Roy Hull - 1968
It began as The Sundance Kid and Butch Cassidy with Paul Newman as the 44-year-old Kid.
Newman then tried all
all the computations...
1. Marlon Brando: duly considered because of Newman's fetish of offering Brando lead roles in all his projects - all were refused. This time, because Brando was unable to deal with films in the aftermath of the Martin Luther King assassination. Marlon dropped out of public life except for appearing at Black Panthers' funerals.
2. Newman-Jack Lemmon: writer William Goldman’s rather untidy partnership had Lemmon as Butch - minus any credibilityas he’d only made one Western (to Newman's three).
3. Newman-Steve McQueen: Fox boss Richard Zanuck's plan was Newman switching to Butch (with a 40-year-old Kid!) fell apart over billing. That hassle was more speedily solved for The Towering Inferno, 1974. Steve was furious at being aced out - when he had been first to bid on the script, suggesting he make it with Newman.
4. Newman-Warren Beatty: close to Shampoo on horseback, as Beatty wanted to enlarge, even kinkify the relationship of the duo and the girl.
The studio wanted Robert Wagner (under contract and, thereby, cheap). No one else wanted him. “I lost it!” he yelled. “I lost it!” And the next Newman-Redford fun, too, The Sting .
Before Katharine Ross became the girl with raindrops falling on her head, she was due to be Joanna Pettet. Or, she was until William Goldman fell for Jacqueline Bisset. “The most beautiful woman I've ever seen... a genuinely eerie physical beauty. I did the standard double take, stared... and fell up the steps of the commissary.” He recovered enough to talk to her about losing her accent which she duly did - as Newman's daughter in another Western, The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean, 1972.
Then, backed by Goldman, George Roy Hill voted for the new kid on the block.
Robert Redford, however,
was the new Doris Day to Zanuck
“The nice kid down the road who's been to the post many times but never really made it over the finishing line.” Paul took him to dinner and said he could take either part and his seventh film made Bob a superstar.
“On a gut level it appealed to me as a fairy-tale,” said Redford. “Also fitted into with some of the things I've done in life. When I was very young I didn't think it would so so bad to be an outlaw. A lot of those people were just kids, doing what they did - robbing banks, holding up trains - as much for the sheer fun of it as for anything else... For the most part, it was the most consistent fun of any film I've ever done.”
After The Sting , the duo kept searching for a third trip together - turning down, among others, Steven Spielberg's offer of Always, 1989... not to mention producer Edward L Montoro's soundalike Sundance Cassidy and Butch The Kid.
Footnote. Producer Paul Monash, cinematographer Conrad Hall and George Roy Hill all died within days of each other in January 2003.