Closer Weekly - - Front Page - — Bruce Fretts, with re­port­ing by Katie Bruno and Amanda Cham­pagne-Mead­ows

The Hol­ly­wood leg­end shares his fond­est me­mories of his friend and men­tor Paul New­man.

Robert Red­ford has de­vel­oped some great work­ing re­la­tion­ships over his decades in Hol­ly­wood with ev­ery­one from Jane Fonda to Brad Pitt. But “noth­ing has sus­tained like [my con­nec­tion with] Paul New­man,” the icon says. “It went [from] movie friend­ship into per­sonal friend­ship. It cut very deep. He changed my life.”

Al­most 10 years since Paul passed away from lung can­cer at the age of 83, “I think about him,” Robert, 81, says. “I will al­ways be grate­ful for his gen­eros­ity.” It be­gan when Paul used his in­flu­ence to get the lesser-known Robert cast as his co-star in 1969’s Butch Cas­sidy and the Sun­dance Kid. “They wanted big-name peo­ple, and I was not that,” Robert says. “Paul and I spent an evening to­gether, drink­ing and talk­ing. Af­ter, he said to the stu­dio, ‘I want to go with Red­ford.’ He stood up for me.”

The two bonded while film­ing the West­ern. “We pushed aside our movie per­sonas and just be­came friends,” Robert says. “We de­vel­oped this re­la­tion­ship that was full of a lot of kid­ding and tricks played on each other, just great fun.” As Paul’s daugh­ter, Clea, re­calls, “Dad was a huge prankster. One time while we were away, Bob took ev­ery toi­let out of our house and put them on the drive­way. In re­tal­i­a­tion, Dad had Robert Red­ford toi­let pa­per made with Bob’s face on ev­ery square and had it sent out to ev­ery­body. We had Red­ford toi­let pa­per for about 10 years.”

Paul’s sis­ter-in-law, Patty, shares another prank. “Paul was up­set be­cause Robert was al­ways late. I was a nee­dle pointer, so he asked me to cre­ate a pil­low that said, ‘Punc­tu­al­ity is the cour­tesy of kings’ and have it shipped to Robert. I see him from time to time — I ought to ask him if he still has it.”

Other gags in­cluded loos­en­ing each other’s sad­dles on the Butch Cas­sidy set, and “a car they had squashed into a cube and had de­liv­ered back and forth to each other’s home’s anony­mously,” says Patty. Robert ex­plains, “The more so­phis­ti­cated the joke, the bet­ter. No one would ever ac­knowl­edge the joke. If I played a joke on Paul, I’d never hear about it.”

On a more se­ri­ous note, Robert was able to re­pay Paul’s orig­i­nal kind­ness when pro­duc­ers were cast­ing his co-star in 1973’s The Sting. “Paul hadn’t done so well in his last few films, so the stu­dio wasn’t will­ing to pay him the amount he was re­quir­ing,” Robert re­calls. “I was able to give over some of my [profit per­cent­age] points to him so he could come into the movie.”

Fu­eled by Robert and Paul’s chem­istry, The Sting be­came a huge hit and won the Os­car for best pic­ture. “Bob and Paul were unique as movie stars be­cause they both stayed out of Hol­ly­wood,” pro­ducer Michael Phillips tells Closer. “Their so­cial con­cerns were more im­por­tant than their ca­reers.” Robert cre­ated the Sun­dance In­sti­tute for de­vel­op­ing artists in Utah, while Paul started his New­man’s Own line of char­i­ta­ble prod­ucts in Con­necti­cut. On the set of The Sting, “they had no en­tourages and very min­i­mal de­mands,” Phillips says. “They just had a good time.”

“It turned into a long­time friend­ship that still ex­ists, even though he’s not with us any­more.”

— Robert on Paul


While Robert and Paul never made another movie to­gether, their kin­ship en­dured over the decades. Their fam­i­lies grew close, and Paul’s kids called Robert “Un­cle Bobby.” “Friend­ship was very im­por­tant to him, and be­ing able to be a real per­son was very im­por­tant to him, to be an au­then­tic per­son, rather than be­have like a star,” Robert says. “In his pri­vate life, he was just a real per­son. Very, very hum­ble. He was just a down-home guy.”

No doubt that’s how Paul would want to be re­mem­bered. “What we found out over time was that the things that made us friends had a lot to do with our val­ues,” Robert says. “He was a real friend, and I miss that hu­mor we had. I miss him.”

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