Robert Redford Remembers His Co-Star, Friend

The "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" co-star says goodbye.

September 29, 2008, 3:55 PM

Sept. 29, 2008— -- "This was a man who lived a life that really meant something and will for some time to come," Robert Redford said about his late friend and co-star, Paul Newman.

Hollywood legend Newman died of lung cancer at the age of 83 on Friday, Sept. 26, 2008.

In an interview with ABC News, Redford spoke about the depth of his personal friendship with Paul Newman, which took root on the set of the film "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid."

"It was just that connection of playing those characters and the fun of it that really began the relationship," Redford said. "And then once the film started, once we went forward, we then discovered other similarities that just multiplied over time, a common ground that we both had between us, interests and so forth, and differences."

Redford, a relative unknown at the time compared to the established Newman, was not director George Roy Hill's choice for the role of "the Sundance Kid." But Newman pushed for Redford.

"He said, 'I want to work with an actor,'" Redford recalled. "And that was very complimentary to me, because that's, I think, how we both saw our profession, that acting was about craft and we took it seriously."

Both actors began their careers in the theater and crossed over to film.

Newman was nominated 10 times for an Academy Award, and was awarded an honorary Oscar in 1986 "in recognition of his many and memorable compelling screen performances and for his personal integrity and dedication to his craft." He also took home an Academy Award win for his performance the following year in "The Color of Money."

While their connection as characters on screen in "Butch Cassidy" and "The Sting" brought them together, their friendship off-screen became stronger through the years.

Both actors lived in Connecticut for some time, only a mile apart, Redford said. Their families and children, a priority for both stars, became close and their social and political commitments overlapped.

Newman and Redford both took on philanthropic work. In 1982, Newman started the company Newman's Own, selling original salad dressing and other foods. He donated all of the profits to charity.

"[We] both had a very strong feeling about putting something back if you were fortunate enough or successful enough that you should put something back if you could," Redford said about their philanthropic efforts. "And he certainly did that in spades."

Over many years, their friendship took on a brotherly character.

"We both got to know each other's flaws pretty well. Of course, I outweighed him on that front. But knowing each other's flaws, we just played them to the hilt and we'd try to trick each other," Redford said. "We'd try to surprise each other, and it was so damn much fun that it became like -- it became like a scenario unto itself.

To Redford, Newman's love of life was something that set him apart.

"Paul really likes to have fun and he loves to laugh and he really especially loves to laugh at his own jokes, and some of them are just really awful," Redford said. "So the fact that he enjoyed them so much, you forget about the joke and you'd start to laugh with him because you're so caught up in his enjoyment of them."

Redford recalled a practical joke he played on Newman, to taunt his "obsession" with auto racing. The star turned pro in 1977.

"For his 50th birthday, I happened, in Connecticut, to find a trashed Porsche and it was just totally demolished and I had them wrap it up and leave it on his kitchen back step, wrapped in paper with a ribbon around it, that said "Happy 50th," Redford said with a smile.

Newman later returned it to Redford as a surprise package in his living room. Redford struck back with another gag -- turning the same demolished car into a garden sculpture, which he left in Newman's yard.

"He was a real friend and that humor that we had, I'll miss that. I'll miss him," Redford said.

Together, Redford said, the two managed to stay grounded.

"It's very easy to lose your mind, your brains in this business, and he was a realist," Redford said. "He knew enough not to take himself too seriously."

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