Katie to Hubbell in The Way We Were: "Wouldn't it be lovely if were old and had survived all this?"
I once spoke to film director Sydney Pollack, who died today at age 73, after a screening, in the late 1980s, of his 1973 film, The Way We Were. Probably because I had been lying in wait, like a stalker, I was waiting in the lobby when Pollack came out of the theatre, alone. "Mr. Pollock, can I walk with you?" I asked, and he said, “Sure”, and as we headed out of the theatre and into the parking lot — Pollack striding ahead, me hurrying to keep up — I told him my much-pondered theory that the scene in Out of Africa when Robert Redford, as the adventurer Denys Finch Hatton, has an argument about political morality with his friend Berkeley Cole in a men’s club dining room is a mirror image of the scene near the end of The Way We Were in which Redford’s Hubbell Gardner has very much the same argument with Barbra Streisand’s Katie Morosky. In both scenes, Redford makes his way around the edge of the room, speechifying, and brimming with fury. “It seems to me,” I told Pollack, “that Finch Hatton is very much the man that Hubbell Gardner wanted to be. Is that something you and Redford ever talked about?” Pollack stopped then, and faced me — I recall the deeply satisfying sense of being taken seriously, of being seen — and told me that he’d never thought about the two scenes being staged in the same way, but that I might be onto something. And as for Finch Hatton being Hubbell Gardner’s notion of the ideal man, this, the filmmaker told me, was something that he and Redford talked about quite often; that the two of them thought of all of the men they had created together onscreen [in five films] as the same man, in different stages of emotional development. “Finch Hatton and Jeremiah Johnson are the same guy,” Pollack said. “Maybe Hubbell would have become Finch Hatton in his next life,” and with that, he thanked me, shook my hand and walked to his car.
It was a small encounter, hardly profound, but it meant the world to me at the time. I pretend these days to be jaded about L.A. life, but I bet I went home that day and called everyone I knew. Such moments were what I'd come here for after all. Years later, I realized that I probably wasn’t the first fan to waylay Pollack in a parking lot —movie geeks, like sports nuts, are full of theories they’re bursting to tell those that inspired them — but I remember to this day how graciously Pollack responded to my wide-eyed eagerness, and graciousness, in a town this mean, is a quality not to be under-valued. Hats off then, to Mr. Pollack, movie lover, storyteller, and patient listener. (Chuck Wilson)