When the late great William Goldman wrote “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” he always had Paul Newman in mind. Indeed, Newman was then perhaps the biggest movie star in the world.
Goldman wanted Jack Lemmon for The Sundance Kid, who’d done a 1958 Western called “Cowboy” and seemed like a good fit. Lemmon, however, turned it down and numerous other candidates were approached, including Steve McQueen, Warren Beatty, and Marlon Brando.
Newman’s wife, Joanne Woodward, later suggested Robert Redford, a stage actor who’d been in a few films but was considered something of a lightweight at the time.
Woodward, Newman, and director George Roy Hill all pestered the reluctant 20th Century Fox bosses until they conceded to casting Redford. Well, what a move that turned out to be.
Redford embodied the role of The Sundance Kid (they even had some down time playing ping pong, as you can see). And the rest, as they say, is history.