‘A Walk in the Woods’ Almost Reunited Robert Redford and Paul Newman


The Big Picture

  • Robert Redford’s star power has remained strong in the 21st century with roles in recent films like The Old Man & The Gun and All is Lost.
  • A Walk in the Woods would have been an excellent project for Paul Newman and Robert Redford to reunite and showcase their legendary chemistry.
  • The film’s message is heartwarming and relatable, highlighting the importance of reflection and the humorous mishaps that can occur during a wilderness trip.

Unlike many stars from the New Hollywood era, Robert Redford didn’t peak in the 1960s and ‘70s. While he’s certainly best associated with films like Three Days of the Condor, Jeremiah Johnson, Downhill Racer, and The Candidate, that doesn’t mean that he hasn’t stayed active in the decades that followed. Many of Redford’s greatest roles have been in recent films such as The Old Man & The Gun and All is Lost, which prove that his star power has remained just as endearing throughout the 21st century. In fact, he surprised us big time with his role in Marvel’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Redford did some particularly heartfelt work in the underrated 2015 dramedy A Walk in the Woods, a film that nearly reunited him with his most beloved co-star: Paul Newman.

Paul Newman and Robert Redford Have Incredible Chemistry

A Walk in the Woods is based on a biographical novel of the same name by the author, journalist, and former chancellor of Durham University, Bill Bryson. Based on Bryson’s real life with Redford in the leading role, the film explores Bryson’s reconnection with his longtime friend Stephen Katz. After living in the United Kingdom for over a decade, Bryson decides to move back to his hometown of New Hampshire to live in peace. Despite being successful as a novelist, the death of a close friend forces him to rethink his priorities and commit to seeing all the wonders of the natural world that he had written so much about and fought so hard to preserve. He makes the announcement that he will hike the Appalachian Trail, but his wife Catherine (Emma Thompson) insists that it’s not a trip he can take on his own. She encourages him to reconnect with Katz for the first time in many years so that they can take the trip together.

Katz is the role that Redford and director Ken Kwapis had intended for Newman, who passed away in 2008. Redford decided to move forward with the film, and Katz ended up being played by Nick Nolte. The film debuted at Redford’s Sundance Film Festival in 2015 before it was acquired by Broad Green Pictures, and while it’s great that this inspiring story was told, it’s a little bit sad to not see Newman involved. Redford and Newmans’ chemistry together in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and The Sting was legendary, and A Walk in the Woods could have easily served as the conclusion of one of cinema’s greatest duos.

As a filmmaker and artist, Redford has always taken care of the co-stars he’s worked with throughout his career. After Newman’s death, he moved forward with directing the 2013 thriller The Company You Keep, which reunited him with New Hollywood icons such as Sissy Spacek, Julie Christie, Sam Elliot, Chris Cooper, and Nolte among others, and told a story about former political radicals hunted down by the CIA. It showed that Redford was interested in reflecting on his past work by working with former co-stars, and the premise of A Walk in the Woods would have been perfect for a reunion movie between him and Paul Newman. What would be a better way to celebrate their previous collaborations than by telling an inspiring story about friends reconnecting?

Nick Nolte Showed a Different Side of Himself With Robert Redford

A Walk in the Woods is also relevant to Redford’s real life; Redford has never been shy about his beliefs, and has done some truly incredible work in the field of conservationism. Many of his films, such as Jeremiah Johnson, incorporate natural environments, and A Walk in the Woods was shot in many real national parks. This is something that he and Newman had in common. Newman attended the first Earth Day gathering in 1970, and was frequently outspoken about preventing global warming from escalating. A film that reunited them for the first time in decades had to be about a subject that they both cared about, and A Walk in the Woods would have provided that opportunity.

While it’s easy to feel melancholy when watching A Walk in the Woods and imagining what Newman would have added to it, the film itself is still absolutely delightful. It provided Nolte with the chance to give a grungy, yet surprisingly charismatic performance that is atypical of his general work. It’s clearly a role that was engineered with Newman in mind. Nolte is best known for his more dramatic work, so seeing him in a lighthearted buddy film where he’s doing a lot of physical comedy was an interesting subversion of expectations. It’s safe to say that Nolte has more than earned his place alongside Redford as one of the greatest actors of all time.

Robert Redford and Nick Nolte Are Silly and Heartwarming in ‘A Walk in the Woods’

Image via Broad Green Pictures

The film’s message is an endearing one. Over the course of their journey together, Bill and Stephen realize that they are wholly unprepared for the wilderness trip. It’s something that Bill views very idealistically, but he realizes that, as much as he’s written about nature, it’s not something he has any practical knowledge about. As a result, Bill and Stephen get into everything that could possibly go wrong on a hiking trip: their tent collapses, they get lost and injured, disturb wild animals, and to make matters worse, they’re passed on the trail by young people that clearly have more energy than they do. It creates a lot of hilarious scenarios that anyone who has ever spent too much time outdoors can relate to.

It’s admirable to see that Nolte and Redford are both so active this late in their careers. Even though Redford unofficially retired with The Old Man & The Gun, he still managed to pop up in Avengers: Endgame for a brief cameo. Nolte has done some of his best work in recent years as well, and even earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in Warrior. The same could be said of Newman, who was active up until his death. A Walk in the Woods is an endearing, inspiring film about the necessity of reflection, but it could have depicted that reflection by uniting two legends of the screen who remain forever tied together.

A Walk in the Woods is available to stream on Netflix in the U.S.

Watch on Netflix

A Walk in the Woods Film Poster

A Walk in the Woods

Release Date
September 2, 2015

Ken Kwapis

Robert Redford, Nick Nolte, Nick Offerman, Kristen Schaal, Emma Thompson, Mary Steenburgen


104 minutes

Main Genre

Adventure, Comedy, Biography

Broad Green Pictures

Bill Bryson, Michael Arndt, Bill Holderman

Take A Hike


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