After preview reactions, director Sydney Pollack took out a sequence of several scenes from the movie's climactic turning point, most notably: (1) a highly emotional scene where Katie drives through UCLA and stops to watch a young woman hold a political speech, reminding Katie of herself 20 years ago (2) a dialog between Katie and Hubbell where he tells her that someone has informed on her. Having a "subversive" wife, it's clear that (unless she would inform, too) he will be fired.
The segment dealing with the McCarthy witch hunts had much more screen time. However the segment was cut to the bone. The chief victims of the cuts were Viveca Lindfors and Murray Hamiltion whose roles were turned into brief bit parts.
Marvin Hamlisch originally did not include the title theme music in the final scene when Katie hugs Hubbell. After the first preview showing fell flat, he changed his mind. The studio didn't want to pay the $15,000 cost of redoing the scene, so Hamlisch returned that sum out of his film paycheck to make the change.
The college scenes were shot at Union College in Schenectady, New York. The large rotunda-like building is the Nott Memorial at Union College. The restaurant scene where Robert Redford and Barbra Streisand meet outside was filmed at the old Medberry Hotel in Ballston Spa, New York.
Arthur Laurents fought to keep the exchange "I want us to love each other/"The trouble is we do" in the film. It was a line, said Laurents, that "summed up the relationship between Hubbell and Katie: they loved each other despite, not because." Sydney Pollack ended up cutting the line to Laurents' dismay. "The simple problem," said Laurents, "was that the man who was directing a political love story knew even less about love than he did about politics."
Barbra Streisand and Robert Redford had very different approaches to acting. Streisand liked to analyze the part at length and rehearse a great deal, while Redford was more of an intuitive actor, preferring to be more spontaneous. According to Sydney Pollack, "Barbra would call me up every night at nine, ten o'clock and talk about the next day's work for an hour, two hours on the phone. Then she'd get in there and start to talk and Bob would want to do it. And Bob felt the more the talk went, the staler he got. She would feel like he was rushing her. The more rehearsing we did, she would begin to go uphill and he would peak and go downhill. So I was like a jockey trying to figure out when to roll the camera and get them to coincide."
According to Arthur Laurents, the atmosphere on set was tense. He was often frustrated over Sydney Pollack's choices as a director. He fought to keep certain lines and scenes in the film that Sydney Pollack wanted to cut or change. Barbra Streisand was an ally to Laurents most of the time when conflicts arose, often supporting his suggestions.
Despite their differences, Barbra Streisand and Robert Redford had a deep respect for each other and worked well together. They were both opposite in many ways, just like their characters, and they used those differences to the benefit of the film.
Barbra Streisand was upset about scenes being cut. She explained in a 1999 interview, "Having those scenes excised from the film upset Barbra Streisand. "There weren't many movies made about this period of time in the blacklist and that's why it killed me to have those two scenes taken out. I was really heartbroken."
When Barbra Streisand heard the titular song for the first time, she loved it. However, she made two important suggestions that ended up transforming the song into something even better. She suggested a slight shift in the melody to send it soaring at a crucial point in the song, and she also suggested changing the first line of the song from "Daydreams light the corners of my mind" to "Memories light the corners of my mind."
Robert Redford was unhappy with cuts made to the film following a preview. He said, "I think we'd both have preferred a more political Dalton Trumbo -type script, but finally Sydney came down on the side of the love story. He said, 'This is first and foremost a love affair,' and we conceded that. We trusted his instincts, and he was right."
Arthur Laurents summed up his experience on the film, "To make a mantra of 'It's only a movie' was as useless and foolish as feeling pain. No matter what I felt or thought, no matter what I tried to accomplish or how, Sydney Pollack would ultimately have his way. That was what I had to face and accept. They didn't cry 'Author! Author!' in the movies, they never had. Now they cried 'Auteur! Auteur!' - even if the auteur f*cked up the picture."
According to Sydney Pollack, there was considerable pressure for the film to be a hit. He recalled, "Columbia [Pictures] was terribly worried. They were going under at the time, they were changing management, they hadn't had a hit in years."