By 1998, actress Mary Tyler Moore already had a lifetime of show business memories to look back on. From co-starring with Dick Van Dyke on his show to working with Elvis Presley in the 1969 film “Change of Habit” to writing her autobiography, “After All,” Moore had acquired a wide range of experiences.
But it was her time working with actor and director Robert Redford that stood out as one of her favorite memories. The movie and television star recalled in 1998 that professionally, Redford was a perfect 10.
“There are few 100 percents in life but the whole experience on that film was a 100 percent experience,” Moore told Ability magazine then. “It was creatively satisfying and it provided me with a source of comfort. I was just beginning my separation from Grant Tinker at that time.”
Grant Tinker was a TV executive who launched the production company for “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and other hits, MTM Enterprises. He married Moore in 1962 and divorced her in 1981. The same year their divorce became final, Tinker took over as chairman and CEO of NBC.
“Grant was a brilliant, driven executive who uniquely understood that the secret to great TV content was freedom for its creators and performing artists,” Moore said in a statement after Tinker’s death in 2016.
Mary Tyler Moore Called Robert Redford ‘My Dream’
Moore was going through a difficult time in her personal life while filming the Redford-helmed movie “Ordinary People.” But she credited Redford with extraordinary sensitivity as a director, even as he also demanded great performances from his cast.
“As a director, Robert Redford was just my dream,” Moore said. “He was so thoroughly prepared and yet he is a complete artist. He let you give birth to feelings and emotions that you never knew you had. Not only did he allow it but also he required it. He would remind me if I fell back on a Mary Richard’s gesture. From all standpoints, it was a great experience.”
Redford took quite a risk in casting Moore as Beth Jarrett. The character is a cold and tense mother whose only remaining son is suicidal. Moore became famous for her upbeat, chipper characters on “The Dick Van Dyke Show” and “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.”
And studios turned up their noses at the prospect of Moore in a serious dramatic role. When Redford shopped the movie around, he met with rejection repeatedly.
“There was no interest in the film,” Redford told Entertainment Weekly later. “I’d gone to a couple of studios and they were not interested. They thought it was decidedly uncommercial. Also, the lead character was a woman who appeared dark and negative – they didn’t want to have anything to do with that. Especially because it was going to be Mary Tyler Moore. No studio wanted it.”
Moore Earned Oscar Nomination for Her Performance
Moore won a Golden Globe Award for her performance in “Ordinary People.” She also received an Oscar nomination for Best Actress in a Leading Role. But she did not win the award that year.
Moore later said that she was sad to miss out on the Oscar. However, she said it was award enough for her to have worked with such a stellar cast.
Moore died at age 80 in 2017. Soon thereafter, her co-star Donald Sutherland released a statement calling her “Ordinary People” turn “painfully perfect.”
“She was the perfect actor to work with, the performance she gave was perfect, painfully perfect, and the friendship she offered was perfect,” Sutherland said.