Goldman’s “Adventures in the Screen Trade” details how he wrote “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” (at least one edition also includes the finished screenplay). During Goldman’s exhaustive research, he found the story of Cassidy and Sundance wasn’t an easily condensed one. Why? There was too much to condense. Goldman called the story “sprawling,” noting how it stretched not only across years but from North to South America as well. Now, long-running Westerns weren’t unheard of: “How The West Was Won,” released in 1962, ran 164 minutes and spanned 50 years. However, Goldman didn’t think that length was the best fit for the material:
“Now, if you’re writing an epic, you can sprawl to your heart’s content, but this was no epic; rather, I thought it was a personal story of these two unusual outlaws.”
The final cut of the movie spanned nine years, covering the Hole-In-The-Wall Gang’s train robbing exploits in 1899 Wyoming to Cassidy and Sundance’s eventual demise in Bolivia during 1908. Despite this, it runs a mere 110 minutes, an appropriate length for a buddy comedy.
A few things help the movie’s flow. It begins in media res; Butch and Sundance are already established outlaws and friends when the audiences meet them. Another movie (especially one made in 2022) would show more backstory, such as the pair’s first meeting or how Harry Longabaugh became “the Sundance Kid.” There’s also several montages, such as Butch and Etta (Katharine Ross) riding a bicycle together or a collection of still photos when the three leads decide to head for Bolivia.