Underneath that ugly body, there is a person who is always being hurt. I did not say this, he confirmed it himself in his autobiography The extraordinary life of an ordinary man (Libros Cúpula), which he commissioned his best friend, screenwriter Stewart Stern, to write. Not that Paul Newman felt a complete failure – he also knew his achievements – but before he died he wanted to leave in writing that he was not a hero, and even not a myth, but a normal person who did. hundreds of crimes, mistakes that follow him like animals of the night. He apologized to his people many times and tried to correct his mistakes, although sometimes in his own way. Maybe that’s why he didn’t always succeed. Today, for the 15th anniversary of his death (he left us on September 26, 2008), we review everything that ails the blue-eyed Hollywood star.
“It’s amazing that he survived alcohol, tobacco, cars…”
“You can’t be my age without waking up in awe every morning and saying, “Holy cow, I’m still here!” It’s really unbelievable that he survived all the alcoholic drinks, tobacco, cars and racing,” he thought with judgment given by the years. When he died he was 83 years old. Cause of death: lung cancer. Just nine days ago, his wife, the great actress Joanne Woodward, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s (here are the reasons why she is not “a steak”, a nickname that angered him).
Perhaps that sentence helped him to leave this world, because he could not bear to witness the corruption of the love of his life. They have been together for 50 years. They are nowhere near the idyllic marriage that Hollywood envisions, but they forgive each other because they truly love each other. He cheated many times. Professional jealousy is also damaging. First hers for the first Oscar she received in 1958, when they were newly married, for The three faces of Eve; and then to Joanne when she retired to dedicate herself to her children and to let her shine. The third obstacle they overcome together (or almost) is alcohol. “I always knew Paul was an alcoholic,” he admitted as an adult.
“I had no emotional support from anyone” … until Joanne Woodward came along
Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, in 1958, the year they got married and he received an Oscar.
But what made Paul Newman sad to find the only way to drink? The son of Theresa Garth, born in Ptičie, Slovakia, and Arthur Samuel Newman, a Jew of Slovak and Polish origin, little Paul seemed to be a trouble-free child growing up in a wealthy family. His father owned businesses, including a sporting goods store. That was his destiny, to get behind the counter and continue the saga of salesmen with beautiful faces. But he didn’t want to be like that, even though he had no other vocation either.
With his mother a total control freak and his father, an emotional nobody addicted to the bottle, he became a shy young man full of insecurities. “I had no emotional support from anyone.” “I am a natural nobody. I am not a lover, nor an athlete, nor a student, nor a leader. ” “I am facing the scary truth that I know nothing.” “I’m always eager to admit failure, with the fear of not being good enough.” “I never felt talented because I was a follower, not creating anything.” That’s what he thought to himself, which, along with a meticulous and perfectionist nature, caused an unbearable struggle with the giants inside him. Finding a life first as a model and then as an actor was an easy way he found to escape the family.
“If I got the sensations from acting, I wouldn’t have to go there and be blind.”
“I never enjoyed acting, or going on stage. I loved the preliminary work: the details, the observation, finding meaning (…) Maybe that’s why I drank so much. The excitement, the danger, the fun of the show ” This is multiplied eighty-fold by drinking. If I had gotten those sensations from moving alone, I wouldn’t have had to go there and be blind.” man.
“Many times I’ve been on my knees begging Scott for forgiveness.”
Joanne Woodward, Paul Newman and their son Scott, from his first marriage.
The bad jealousy of his mother, or so she said, upset his first marriage to Jacqueline Witte, an actress with little experience with whom he had three children: Scott, Susan and Stephanie. “My mother hated him, despised him, and did everything to please him.” When Paul met Joanne Woodward in 1953, they were both acting understudies picnic, on Broadway, has lost control of his life. He discovered his self-esteem, he became a new man, although it took six years to find the courage to leave his wife and three children. It pained him so much to leave his young children that he also paid for them to drink. “What I do is classless.” “Many times I got down on my knees asking for Scott’s forgiveness.”
When his only son, and firstborn, died of an overdose at the age of 28, Paul fell into a spiral of bottles and alcohol. No one, not even his best friend Robert Redford (here’s proof that in the 70s he’s cooler than you), can soothe his pain.
“Yes, I will stop drinking, but not beers”
Paul Newman, on his way to a gala in his honor, in New York, in 1975.
Again his wife, Joanne Woodward, who, armed with patience and affection, healed his wounds. With him he has three other daughters, Nell, Melissa and Clea. He raised everyone as his own, without prejudice. He was the glue in those dark years. But Paul continued to drink and the problems at home grew. The only solution he found was to go to Malibu with the kids and leave her until she hit rock bottom. The day Paul woke up, he took the car and appeared on the porch of the other house. He pounded on the door until Joanne opened it for him. “This is not your house. You don’t live here anymore. We are,” they say he told her. And it was closed again. The actor slept on the doormat that night and, the next morning, he was let in on one condition: “You stop drinking.” And he answered: “I don’t like ultimatums, but yes, I will stop drinking, but not beers.” He accepted.
His pilot career saved his life
The actor, after competing in the 24 Hours of Le Mansen, 1979, with a soft drink (and not beer) in his hand.
The motor world is also an ally in staying away from alcohol. You have to be very smart to get behind the wheel of a car, so when Newman became interested in this sport after filming the movie won (1968), Woodward supported him without hesitation. He competed as a professional for the first time in 1972, in Thompson, Connecticut. In 1979 he participated in the 24 Hours of Le Mans and achieved an honorable second place. At age 70 he is the oldest winner of the Daytona race. Against all odds, read the case of James Dean (here are his 30 best photos), which a racing driver saved his life.
A professional bottle opener
Paul Newman, with a bottle opener around his neck, during the filming of The legend of the unstoppable (1967).
Silver Screen Collection
If you’re left wanting more, I recommend the HBO documentary Hollywood’s newest stars -which tells the secret story of their marriage and the successes of their careers-, directed by the brilliant actor Ethan Hawke. A high school classmate of one of Paul Newman’s daughters, they turned to him to collect what was left of the interviews and writings that Paul Newman gave to his friend, the aforementioned screenwriter.
Because Paul, after the attack of sincerity, decided to burn everything. Luckily some (relatively) remain. I ended this bad story of addictions with the actor’s sense of humor, which Joanne loved, who said: “The only thing left at the end is if you can make someone laugh. And he made me laugh.” The best proof I’ve found of this charming alcoholic is what he starred in during the filming of The legend of the unstoppable (1967), the prison drama in which he played, incidental to life, a compulsive rebel sentenced to two years in prison for causing destruction while drunk. And how did he appear on the set? A bottle opener hung around his neck, in case he was thirsty. It’s not a bad idea. Leave me there. I will talk to you another day about her extraordinary talent, her Honorary Oscar, her beauty and her philanthropic work.
DOME BOOK The extraordinary life of an ordinary man