It is known that when Paul Newman met Joanne Woodward, the woman who stayed by his side until the day he died, he was married with three children. Despite the guilt that has always haunted him and that he speaks openly about in The Last Movie Starsthe documentary series about the famous couple (available in Spain on HBO Max), is surprising to hear the actor admit in a series of intimate testimonies that are now coming to light for the first time that Woodward made him feel wanted for the first time and that it was the sexual appetite of both what hooked them as soon as they met: “Joanne gave birth to a sexual creature [él mismo] whom he taught, encouraged and delighted in the experimental”.
It is amazing everything that surrounds the actor’s awareness as a sexual myth and how he gives a decisive role to who was his wife for fifty years. Far from the hackneyed commonplace of the great woman who hides behind every great man, in a rather unusual gesture, Newman insistently puts the spotlight on her by defining himself as “the invention of that sex symbols Created by Joanne.
An invention that occurred when she, then ahead in her acting career —in 1957 she won the Oscar for The three faces of Eve—, taught her to trust her body and her desires: “Even the last of my fantasies, the product of so many years of rejection, was fulfilled with Joanne. Suddenly, a huge door was thrown open before me. Joanne made me feel attractive”, adds the actor before confessing: “We recognized each other and left space so that our more lewd aspects had time to develop without interruptions or distractions; we were very good at it, leaving a trail of lust wherever we went: hotels, motels, public parks, bathrooms, swimming pools, beaches, back seats and rental cars.”
Years later, in another confession to take note of, Newman assures that it was she who discovered the script for the wonderful western two men and one destiny (1969) and who gave him the idea of acting precisely with Robert Redford. That simple detail, that another sex symbol accompanied him on the screen, far from giving him insecurity, freed him from the corset of the beauty icon. Thus Newman could be his true person: an introverted man with a lackluster complex (“I am boring and pedestrian”); that he came to envy the eccentric and bohemian character of his colleagues at the Actors Studio –Brando, Dean or Marilyn–; and that deep down he felt more comfortable with the gesture of a buffoon than with the intensity of the leading man on duty. His intimate scars, the anti-Semitic childhood bullying, the trauma of his broken first family, the addictions of his only son, Scott, one of those Hollywood pups unable to deal with the weight of his family name, had turned Newman into a functional alcoholic trapped in a forward flight whose obsessive avoidance included speed and cars.
The documentary, directed by actor Ethan Hawke, meticulously and intelligently vindicates Woodward’s career, but also his essential role in the couple’s family life. From very early on, and with a visceral and countercurrent discourse, the actress —who took care of the children from Paul’s previous marriage and her own (six in total)—, publicly complained about the burden that motherhood had on her career, much more important than her husband’s when they started. She at some point she even confesses that if she were born again she would think twice about having children. Woodward had to deal with the frustration of a job interrupted when she was at the top to pick it up again when her partner had gone from the ladder of actor to star. A vertiginous jump in a superhero costume that she Woodward contributed to weaving with the same vocation and talent that she put into resuming her own career without giving up her family life. She was always, by the way, accompanied by her needles and her ball of wool, domestic weapons that the actress, who knitted all the time, showed off with defiant pride on sets and in interviews.
The Last Movie Stars is nourished by the extensive interviews that the writer and friend of Newman, Stewart Stern, gathered to write the actor’s autobiography, a priceless set of testimonies that after a long and somewhat confusing family adventure have just been published in the US and that in Spain publishes Libros Cúpula under the title Paul Newman. The extraordinary life of an ordinary man. The series is based on the same material but organized with the impetus of a master of ceremonies, Hawke, who in a curious narrative exercise in times of pandemic and Zoom, brought together, among others, George Clooney, Sam Rockwell or Laura Linney, who lend their voices to the characters in a film that swarms from an intellectual like Gore Vidal, a close friend of the couple throughout their lives, to filmmakers like Elia Kazan, Martin Ritt or George Roy Hill. In the priceless setting of their respective homes, all of them generate a chorus of voices and pixelated images that will become a juicy stretcher table around the actor’s craft, the ego and the couple.
Hawke sometimes speaks from the kitchen and sometimes from the living room and, very astutely, directs the conversation, sometimes with an excess of hyperbolic and giddy gestures, to his own territory, and that includes the participation of the daughters he had with Uma Thurman in a series that lends itself to the couch of family therapy through the wise sharing that Newman and, above all, his wife give. “When it seemed that the marriage would not last another day,” Woodward confesses, “we had to be aware that there were three things at work: my ego, his ego and our ego. For the relationship to survive we had to pause mine and his and bet on ours.
Another surprise is discovering how one of the actress’s stepdaughters has tattooed her stepmother’s name on her arm to “never forget” what that woman did for them and their father. The pearls that come out of Woodward’s mouth are those of an overwhelming woman whose deep wisdom emerges in many of the recipes that they applied to the “us” of each day. “Acting is like sex, you have to do it and not talk about it”, “You can’t be an actor without accepting that you are willing to make a fool of yourself and fail”, said a woman who hung a poster on the door of her house that He said: “Luck is an art”.
Via zoom, Martin Scorsese, producer of the series, goes so far as to say that it was Woodard who caused the most exciting turns in Newman’s career. And via testimony from the past, Arthur Penn recalls the difficult balance of a generation of actors who discovered freedom through acting. “I am united with all my characters because that is how it should be”, assured Woodward, “they all have something of me, that is the joy and trauma of any actor. We don’t have a piano, like a pianist, we don’t even have ballet shoes, like a ballerina, we just have what we are.”
It is curious that all these intimacies come to light due to the decision of some daughters who want the truth to be known behind the romantic image of the perfect couple that their parents held and that ended up eclipsing their true identity.
Joanne Woodward is 92 years old today and Alzheimer’s has made her lose her memory of everything that the rest of us are discovering. It is a sad paradox. As happened to the privileged mind of Iris Murdoch, another exceptional woman who suffered from this cruel and mysterious disease, Woodward escapes from almost all labels, her open emotional complexity places her well above her time and now the aura is better understood. of admiration that always surrounded her and that someone with a snout as fine as Gore Vidal summed it up like this: she always had more talent, and he, not without guilt, knew it.
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How Joanne Woodward sexually initiated Paul Newman and helped make him a universal icon | Celebrities | S Fashion THE COUNTRY