Despite later rumors that not all was well in their marriage, Stern said they were committed and honored each other's choices in life. Although Woodward once quipped that "a mind is a terrible thing to waste on a Trans Am," Stern said, "they had real reverence for each other's talents and pursuits and idiosyncrasies."
Stern, author of that film's screenplay, said he sometimes observed Newman watching his wife do something that moved him.
"It was the most exposed face of love I've ever looked at," he said. "You couldn't look at it long. It was like opening the wrong door."
Hollywood studios recruited Newman in 1954, at a time when the film industry, threatened by live television, hired many of New York's most creative actors, directors and writers. According to Penn, Newman "was emblematic of what was coming, the demand for independence that the next generation brought."
At first, however, Newman, the serious actor, could not avoid beefcake roles because his looks were so devastating. When people saw him, Penn said, they "just fell away."
Newman was particularly humiliated by his first film, "The Silver Chalice," in which he was cast as a toga-clad Greek sculptor with stilted lines. When the film aired for a week in 1963 on television, he took out a black-bordered ad in The Times that said, "Paul Newman apologizes every night this week."
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Determined not to be just a pretty-boy player for the studio, Newman was among the first actors to buy out his contract with Warner Bros. and later formed his own production companies with colleagues. Newman's penchant for playing a variety of roles reflected "his imagination and his willingness to take a flier," filmmaker John Huston wrote in his memoir, "An Open Book."
The price was a career checkered with miscasting and forgettable roles, including those of a jazz musician in "Paris Blues," a turn-of-the-century anarchist in "Lady L" and a double agent in "Torn Curtain."
Critics and audiences loved him, however, when he played moody Southerners in films based on Tennessee Williams' plays "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" and "Sweet Bird of Youth." Newman's scheming pool shark in "The Hustler" began a streak of roles that film historians have hailed as capturing the essence of the postwar American man: cool, cynical and confident while the known world of traditional values crumbles around him.
Newman became so popular that he complained later that audiences and critics missed the point in "Hud," a film in which he portrayed the amoral, insolent son of an embattled rancher. Instead of seeing Hud as a tragically flawed character who cared only for himself, audiences adored him. He became an anti-hero, especially among teenagers.
Newman struck another nerve in 1967 with "Cool Hand Luke," in which he played a defiant prisoner on a chain gang harassed by sadistic guards. A memorable scene in which Luke wins a bet by eating 50 hard-boiled eggs triggered egg-eating contests at colleges and among soldiers in Vietnam.
In 1969, when he was Hollywood's most popular leading actor, Newman teamed with Redford in "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid," a movie about two affable bandits who had outlived their time. The highest-grossing western in motion picture history, the film highlighted the handsome duo's comic timing. Fans loved the pair's jump off a cliff and still associate the song "Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head" with Newman's bicycle stunts.
Redford said it was the most fun on a film he had ever had, and the film cemented a lifelong friendship between the two actors.
Out of Beverly Hills
If Newman hadn't moved his family away from the glamour and materialism of Beverly Hills to Westport in 1962, he told biographer Eric Lax, he might never have taken up the other things that made his life exciting: politics, racing and a home-grown business.
"It is only when you're away from California that you cannot take yourself seriously" as a movie star, he said.
Throughout the '60s, Newman took high-profile stands against the war in Vietnam. In 1968, he campaigned for antiwar candidate Sen. Eugene McCarthy and was a Connecticut delegate to the Democratic National Convention. The next year, he and Woodward joined an antiwar demonstration in front of the U.S. Embassy in London.
Newman knew his actions were not always popular, and he told the New York Times Magazine in 1966, "A person without character has no enemies." Friends said he was delighted in 1973 when he was listed as No. 19 on Nixon's enemies list, claiming it elevated him in the eyes of his children.