Paul Newman will finally tell his story, 13 years after his death

by

The New York Times

Decades ago, actor and philanthropist Paul Newman (1925-2008), frustrated with numerous unauthorized biographies about him and with journalistic coverage of his life, decided to record his story, recording tapes whose transcripts had spent years forgotten in the laundry room in the basement of his home in Connecticut.

Now, Newman’s family has decided to turn these transcripts into a memoir, which will be published by Knopf Publishing at the end of next year. “What he recorded, or in essence what he wrote, is extremely honest and revealing,” said Peter Gethers, editor at Knopf who will be responsible for editing the book, whose title has yet to be decided.

“The recordings reveal the extraordinary arc of his story, beginning with a guy who had many, many faults in his youth, but who ended up becoming the Paul Newman we all want him to have been.”

Newman, known for his blue eyes and a film career that spanned 50 years and spanned films such as “Butch Cassidy” (1969), “The Untamed” (1963) and “Indomitable Rebellion” (1967), died in 2008, aged 83 .

The idea for the book came about more than 30 years ago as an oral history project organized by one of Newman’s best friends, screenwriter Stewart Stern, who wrote “Rachel, Rachel” (1968), a film directed by Newman and starring his wife Joanne Woodward.

Stern spent years interviewing people from all walks of Newman’s life, including his children, his ex-wife Jacqueline Witte, close friends, and the actors and directors who worked with him. This resulted in thousands of pages of transcribed recordings and convinced Newman that it would be interesting to tell his side of the story.

Stern proposed a long list of questions, Gethers said, and he and the actor created recordings that are a mix of an interview and Newman talking about his memories without interference from an interviewer.

The recordings were completed 10 years before the actor’s death and describe the early years of his life, which include the difficult relationship he had with his parents, his alcohol problems, his shortcomings as a husband in his first marriage, and his failures as a dad.

They also openly address the grief he felt over the death of his son Scott, aged 28, a victim of an alcohol and drug overdose.

The book also addresses the insecurity Newman felt in his early years working as an actor, and tells of the envy he felt for peers like James Dean and Marlon Brando back when the three were working in Hollywood.

“He says his mother didn’t see him so much as a flesh-and-blood person, but rather as a decorative object,” says Gethers. “Newman says that if he hadn’t been a beautiful kid, she would never have paid any attention to him at all. It’s a devastating thing to read, and it clearly influenced his life and the insecurity he felt about being an actor. “.

The memoirs will also deal with Newman and Woodward’s marriage, which Gethers describes as “remarkably loving, affectionate and sexy,” and his career in film and as a race car driver.

The book was acquired by the publisher at an auction held in the second quarter of this year, said Gethers. About 80% of the content will consist of Newman’s memorabilia, and the rest will be covered by recordings made by Stern with people close to the actor. The volume will include family photos that have so far never been published.

The transcripts were delivered to the Knopf publishing house, which was in charge of turning them into a book. (After the publisher acquired the publishing rights, other transcripts were located, in a bank deposit box, labeled PLN/HISTORY, said Gethers.)

Stern died in 2015, so Newman’s daughters are participating in the editing project, playing the role an author would play in approving changes and drafts.

Gethers is the author of 13 books and several screenplays for film, and has worked as a producer of films and television shows. He said that while courting Newman’s family as part of the auction process, he told them that his father, a screenwriter and TV producer, wrote one of the actor’s first major roles in a TV series called “Rag Jungle”. of 1956.

Gethers also mentioned that he had two cats whose names refer to roles played by Newman: Harper and Hud.

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