Paul Newman discusses ‘The Sundance Kid’ role in 1982
Just under 15 years ago, the world lost one of Hollywood’s most celebrated stars to cancer. Although Paul Newman, best known for starring alongside Robert Redford in the 1969 film Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, chose a profession where most ooze confidence, the late actor was quite the opposite. In fact, he was “exceedingly inhibited and painfully shy” according to the director, Stuart Rosenberg, speaking in Paul’s memoir, published posthumously last year. His “nervous” personality was also identified by his co-star, Mr Redford, in an unearthed interview.
The now 86-year-old Robert and Paul became great friends after they both starred in Butch Cassidy and went on to appear alongside each other in The Sting.
The pair played Butch (Paul) and Sundance (Robert) in George Roy Hill’s hit film which went on to be one of the biggest box-office hits in the history of the Western genre.
Paul’s “anxiousness” was something Robert noticed with The Way We Were star picking up on things Paul did to keep his nerves at bay.
Speaking to the Toronto Star in 2015, he said: “He was a chatty, nervous guy who was always biting his fingernails.”
He added: “He used to chain smoke, before he stopped smoking, and was always drinking a beer. He was a very nervous guy.”
Paul was a heavy smoker for many years but quit in 1986, some 20 years before his death from lung cancer at the age of 83.
That same year, The Sting actor — recognisable for his piercing blue eyes — began writing his memoir where he too spoke candidly about how insecure he had truly been.
Clea Newman Soderlund, his youngest daughter from his marriage to actress Joanne Woodward, told the BBC that he had been doing “a lot of soul searching” at that time.
He sat down with his friend, screenwriter Stewart Stern, over five years and talked about all aspects of his life, writing it all down.
They abandoned the project and Paul passed away in 2008, followed by Stewart in 2015. But the papers were later discovered and turned into a memoir.
The Extraordinary Life of an Ordinary Man, published in October, was very “raw” for Clea as Paul shared much about his life such as his being tormented by self-doubt and drinking to excess.
In the book, Paul admits that he is “always anxious” about “not being good enough”.
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Just as Robert had done, Paul’s daughter, now in her late Fifties, recognised just how shy he was.
She said: “He was so insecure. I was born in 1965. By the time I came around, he was kind of bigger than life, because he was so famous at that time and later. So it was a whole different perspective.
“I struggled to understand how I didn’t know how he could see himself so differently from the way his children and family felt about him because he seemed to be so confident about everything.
“I knew that he never felt probably as good about his work as everybody else did, but I think I was surprised at how harshly he criticised himself.”
But as he got older, he came into his own, “feeling much better about himself as he got older”.
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