Melissa Newman looks uncannily like the late actress Joanne Woodward, with her blonde hair, striking features, and innate confidence.
The face of his screen legend father, Paul Newman, is engraved on his white shirt, but the signature underneath the face is nothing like his, he says with a laugh.
Melissa, known as Newman and Woodward’s middle daughter, Lissy, on a whistling tour to promote her posthumous memoir Paul Newman: The Extraordinary Life Of An Ordinary Man, reveals that she was aged more than 10 years after she died of lung cancer. At 83 in 2008, he discovered unpublished interviews and transcripts spanning three decades in the family basement.
The book is based on interviews and oral histories conducted between 1986-91 by the actor’s close friend, screenwriter Stewart Stern.
The book is a mix of the actor’s own narrative and Stern’s interviews with contributors on his memories of the Hollywood icon starring in cinematic gems like Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid, Cool Hand Luke, The Color Of Money (for which he won an award). Oscar), The Sting and The Verdict, and their handling of certain events in his life.
An artist, singer, and former actress, 61-year-old Melissa still lives in her family home in Connecticut today.
“The thing I regret the most is that he didn’t share this with us sooner. We all knew he had this project but mostly the hardest thing for me as an artist was listening to him struggle to find his identity as an artist under incredibly strange circumstances.
“She had a pretty face. She wanted to be an actress – my mom wanted to be a star – and for a lot of people who just want to be an actress, it’s very frustrating, especially if you’re the perfect lead actress in this role.”
The book isn’t a red-carpet Hollywood kiss, but a self-analysis of Newman’s often tortured self-analysis as she harbors great doubts and insecurities about her self-worth, fears she’s not good enough for her success, and parenting. mistakes he made.
One of the family’s reasons for completing the book was the fear that their parents would be forgotten.
The actor, film director, and race car driver was also a philanthropist and donated millions of dollars to good causes.
“I hope the book encourages people to watch the movies,” explains Melissa.
The book chronicles his strained relationship with his mother and father, as well as his nine-year marriage and long-term relationship with actress Jackie Witte, with whom he has three children, and then 50 years of marriage to the Oscar-winning actress. Joanne Woodward, with whom he had three children.
It turns out how shy he is, how he fears that his appearance opens doors, but that his talent is not really discovered, does not like the press and interviews, and fraudulent syndrome is revealed.
Melissa recalls in her preface to the book: “Here was an ordinary man with an extraordinary face and luck, someone who had reached far beyond what he had decided to do, who suspected he was a fraud.”
At the height of his fame, he remembers going out was horrible.
“You reach the top and you have all this irritating paparazzi activity. We went to places we couldn’t get out of the hotel and people stare at you and through you as a little kid. For me it was weird for ego development; for him the ongoing objectification that started with his mother turned into a nightmare. At a certain point, he was abusive. becomes.
“I remember once a woman came in, lifted her skirt, placed it on the table in front of her and asked her to sign it. He was out with his family.”
“My father was a really shy person. He would sit down while he was interviewing and his jacket would come up to his neck and you straighten up! Everything about him in those situations was pretty uncomfortable,” she continues.
“Being a star turns everything upside down with your kids,” she thinks in the book, and her daughter agrees.
“Being a movie star is not a good plan to be an adult,” she says.
His first child with Witte, Scott, died of a drug overdose in 1978.
Paul writes: “Long before I died, I once thought that the only way to free Scott to go his own way was to shoot myself. Then the pressure in his chest will be lifted and he can go somewhere and maybe be freed from the suffering that is me and become a whole person.
“It’s becoming more and more relevant given the drug epidemic in our country,” says Melissa of her decision to include this highly personal event in the book.
“Isn’t the real story more relevant to all the people struggling with marriage, drug addiction, and drug addicted children?”
Paul also remembers the family’s itinerant lifestyle and how he feared it wouldn’t be good for them.
Today Melissa says: “I went to a new school almost every year. Every time I hung on, we would be moving again. I always say I had no friends, I only had dogs. But do you know? Made me who I am.
While she was at the venue, Joanne and the kids would go too, and Melissa remembers growing up in the movies without realizing they were among the big stars.
“It’s always hers standing next to a giant billboard and saying ‘I’m here!’ I imagine you said There was something fragile about him, and even when he was alive, I cried a lot for him. I imagined what it would be like without him.”
Throughout his career, Newman’s drinking escalated to alcoholism as he remembered that drinking unlocked many things he couldn’t do without.
How has alcoholism affected family life?
“Well, it was working great,” Melissa remembers. “He was famous for always being on time, ready to work. He was incredibly employable and was able to hone his talent over time. Judgment is climax.
“Men drank a lot back then. The idea for a martini was a gin-filled pint with a few olives and a few ice cubes. When I was an adult, he moderated a lot.
When Melissa died, “The world stopped. There was an inevitable confusion and fog of chaos and grief that had to be dealt with.”
Even today, all of his family’s work has a hard time watching him on screen, although some of them are on DVD and even VHS.
She would have hated social media, she thought, given her shyness and difficult relationship to being a star.
“He didn’t want to be digitized and made into a kind of digital copy of himself.”
Paul Newman: The Extraordinary Life of an Ordinary Man is published by Century for £25. Now available