"Annoyed by the public's fascination with his resemblance to a Roman statue, particularly his Windex-blue eyes, Newman often chose offbeat character roles. In the 1950s and '60s, he helped define the American anti-hero and became identified with the charming misfits, cads and con men in film classics such as "The Hustler," "Hud," "Cool Hand Luke" and "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.""Acting," he once said, "is really nothing but exploring certain facets of your own personality trying to become someone else." In early films, he said he tried to make himself fit the character but later aimed "to make the character come to me."
The actor was most proud, friends say, of his later, Oscar-nominated roles in "Absence of Malice," "The Verdict" and "Nobody's Fool," in which he dug deep into the complex emotions of ordinary men struggling for dignity, justice or a sense of connection. In 2003, he was nominated for an Oscar for his last feature film appearance, as a conflicted mob boss in "Road to Perdition." Two years later, at 80, he won an Emmy for playing a meddlesome father in "Empire Falls."
"He's a majestic figure in the world of acting," said director Arthur Penn, who worked with him in his early career. "He did everything and did it well."
Part of a generation of edgy, naturalistic New York actors who changed Hollywood in the '50s and '60s, Newman was often compared with fellow Method actors Marlon Brando and James Dean. Film critic David Ansen once observed that if the trim actor lacked the others' physical or psychic presence, he was more approachable, even when he played a heel.
"Newman," Ansen wrote, "is our great middleweight movie star."
Nominated eight times for Academy Awards in the best-actor category, Newman won only once, for "The Color of Money" (1986), in which he reprised the role of "Fast" Eddie Felson that he originated in 1961's "The Hustler." He also took home honorary Oscars in 1985 for career achievement and in 1993 for his humanitarian efforts. In later years, however, he boycotted awards shows despite continuing Oscar, Emmy and Tony nominations. He claimed he no longer owned a tuxedo.Married since 1958 to Woodward, his second wife, Newman cultivated a distinctly un-Hollywood lifestyle, shuttling between a homey New York apartment and a renovated farmhouse in woodsy Westport, Conn., from which he pursued passions including cooking and auto racing.When Newman finally won an Oscar in 1986 for "The Color of Money," it was neither his nor director Martin Scorsese's best effort and was seen by some observers as compensation for having been overlooked in "The Hustler."Despite his fears that actors risk corruption by placing a "premium on appearance," Newman valued keeping himself fit. He did push ups and ran up and down stairs until he was 80. He soaked his face in ice water or would swim in a cold lake when he could.After "Road to Perdition," he did voice work for the animated film "Cars" in 2006 and narrated the 2007 film "Dale" about the late NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt.
Newman didn't hide his disappointment that filmmaking had abandoned the "theater of the mind" for the "theater of the senses." He lamented that skyrocketing costs had increased the pressure on actors, writers and producers who could no longer afford to make mistakes and be part of a "growing-up process."
In 1997, he hinted he was struggling, explaining to National Public Radio's Daniel Zwerdling that "sometimes you begin to lose your center. . . . You become a collection of the successful mannerisms of the characters you play. . . . What you try to do is get rid of those successful mannerisms, get back to what you are at the core of your own personality."
In 2007, Newman announced his decision to retire, saying he'd lost confidence in his abilities, that acting was "pretty much a closed book for me."
Besides Doc Hudson, the animated Hornet voiced by Newman in the film "Cars," he called the role of Sully in 1994's "Nobody's Fool" the closest he had come to playing himself. Critics called Sully a "classic Newman type" -- an aging version of a witty loner who keeps friends and a family at a distance to protect himself. A bond with his fearful little grandson opens up the possibility of becoming more involved with an estranged son and the rest of the community.
"The most Paul moment," Stern said, "is when he sees the crazy lady down the street and offers his arm and walks her back home as if she were a queen. That's how I'll always remember Paul: dignifying other people."“Cars”: Newman gives a delightfully warm and wise voice performance in this 2006 Disney/Pixar hit directed by John Lasseter. Newman is the voice of the old-time car, Doc Hudson, who gives advice and wisdom to a hotshot racing car named Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson).
Read my post dedicated to Mr. Newman in August
and watch some of his performances
in this serie of clips in Open.salon.com