Decades ago, actor and philanthropist Paul Newman, frustrated with all the unauthorized biographies and coverage of his life, recorded his own oral history, leaving behind transcripts that have been forgotten for years in the laundry room. from the basement of his house in Connecticut.
Now his family has decided to turn those transcripts into memoirs, which will be published by Knopf next fall.
“What he recorded, and in essence what he wrote, was so honest and revealing,” said Peter Gethers, editor-in-chief at Knopf who will edit the book, which has no title yet. “It showed this amazing arc, a guy who was very, very flawed early in his life and as a young man, but who as he got older became the Paul Newman we want him to be.”
Newman – known for his blue eyes and 50-year acting career in films such as “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” “Hud” and “Cool Hand Luke” – died in 2008 at the age of 83. years.
The book began over 30 years ago as an oral history project put together by one of Newman’s closest friends, screenwriter Stewart Stern. Stern, whose 1968 film “Rachel, Rachel” was directed by Newman and starred his wife, Joanne Woodward, spent several years interviewing people from all corners of Newman’s life, including his children. , his ex-wife Jacqueline Witte, close friends and actors and directors who have worked with him. This produced thousands of pages of transcripts and convinced Newman that he should make his own version. Stern sprinkled it with questions, Gethers said, and they created recordings that are a mix of interview and Newman speaking without a prompt.
Explore the New York Times book review
Want to keep up to date with the latest and greatest books? This is a good place to start.
The recordings, made around 10 years before his death, describe Newman’s youth, including his difficult relationship with his parents, as well as his drinking problems, his shortcomings as a husband in his first marriage, and his flaws as a as parent. He is outspoken about his grief when his son, Scott, died of a drug and alcohol overdose at age 28.
The book also explores Newman’s insecurity in his youth, exploring his jealousy of peers like James Dean and Marlon Brando when they all worked in Hollywood.
“He said his mother didn’t think of him so much as flesh and blood, but as decoration,” Gethers said. “He says if he hadn’t been a pretty kid she would never have cared for him.” It’s a devastating thing to read, and it’s clearly part of his life and insecurity of being an actor. “
The memoir will also cover his marriage to Woodward, who Gethers described as “remarkably loving, affectionate and sexy”, as well as his acting career and racing car driving.
The book was bought at auction this spring, Gethers said. This will be around 80% memoirs, with the rest based on recordings Stern made with people close to Newman. It will also include unseen family photographs.
The transcripts were handed over to Knopf, who was then commissioned to make a book out of them. (After the publisher bought it, other transcripts were found in a storage unit in Connecticut, in a banker’s box marked “PLN / HISTORY,” Gethers said.) Stern died in 2015. , so Newman’s daughters are part of the editing process, basically like an author would, approving edits and drafts.
Gethers himself is the author of 13 books and several screenplays, and has produced films and television shows. He said that while wooing the Newman family during the bidding process, he told them that his father, a screenwriter and television producer, wrote one of Newman’s first leading roles in a 1956 show. titled “Rag Jungle”. Gethers also mentioned that he had two cats nominated for the roles of Newman: Harper and Hud.