An occasional series by Thomas Myler
The scene is a big London premier of a new Paul Newman movie. A woman breaks through the police cordon, rushes up the actor, looks him in the face and plants a kiss on his cheek before anxious security men grab her and ushers her back among the crowd. ‘I wanted to prove to myself that his eyes were really sky blue,’ she said to her excited friends. ‘And they really are, honestly.’
A true Hollywood legend with a string of great movies that have stood the test of time, he once remarked, ‘You know, I picture my epitaph: Here lies Paul Newman, who died a failure because his eyes turned brown.’
Throughout his 53-year career, Newman possessed a winning combination of an athletic physique, classic features, those expressively sky-blue eyes, an intelligent grasp of roles and a captivating sense of humour that established him in the 1950s as a big favourite among moviegoers and critics alike.
That success continued through to the 1980s. In true Hollywood tradition too, he was overlooked for a deserved Oscar many times and was nominated on nine occasions.
He finally took home the coveted trophy in 1986, over 30 years since his movie debut, for The Color of Money, reprising his role in The Hustler as Fast Eddie Felson and finding a younger, greener version of himself in small-time pool hotshot Tom Cruise.
Newman never liked the fame that went with being a movie star. In public he was always in danger of being mobbed. He once thought he had found a solution by growing a beard. ‘So what happened,’ he once recalled. ‘A couple of kids saw me and said, “Oh my God! It’s Paul Newman in a beard!”’ When he took his children to Disneyland they had to leave by the rear exit.