Paul Newman admitted that his career could have been overshadowed by James Dean if the Rebel Without a Cause star hadn’t been killed in a car crash.
The Hollywood actor’s thoughts on his career and personal life are being published posthumously in a memoir, The Extraordinary Life of an Ordinary Man, which will be released on 27 October.
Newman, who died in 2008, remarked: “I know there are some people who attribute my career breakthroughs to Jimmy’s death. Yes, there were elements of luck— and a lot of my success has indeed involved what I call ‘Newman’s luck’.
“Luck recognised me. If Jimmy hadn’t been killed, half of me says, ‘You could have done it anyway. It would have been a hair slower, but it would have happened.”
Newman took over Dean’s role as the fighter in the TV drama, The Battler, when Dean was killed in a car crash in 1955, two weeks into filming. Newman had initially been cast in a supporting role before Dean’s death.
My character had to go from beat-up to handsome to beat-up again during the course of a live 6-minute show; I was having prosthetics glued on and taken off my face at a crazy pace,” he recalled.
Newman was also cast in Bob Wise’s big Rocky Graziano biography film, Somebody Up There Likes Me (1956) – another role that was rumoured to be planned for Dean.
“Word was that the film was to be Jimmy Dean’s next project, and his sudden death obviously scrambled things; Wise and the producers cast me, probably on the strength of my handling the part in The Battler,” said Newman.
Newman, who went on to become a Hollywood icon who starred in The Hustler (1961), Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, (1969) and The Colour of Money (1986), for which he won an Academy Award, says his “luck” began when he was born.
Newman’s luck began in 1925 when I was born white in America. Appearance is the second luck. Cognitive skills in inventing is the third luck,” he said.
“And I had the luck to overcome the fact that people always said about me. ‘Isn’t he darling!’ or ‘Isn’t he so cute!’ by having enough drive to see I wasn’t ever going to survive just on that. I’d been in contact with indifference and stupidity and my own lack of perception. But I’d never really come in contact with true adversity.”
Newman’s memoir was discovered by his family in a basement, and is now due to be published 14 years after his death.
The actor had commissioned his best friend to interview people he worked with, along with his friends, his children, his first wife, his psychiatrist, and Joanne Woodward, to create an oral history of his life. He was then inspired to dictate his own narrative.
In the memoir, he talks candidly about his traumatic childhood, his lack of success with women, his films, and his love story with Joanne Woodward. The book includes reflections from his family and friends, as well as stars and directors including Tom Cruise and Elia Kazan.
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