Before Paul Newman passed away, the Hollywood star reflected on the loss of his only son.
Scott Newman, a fellow actor, died in 1978 at age 28 from a drug and alcohol overdose. Newman, who passed away in 2008 at age 83, detailed his heartbreak in a memoir published posthumously titled “Paul Newman: The Extraordinary Life of an Ordinary Man.” It’s out on Tuesday.
Newman began writing his book in the ‘80s with the help of screenwriter Stewart Stern, who in turn spoke to dozens of the actor’s friends and associates. It was recently found in Newman’s Connecticut home where his widow, Joanne Woodward, still resides.
In the book, Newman feared that Scott felt he was in competition with his famous father.
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“I kept thinking he was going through a phase of adolescent bad judgment,” wrote Newman in an excerpt obtained by People magazine on Friday. “I never thought it would be fatal.”
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“Was there some way I might have told him he didn’t have to be like me?” Newman wondered. “That he didn’t have to do macho things and could just be himself?”
“Many are the times I have gotten down on my knees and asked for Scott’s forgiveness,” Newman continued. “I ask for forgiveness for that part of me which provided the impetus for his own destruction. What would it have taken to avert that? I’m not certain, but I don’t think I could have gone into films and been a movie star. I couldn’t have drunk.”
Newman was a father of six – Scott and five daughters. He described his feelings of guilt and helplessness over his son, noting that “being a star throws everything out of whack for your kids.”
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“There is even something grotesque in saying, ‘Forgive me,’” wrote Newman. “The energy up there that represents that kid will just give me the finger and say, ‘Well, what am I supposed to do with that?’”
In the book, Newman also described how heavy drinking impacted him.
“In the early 1970s, I think I took it as far as it could go, before realizing I had taken it that far,” he wrote. “For someone as controlled as I am, to experience the delight, the luxury, of being out of control, and to keep yourself constantly at risk, is simply pleasurable.”
“There are terrible things that happen with booze,” he reflected. “I marvel that I survived them.”
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In 2021, publisher Alfred A. Knopf announced that the book will explore Newman’s thoughts on “acting, directing, boyhood, family, fame, Hollywood, Broadway, love, his first marriage, his 50-year marriage to Joanne Woodward, drinking, politics, racing, his ultimate ride to stardom, and aging gracefully.”
“Through Newman’s voice, and the voices of others, the book captures the paradoxical and unstoppable rise of a star who wrestled with doubts, believing he was inferior to Marlon Brando and James Dean, and yet transcended his ‘hunk’ status to become an Oscar-winning actor, champion race car driver, social activist, and entrepreneur whose philanthropy has generated nearly a billion dollars for charitable causes,” according to Knopf.
“This result is a portrait of the actor in full, from his early days to his years in the Navy, from his start in Hollywood to his rise to stardom, and with an intimate glimpse of his family life,” the statement added.