Ethan Hawke’s new six-part documentary calls them The Last Movie Stars (HBO Max, July 21). Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward were certainly the height of Hollywood royalty, with award-winning careers, a 50-year marriage and more than a dozen films in which they were featured together. Here are seven things we learned — and love — about the couple.
1. They were grownups when they met
When Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward first met, in 1953, in a production of Picnic on Broadway, he was already married with a family. They wouldn’t work together again until they played opposite one another in the film The Long, Hot Summer in 1957. They married early the following year and soon moved their family well outside the Hollywood bubble to Connecticut.
2. She was the bigger star of the two at first
Woodward won the intra-marriage Oscar derby, earning the Academy Award in 1957 for The Three Faces of Eve — she had sewn her own dress especially for the ceremony. He was nominated seven times (and lost) before he finally picked up a competitive Oscar more than 30 years later for 1986’s The Color of Money, in which he reprised his role from 1961’s The Hustler. When the prize finally came, he was not in attendance to accept it.
3. And his celebrity came in the wake of tragedy
The biggest boost to Newman’s early career may have been the premature death of fellow Method actor James Dean. They often auditioned for the same roles, which Dean usually won. But after Dean was killed in a 1955 car crash, Newman was asked to take his role as Rocky Graziano in Somebody Up There Likes Me, whose release the following year led to a string of triumphs in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Hud and The Hustler.