Clea Newman Soderlund explains her father Paul Newman’s motivation for starting a book as “He wanted to debunk the fairy tale.”
In 1986, Newman had spent three decades as one of the most well-known actors in the world, appearing in movies like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Sting, and The Hustler.
Noted for his stunning blue eyes, boyish charm, and blissful 50-year union with the equally great actress Joanne Woodward, he was also known for his boyish good looks.
But things weren’t always as they seemed. According to Soderlund, the youngest of the actor’s five daughters, “He wanted to demolish the idea that everything was just fine.” None of us live like that.
That being the case, Newman decided to write a memoir with his friend and screenwriter Stewart Stern when he was in his 60s. The two men discussed Newman’s upbringing, profession, family, and fame for five years.
Soderlund says, “This was a really important period in his life. He was reflecting deeply, I noticed.
But by 1991, Newman and Stern had given attempts because they were too overwhelmed by the volume of information.
In 2008, at the age of 83, Newman passed away. 2015 saw Stern’s passing.
The thousands of pages of interview transcripts had vanished, and no one knew what had happened to them. Even a rumor that they had been burned alive in a campfire circulated.
Following their discovery in a family storage unit two years ago, they were later edited into a new book titled The Extraordinary Life of an Ordinary Man.
It presents a real-life portrait of a troubled celebrity plagued by self-doubt who thinks back on his alcoholic father, his controlling mother, the first marriage he ended when he met Woodward, his shortcomings as a father, and his excessive drinking.
The daughter of Newman struggled to read the writings but learned “a lot” about her father from them. It’s unprocessed, she says.
What then most surprised her?
She says, “He was very insecure.” “My birth year is 1965. Due to his fame both at the time and later, he had become rather larger than life by the time I arrived. So it was seen from a completely different angle.
“He seemed to be so certain about everything, so I struggled to comprehend how he could view himself so differently from how his children and family felt about him.
I was astonished by how brutally he judged his work, even though I knew he didn’t think highly of it as everyone else did.
Newman claims he is “always nervous” about “not being good enough” at one point in the book.
And he questions how much of his professional success is attributable to him or his attractiveness.
It is challenging for a person like myself, who has always had a dreadful sinking sensation in the pit of his stomach that his success comes merely from being fortunate enough to be born looking a certain way, the actor writes in the memoir.
According to Soderlund, her father wished to be seen as much more than just attractive.
He found it somewhat distressing because he had the impression that no matter how hard he tried, he would never be able to go past that attractive face and those lovely eyes.
Robert Redford and Paul Newman had a wildly popular on-screen romance in the 1970s. They produced Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and The Sting, and they spent a long time looking for the appropriate script to collaborate on a future project.
However, the book makes clear that the two were not close friends off-screen at the time. Redford is not a reliable person, claims Newman. “You can never be certain he’ll show up. That is impolite.
According to Soderlund, any stress resulted from divergent working styles. “Bob, that was never really his skill. My father was a stickler for timeliness.
“Dad had a lot of work to do. Because Bob was more of a free spirit and he wanted to be good and successful, he worked hard at it.
Paul Newman also alluded to tensions in his relationship with Woodward in the book. He previously made the infamous statement about his marriage, “I have steak at home. Why should I eat a hamburger outside?
However, there are hints of betrayal in the narrative. He admits to a pal, “We’ve had our issues. “It hasn’t been a bed of roses the whole time,”
Oh, there was tension, Soderlund admits. “I’m sure that being his wife wasn’t an easy task.
“However, I believe what makes them noteworthy is how hard they worked to maintain their relationship. They deserve a lot of credit for managing to navigate through so many extremely trying situations and emerge stronger and better.
She says, “My mother would hold him till my father took his last breath.
In addition to being critical of other parents, Newman says of himself as a father, “I don’t have a gift for fathering.
“I could have shown my kids more consistency and shown them more compassion. I could have waited longer.
In 1978, Scott, his son, passed away from an unintentional drug and alcohol overdose.
According to Soderlund, his father “worked a lot, therefore he was gone a lot.”
Paul Newman was a large kid at home, she continues. I was a young child at the time. You were the object of his playful throwing you into the pool. I enjoyed him. However, he lacked consistency.
Soderlund claims that Newman “worked hard on himself” and “felt much better about himself as he got older” in the decades following the recording of the discussions.
It was “a difficult decision” to decide to publish the memoir, which contains so many personal admissions and eye-opening insights, according to the author.
But in the end, she and her sisters chose to carry out his wish. It is something he desired.
According to Paul Newman, he wants to leave behind a record that clarifies the situation, dispels some urban legends, and debunks the mythology that has grown up around him. He also wants to keep piranhas at bay.
“Something that fairly accurately records the time I spent on this planet.”