BEVERLY HILLS, California — Hollywood was respectfully quiet this weekend as word spread of the passing of legendary actor and philanthropist Paul Newman. While Leonardo DiCaprio, Russell Crowe and director Ridley Scott got together to promote their upcoming film “Body of Lies,” the topic couldn’t help but turn to the Oscar-winning star of such classics as “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” and “The Verdict.”
“We were just talking about [our favorite Newman films],” Crowe said. “It’s a body of work, for me … between the late ’60s and the mid ’70s, which would probably encapsulate ’Cool Hand Luke,’ ’Butch and Sundance,’ ’The Sting.’ There are commercial aspects to what you’re doing, but you’re also pushing forward naturalistic performance in the cinema that will inform it for the next four decades. I wouldn’t want to pick any one performance, I’d just like to say the whole body of work, the whole chunk of it is Paul Newman.”
“It was incredible, I agree,” added DiCaprio. “He was the great role model for anyone in this industry, in the [way] that he conducted his life. Look at him, and look at the man’s work. As an actor, he was part of the definitive group of actors who really shaped what modern acting is. Yet, at the same time, he was a normal family man, and extremely philanthropic. His foundation will continue to do great things for children all around the world. He is really the role model; he’s what you want to aspire to be in this industry, both professionally and personally.”
Scott, who co-produced one of Newman’s final films, 2000’s “Where the Money Is,” remembered the actor for remaining feisty even into his final years. “I was producing [’Money’] at an arm’s length, and Mark Kanievska, who’s one of [my production company’s] guys, was directing it. And so I went and visited them in Montreal, and had the pleasure of meeting Paul. In fact, we sat for awhile afterwards and got totally plastered!
“He likes his beer, and I like my beer, so that was good,” Scott grinned. “I got to know him; I was never able to work with him, unfortunately.”
“All his films [influenced me]; they’re all classic films,” added Scott, director of such films as “Blade Runner” and “Gladiator.” “But I go all the way back to ’Hud,’ though. ’Hud’ is amazing how it still stands up, and does not look like an old movie. There he was. He never seemed to change. ’Hud’ is a beautifully shot film.”
“I just think he was, by all accounts, a great fellow,” marveled Crowe. “He certainly had his priorities in line; family first and the business a distant second, while at the same time putting on screen some of the best performances of his lifetime and any other.”
“Thank you very much for everything you did, man,” Crowe added, addressing Newman. “Because it’s been fantastic.”
Tributes to the actor continued to pour in throughout the weekend. Robert Redford, who co-starred with Newman in “The Sting” and “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” said, “There is a point where feelings go beyond words. I have lost a real friend. My life — and this country — is better for his being in it.”
Former President Bill Clinton and Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton said in a statement: “Paul was an American icon, philanthropist and champion for children. We will miss our dear friend, whose continued support always meant the world to us. Our prayers and thoughts are with Joan and the Newman family and the many people who Paul impacted through his endless kindness and generosity.”
Newman’s daughters issued a statement Saturday that reads:
“Paul Newman played many unforgettable roles. But the ones for which he was proudest never had top billing on the marquee: Devoted husband. Loving father. Adoring grandfather. Dedicated philanthropist. Our father was a rare symbol of selfless humility, the last to acknowledge what he was doing was special. Intensely private, he quietly succeeded beyond measure in impacting the lives of so many with his generosity. Always and to the end, Dad was incredibly grateful for his good fortune. In his own words: ’It’s been a privilege to be here.’ He will be profoundly missed by those whose lives he touched, but he leaves us with extraordinary inspiration to draw upon. During this difficult time, we ask for privacy for our family.”
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