Paul Newman and Joan Woodward were from 'The Last Movie Stars': NPR

Paul Newman and Joan Woodward were from ‘The Last Movie Stars’: NPR

Joan Woodward and Paul Newman are the subject of the new series Recent movie stars.


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Joan Woodward and Paul Newman are the subject of the new series Recent movie stars.


Ethan Hawke documentary series about Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward Recent movie stars, is an unmistakable epidemic era project. It’s full of video calls, in all its dash and casual, with director Hawkeye in a variety of elegant and sometimes messy hair configurations (face and head). We see Hook talking to his daughter and wife, talking to the Newman and Woodward children, and talking about what he learned with Vincent Donofrio, Laura Linney, and Zoe Kazan. Most of what you’ll see on screen are these calls along with hours of clips of Newman and Woodward (and sometimes other actors) in action. And it all feels like its lonely moment, because it’s a perfect project for a period of turbulent reflection about life in general, and thus about celebrities, marriage, and art.

Neumann laid the foundation for the documentary

Hawke says the series’s birth came from a treasure trove of tapes interviewing everyone from Newman’s first wife, Jackie Waite, to directors George Roy Hill and Sidney Lumet — tapes that Newman commissioned to make a planned memoir and, much later, a seemingly burned out thing. from the rush. But Newman’s children (he had three with Witt and three with Woodward) later learned there were copies of those tapes, and asked Hawke if he’d like to make a documentary using them.

Hawke’s solution to creating scripts for something to watch rather than read is to get the actors to read from them as if they were scripts, usually on top of all those clips from decades of movies and other footage. So, for example, George Clooney Newman read himself. Laura Linney reads Joanne Woodward; Vincent Donofrio reads John Huston; And Brooks Ashmanskas has a great time wrapping his voice around the words of Gore Vidal (a close friend of the couple who gave the series its name by referring to them as such).

One movie, three stories

Recent movie stars He tells three stories, really, all of them effective. The first is Marriage History: Newman and Woodward’s meeting as young actors. Starting a relationship that everyone seems to agree on has been intensely physical since the day they met and has been forever; study at the actors’ studio; They grow older and see their careers diverge as he becomes a huge star; Staying together despite the rocky path is more than what their legend sometimes left; Finding new paths in philanthropy and television later in their lives. (Newman died in 2008; Woodward is still alive, but she had Alzheimer’s disease and was not directly involved, despite appearing in archival TV interview footage.)

The second is Hollywood history. Hawke explores how Woodward has worked her way through an industry she doesn’t celebrate as much as her husband. We learn how today’s prestigious TV series are not the first opportunities of their kind for actresses that have been neglected by Hollywood. We learn that Newman sank into what some saw as a respite during his time as an established movie star and how he bounced back with it. judgment. There is even space for Vidal, from beyond the grave, to reflect on how James Dean’s tragic death paved the way for Newman’s success.

The third is how Hawke and his contemporaries who make voices on the show and talk to him on Zoom, some of whom you might find with their arms hanging around him in old wire pictures from the ’90s, look at these Hollywood legends different from the ones they knew. Hawke, for example, gently leads his wife in one conversation to reflect on his astral connection to the Newman legend before judging too harshly how stardom makes humans a commodity. Newman’s veneration for being from the actresses studio and not for having blue eyes doesn’t make Hawke any less hungry to connect with someone he doesn’t know.

How do you have heroes

In fact, this third story may be the least likely to work and the most bizarre. It is easy to understand why the story of Woodward and Newman’s marriage and career is so fascinating and why it is satisfying to examine it closely; They honestly lived an extraordinary life and left behind great art. It’s the director and his friends who enter the conversation and ponder the seemingly aimless or self-indulgent video calls. But here, the series gives something new and timeless to be around, other than acting and beyond the industry. At some level you become a story about how to get heroes in the first place.

Hawke begins the series by talking to these Zoom friends about how special Newman and Woodward are: the art they’ve made, the kids, the charity work — and they race cars, too. Several times, you can see Hooke trying to figure out how to convey how big these things are in his mind (especially now, after doing all that research). Can you imagineHe keeps telling people. Can you imagine being in the Actors Studio with James Dean, Marilyn Monroe, and Marlon Brando? Can you imagine?

How to treat defects

But it’s a complicated story. You can see Hawke arguing in front of the camera with what Stephanie Newman, one of Newman’s daughters with Jackie Waite, tells of how it hurt this long relationship and her father’s eventual marriage for her stepmother for her mother, who she says wanted it too. Be an actress. “I was left with three children under the age of five,” Stephanie says. “I was a child.”

Hawke is doing a series about people who admire their careers which is written as a love letter to much of what they are and what they have done. But where does the pain they inflicted on others live in that story? Where does Hockey, as a fervent fan of Newman and a father himself, put the fact that Newman felt that he had been many an absent parent for so many years, and that he apparently caused pain to his children? What role does the extraordinary privilege of being absurdly handsome (he even admitted this about himself, essentially) a white actor in the twentieth century play in contextualizing what Newman was able to accomplish? Not her role in the documentary so much in the form of reverence itself?

It’s not that simple “no one is perfect”; Making allowances is easy. The thesis of the series on this point, I believe, is that you learn no more from your heroes except Their faults come from liking them but by embracing those flaws as an integral part of who they are and allowing whatever you like to live with whatever you don’t. In this case, you should pay close attention to how Newman behaves in particular after, after He made some of these mistakes and what he did Around Feeling infinitely lucky – a theme that comes up again and again.

A word you often hear about famous couples like Newman and Woodward kings. Hollywood Kings. Recent movie stars He points out that royalty is probably too much and too little to name anyone you love. A lot, because it puts dishonest polish on their imperfections. Too little, because it robs them of the very things you can learn from them the most, a thorough understanding of how they dealt with times when they were vain or stubborn, not good for each other, not good for others, not easy to love, not easy to love .

This is a wonderful history. It’s an absolute feast of movie clips, filled with things I didn’t know, filled with things a lot of people probably don’t know. It’s rich and comprehensive when you work as a resume. But there is something especially welcome in the moments when he turns back and turns to the study of generations of artists and myths themselves, myth as something so great that it can block out the sun and hide the messy lessons of other people’s lives which are, after all, the best reasons to study it.

All six episodes of Recent movie stars Streaming on HBO MAX.

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