Newman remembered as humanitarian, an actor of 'selfless humility'

The death of Hollywood legend Paul Newman has triggered a wave of reaction recalling the actor's generosity and kindness.
The death of Hollywood legend Paul Newman has triggered a wave of reaction recalling the actor's generosity and kindness.
Paul Newman, pictured here in 2006, was remembered by his five daughters as a 'dedicated philanthropist.'

Newman, whose illustrious acting reputation was cemented in films such as Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, The Hustler, The Sting, and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, died at his Westport, Conn., home Friday night at age 83 after a long battle with cancer.

His wife of 50 years, Joanne Woodward, and the rest of his family were at his side.

Newman's daughters — Susan, Stephanie, Elinor, Melissa and Clea — released a statement Saturday about their father:

"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," said the release.

"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. 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.'"

Robert Redford described his former co-star as "a real friend."

Redford, 72, who co-starred with Newman in the 1969 classic Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, said, "There is a point where feelings go beyond words. I have lost a real friend," he told Entertainment Tonight. "My life — and this country — is better for his being in it."

The movie sparked an off-screen friendship spanning some five decades. The two men reunited for the Oscar-winning 1973 film The Sting, where they played two con-men planning to avenge a friend's death.

"Certain friendships are too good and too strong to talk about," Redford once said of Newman.

The two had hoped to do one last movie — an adaptation of Bill Bryson's A Walk in the Woods — but that idea was scrapped a few years ago as they both realized they were advancing in years.

"Paul's been getting old fast. I think things deteriorated for him. Finally, two months ago he called and said, 'I gotta retire.' The picture was written and everything. It breaks my heart," said Redford at the time.

'Total lack of ego'

Others in Hollywood reacted to Newman's death.

"He comes from that era of actors along with the Deans, Brandos and Clifts that I, that we all looked at, as actors who changed the art form," said Leonardo DiCaprio.
Robert Redford, left, as the Sundance Kid and Paul Newman as Butch Cassidy are seen in this 1969 promotional shot from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. The two actors have been friends for almost 50 years. ((20th Century Fox/Associated Press))

"Sometimes God makes perfect people and Paul Newman was one of them," said Newman's Absence of Malice co-star Sally Field on Sunday.

"The history of movies without Paul Newman? It’s unthinkable. His presence, his beauty, his physical eloquence, the emotional complexity he could conjure up and transmit through his acting in so many movies — where would we be without him?" asked Martin Scorsese, who directed Newman in The Color of Money, which garnered a best actor Oscar for him in 1987.

Sam Mendes, who directed Newman in 2002's Road To Perdition, called the actor "extraordinary."

"The thing I remember the most about him is his total lack of ego and his lack of entourage and his lack of hangers-on."

Eva Marie Saint, who starred with Newman in Exodus, recalled that "Yes, his eyes were that blue and beautiful … His legacy as a humanitarian for children around the world is unmatchable."

Millions raised through foundation

In 1982 Newman co-founded Newman's Own food products and sent most of the profits to charity. The Newman's Own Foundation has given some $250 million US to charitable and other organizations.

Newman also sponsored 11 Hole-in-the-Wall camps worldwide that helped thousands of children with incurable diseases experience outdoor activities.

"His heart and soul were dedicated to helping make the world a better place for all," said Newman's Own Foundation vice-chairman Robert Forrester.

Former U.S. president Bill Clinton and his wife Hillary described him as "an American icon, philanthropist and champion for children," in a statement.