28 Sep 2008

US actor Paul Newman dies

3:10 pm on 28 September 2008

The legendary film star Paul Newman has died at the age of 83 after a long battle with cancer.

The star of films such as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid died at home on Friday surrounded by family and close friends, said his publicist Jeff Sanderson.

One of Hollywood's top actors over six decades, Newman was nominated for an Oscar 10 times, winning the best actor trophy in 1987 for The Color Of Money.

In May 2007, he said he was giving up acting because he could no longer perform to the best of his ability.

"You start to lose your memory, you start to lose your confidence, you start to lose your invention," he told US broadcaster ABC.

"So I think that's pretty much a closed book for me."

And in May this year, Newman stepped down as director of a stage production of John Steinbeck's Of Mice And Men in Connecticut, citing unspecified health issues.

Newman appeared in 60 movies, with memorable roles in films like The Hustler, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, The Sting

and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

Broadcaster Sir Michael Parkinson, who interviewed Newman for a documentary, said the star was "a real giant of the cinema".

"He was the link between the great time of Hollywood - Cary Grant and people like that - and Tom Cruise," he said.

"He fills the gap between the two, and fills it in a most extraordinary, dominant manner."

Although his handsome looks and piercing blue eyes made him an ideal romantic lead, Newman often played rebels, tough guys and losers.

"I was always a character actor," he once said. "I just looked like Little Red Riding Hood."

Newman's last film role was as the voice of Doc Hudson, one of the most famous racing cars in history, in the Pixar animation Cars.

It was perhaps a fitting epitaph for the actor who had a lifelong fascination with the sport and put his film career on hold in the 1970s to become a professional racing driver.

He also had a successful side career as a creator of a line of food products, Newman's Own, which sponsored numerous charitable organisations.

Since 1983, profits from Newman's range of salad dressings have seen $US250 million given to charities worldwide.

Newman also founded his "Hole in the Wall" camps, which provided summer breaks for children around the world suffering from life-threatening illnesses.

"Paul's Newman's craft was acting. His passion was racing. His love was his family and friends. And his heart and soul were dedicated to helping make the world a better place for all," said Robert Forrester, vice-chairman of the Newman's Own Foundation.

Newman was born in Cleveland on January 26, 1925, and was a Navy radio man in the Pacific during World War II.

He later went to Kenyon College in Ohio on a football scholarship, but took up acting after being cut from the team because of a bar room brawl.

After his father's death, Newman helped run the family sporting goods store before heading to the Yale Drama School.

He ended up in New York, finding bit parts in TV and a Broadway role in Picnic in 1953. His first major movie role was portraying boxer Rocky Graziano in Somebody Up There Likes Me.

Newman was married to Oscar-winning actress Joanne Woodward for more than 50 years.

He is survived by his wife, five children, two grandsons and his older brother Arthur.