New from Al and Linda Lerner on Movies and Shakers: The Last Movie Stars

The Last Movie Stars Movies and Shakers July 26, 2022

Ethan Hawke’s directing is especially impressive, creative and thorough covering the love, life and work of iconic Hollywood couple Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward. And it was done during COVID. Hawke was approached by one of their children to show their unique relationship, family, and marriage before the extremely talented actors are forgotten. Married for 50 years, they worked separately and together honing their craft while supporting fellow actors. Woodward actually donated to Hawke’s first production company when he was just starting out. 

Hawke gathered an incredible list of A-listers to be the voice of these stars along with the people who knew them to produce this 6-part series. He had the actors read transcripts from interviews Newman did preparing to write a memoir of their life and acting in Hollywood. There were thousands of pages given to him by the family. 

George Clooney and Laura Linney are the voices of Newman and Woodward. Also taking roles are Melanie Griffith, Sam Rockwell, Billy Crudup, Sally Field, Zoe Kazan, Karen Allen, Steve Zahn, LaTanya Richardson Jackson, and Oscar Isaac, plus famous directors, including Sydney Pollack, Sidney Lumet, Karl Malden, Elia Kazan, Gore Vidal, and Martin Scorsese, to play themselves. 

The original audio tapes were lost because Newman set them on fire when he became frustrated with the project. Fortunately, they had been transcribed and that’s what Hawke brilliantly used to create the script for the actors who participated in the project. They were recorded on zoom and edited, adding clips from Newman and Woodward’s films, Red Carpets and home movies. 

We screened the first episode and shot the Q & A at SXSW with Richard Linklater, Ethan Hawke and Writer/Producer/Actress, Emily Wachtel whose family was close with the Newmans from the time she was 2. She is also on the board of Serious Fun Networks, the global non-profit of Paul Newman’s camps for children with cancer and other blood-related diseases. Paul and Joanne are still being charitable donating sales from Newman’s dressings and spaghetti sauces. See some of the Q & A we attended at SXSW. 

Although Hawke promised his wife he would not inject himself as an actor in the project, his editor suggested he be included to add insight with the actors voicing Newman and Woodward on zoom intertwined with narration and clips. When Hawke’s wife saw the rough-cut she relented and approved.  

Although Hawke promised his wife he would not inject himself as an actor in the project, his editor suggested he be included to add insight with the actors voicing Newman and Woodward on zoom intertwined with narration and clips. When Hawke’s wife saw the rough-cut she relented and approved.  

Through these long lost transcriptions of interviews with the actors, directors and those close to them, we learn about their road to stardom, their first meeting as understudies on Broadway, intimate details of their dating and courtship, long marriage and family life. But most importantly, we find out about how they developed their craft.

Woodward had early fame, winning her first Academy Award for All About Eve at 26, marrying the divorced Newman with 3 children and having their own baby that same year. She was the star. Then, as she had two more children, her ingenue roles were not as plentiful. Instead, Paul had a meteoric rise starring in such high profile movies as Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, The Long Hot Summer, Somebody Up There Likes Me,  Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Cool Hand Luke, The Hustler, and HUD. But their marriage endured. 

Hawke was surprised that the family reached out to him to direct this tribute. Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward were two actors passionate about each other and their work. Hawke, is a kindred spirit who understands and has impressively put together a docuseries worthy of the title, The Last Movie Stars. 

HBO Max/CNN.     6 Episodes.     TVMA

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