They were a Hollywood power couple who chose to live and raise their family in Connecticut, far removed from the center of moviemaking. They were box office draws who remained true to their art, using their celebrity to finance smaller dramas and passion projects. They epitomized glamour and romance for legions of fans, but remained more devoted to social justice and philanthropy than red carpet premieres.
Now, a new six-part documentary will examine the lives and legacies of the enigmatic and incandescent Joanne Woodward and Paul Newman. The series, “The Last Movie Stars,” is directed by Ethan Hawke and executive produced by Martin Scorsese. CNN Films and HBO Max are backing the series, which will premiere exclusively on CNN Plus, the news network’s subscription streaming service which will debut later this year. The film will also be available later via HBO Max.
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There’s certainly a lot of rich material to dig into. Newman and Woodward collaborated on films like “Rachel, Rachel” and “Mr. and Mrs. Bridge,” while also independently starring in such classics as “Hud,” “The Three Faces of Eve” and “The Hustler.” In addition, Newman founded Newman’s Own, a maker of salad dressings, pasta sauce and other food products that donates proceeds to charity.
Hawke got involved after he was approached by one of Woodward’s and Newman’s daughters early in the pandemic about directing a documentary about their parents.
“Exploring Woodward and Newman through their 50-year love affair has proven more rewarding than I could have imagined. Their work, philanthropy, and lives serve as a kind of North Star, illuminating what a substantive, meaningful life can look like,” said Hawke.
“The Last Movie Stars” uses interviews that were conducted as part of a long-abandoned project that Newman commissioned from friend and screenwriter Stewart Stern. At Newman’s request, Stern interviewed Elia Kazan, Sidney Lumet, Karl Malden, Sidney Pollack, Gore Vidal, Jacqueline Witte, Joanne Woodward, and others for a planned memoir. Newman was also interviewed by Stern. They discussed his youth, his first marriage, his romance and life with Woodward, his personal demons, and the shattering loss of his son, Scott, who died of a drug overdose at the age of 28.
In addition to archival interviews with Woodward and Newman, Hawke enlisted actors Karen Allen, George Clooney, Oscar Isaac, LaTanya Richardson Jackson, Zoe Kazan, Laura Linney, Sam Rockwell and others to voice segments of the original transcribed interviews for “The Last Movie Stars.” Hawke also interviewed several of Newman’s daughters and conducted contemporary interviews with Sally Field, Melanie Griffith and Scorsese, who collaborated with Newman and Woodward on various projects. Field worked with Newman on “Absence of Malice,” Griffith starred with the actor in “Nobody’s Fool,” and Scorsese directed Newman to an Oscar in “The Color of Money” and tapped Woodward to deliver the narration for “The Age of Innocence.”
“Ethan’s brilliant vision illuminates what fascinates us about Joanne Woodward and Paul Newman in a film worthy of their talents and passions,” said Amy Entelis, executive VP for talent and content development for CNN Worldwide. Entelis and Courtney Sexton, senior VP for CNN Films, are both executive producers for the film. “We look forward to sharing this unique, multi-chapter story with CNN Plus subscribers,” Entelis added.
Mario Andretti is a co-producer for “The Last Movie Stars. The film is produced by Emily Wachtel and Lisa Long Adler of Nook House Productions, Ryan Hawke of Under the Influence Productions, and Adam Gibbs.
The deal for The Last Movie Stars was negotiated by Stacey Wolf, senior VP of business affairs, and Kelly MacLanahan, assistant general counsel, both for CNN Worldwide, on behalf of CNN Films and CNN Plus. Marc Simon of Fox Rothschild LLP handled negotiations for Nook House Productions. Cinetic Media advised the filmmakers on this transaction. CNN Films retains streaming and broadcast rights for this film.
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