I hate the way bad news breaks — the way it goes from intimation to suggestion to what seems a lot like confirmation. Read the pieces and you keep encountering variations on that loaded phrase, “very ill”. It never ends well.
I met Paul Newman once, in September of 1994, on the “Nobody’s Fool” junket in New York. Lovely man. Charismatic as hell. Whatever that magical star quality is, he had it in spades — you could feel him walking down the hallway to the interview suite before he even opened the door.
And he was a terrific interview, too — gracious and generous in his answers, utterly without self-consciousness in discussing his complex character both in relation to his past roles and his own life, dryly funny and quietly but firmly refusing to discuss the part as either a valedictory role or an Oscar contender. (He was nominated, of course, but lost to Tom Hanks in “Forrest Gump”.)
A couple of days later, news came out that he’d donated $500,000 to charitable relief efforts in Kosovo. He’d discussed the charitable efforts of Newman’s Own, but he never mentioned the most recent donation. I’ve always imagined he wanted to keep his two worlds separate — either that, or he just didn’t need validation or praise from a bunch of people he didn’t know personally.
I always figured I’d run into him again, either at a film festival or another junket — or even the Toronto Indy, which he’s been known to frequent — and I’d ask him about it, because I knew I’d get a straight answer. Now it looks as though I won’t get the opportunity.
Yeah, I know. It’s all about me.