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Paul Newman's Own Part One

The renowned icon plays father figure and mob boss to Tom Hanks in ROAD TO PERDITION

By Pamela Harland     July 20, 2002

Tom Hanks and Paul Newman star in ROAD TO PERDITION
© DreamWorks
At 77 it's highly unlikely legendary actor and philanthropist Paul Newman will ever retire. "I keep trying to retire from everything and discover I haven't retired from anything," laughs Newman. With a 50-year show business career, tons of charity work - which include his company Paul Newman's Own producing spaghetti sauce, popcorn and most famously salad dressing amongst other products - it takes a lot to get this famous icon out of the kitchen and into the theaters. However, after reading the script for director Sam Mendes' ROAD TO PERDITION, Newman knew this was a project worth his time on set.

Tom Hanks and Tyler Hoechlin star in ROAD TO PERDITION

"I thought it was a pretty showy piece of work," says Newman. "And I also knew that the movie was going to be wonderful. And it gave me a chance to deviate from the kind of stuff that I usually do."

In the film Newman plays 1931 Irish mob boss John Rooney who finds himself torn between a biological son (Daniel Craig) and the one whom he grew to love as a son (Tom Hanks). When circumstances force Hanks' character and his son to go on the road, Newman's Rooney must order the execution of the man who he has grown to love as one of his own. Meanwhile, Rooney's own, devious son is the cause of the entire situation. The result is a film with far reaching themes regarding family and the relationship between a man and his boy.

Newman, not one to ever praise his work or his status in the business, says he just hopes his performance "will have the ring of truth about it somehow." The fact that this was not your ordinary gangster film and instead one that genuinely stayed clear of explosives also appealed to Newman.


"It is about a family but not even in the sense of Mafia family," explains Newman. "It is really family and vengeance and I can understand that. Not only understand that, but in some cases admire it. That it happened to occur within the confines of the Irish Mafia is different. I just found everything that happened in the film compelling and promising."

Learning how to compel audiences with his performance, says Newman, came from his years at Yale drama school and then at the famed Actor's Studio in New York back in the early '50s. But it wasn't until the late '70s when he could actually watch any of his performances with any "sense of satisfaction." And to this day he still downplays his abilities, even squirming in his seat at the idea that he be labeled an icon.

"I don't think about any of that stuff," says Newman. "What you are able to achieve on screen has nothing to do with you. I don't take much of it seriously, I really don't."


It's not to say that Newman doesn't believe in an icon status - he notes Marlon Brando, Lee J. Cobb, Laurence Olivier amongst the elitist he just doesn't include himself in that category. There are many more actors that he can't recall at the moment but he says if you give him a few days he can come up with an even bigger list.

"There are too many that I admire," says Newman. "Joanne [Woodward actress and his wife of 44 years] is in there somewhere too. I got to tell you I would have been killed if I didn't say that."

Newman jokes about the secret to his long lasting marriage, "I don't know what she puts in my food."

Be sure to check back tomorrow for part two of our Paul Newman interview.

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