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What Ethan Hawke Discovered About Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward for New HBO Doc

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He achieved a level of iconography that’s just rare. I mean, that’s kind of why I wanted Clooney to do his voice. There’s a lot of really good actors, but there’s very few movie stars in the way that Paul was a movie star. And part of that had to do with the way television and entertainment was changing.

When Tyrone Power and Clark Gable became celebrities, it was a level of fame, but you still had privacy. [In the ‘60s], the world was exploding. The Beatles were happening, and JFK, the whole… what it meant to be famous, you were now readily available everywhere because of television. It was a different level of fame than the world had previously known. That intersected with Paul’s career. I think that I’ve always avoided that kind of celebrity. And it hit him full force.

Looking back on his films, what were the ones that really affected you kind of early on in your career or as a young man? What were the ones that affected you again as an adult while going back and doing this rewatch?

Well, when I was young, it was Hustler, Hud, Cool Hand Luke, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and The Sting, right? Those were like five right off the bat. I mean, Cool Hand Luke changed my life when I saw it. I don’t know, it was like a holy experience.

As a Texan, Hud, which is written by Larry McMurtry, [meant a lot]. It’s the Texas movie. So then revisiting them, I just couldn’t believe Paul’s sense of humor in his later work. Slap Shot, Judge Roy Bean, and Buffalo Bill were three that I thought were okay movies when I saw them while younger. But now I was like, “Oh these are brilliant, brilliant movies.” They’re incendiary, kind of punk, Hollywood movies. I mean, Slap Shot is just irreverent as hell, still.

The Last Movie Stars premieres on HBO Max on Thursday, July 21.

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