Paul Newman Looks Back on Son’s Death in Posthumous Memoir

by Craig Garrett
(Photo by Max B. Miller/Fotos International/Getty Images)

Before his death, Hollywood icon Paul Newman discussed the grieving process he went through after losing his son. In 1978, Scott Newman, also an actor, died from a drug and alcohol overdose at only 28 years old. In a memoir published after his death, Newman detailed the heartbreak he felt, Fox News reports.

Newman began writing his book in the ‘80s with the help of screenwriter Stewart Stern. Together, they spoke to dozens of friends and associates of Newman. The book was recently found in his Connecticut home, where his widow Joanne Woodward still resides.

Throughout the book, Newman was worried Scott felt he had to compete with his well-known father. “I kept thinking he was going through a phase of adolescent bad judgment,” Newman wrote in an excerpt published by People magazine. “I never thought it would be fatal.” The famous actor seemed to regret not slowing down to calm Scott. “Was there some way I might have told him he didn’t have to be like me?” Newman recalled. “That he didn’t have to do macho things and could just be himself?”

“Many are the times I have gotten down on my knees and asked for Scott’s forgiveness,” Newman wrote. “I ask for forgiveness for that part of me which provided the impetus for his own destruction. What would it have taken to avert that? I’m not certain, but I don’t think I could have gone into films and been a movie star. I couldn’t have drunk.”

Newman, who had six children – Scott and five daughters – stated that he constantly felt guilty and helpless over his son. He explained how “being a star throws everything out of whack for your kids.”

Paul Newman opens up about his personal demons in the memoir

The book also covers how Newman’s heavy drinking habits took a toll on him. “In the early 1970s, I think I took it as far as it could go, before realizing I had taken it that far,” he recalled. “For someone as controlled as I am, to experience the delight, the luxury, of being out of control, and to keep yourself constantly at risk, is simply pleasurable.” The actor shows the sort of introspection that made him so attractive to people. “There are terrible things that happen with booze,” he admitted. “I marvel that I survived them.”

The memior was also the basis for a recent series about Newman. Director Ethan Hawke had so much material for his Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward documentary, that he had a tough time deciding what made the cut. The Last Movie Stars is a 6 part documentary series directed by Hawke for the streaming service HBO Max. The series looks at the lengthy, seemingly happy marriage of Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward. Hawke had a mountain of material to go through.

“At a certain point you just have to get laser-focused,” Hawke told TV Insider. “There’s probably a 150-page transcript with Paul’s brother [Arthur] who is one of the most important people in his life.” The issue Hawke reveals is it’s too big of a story, that “with opening, that box is that it’s its own documentary. It was too big to bring up lightly.”