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Paul Newman’s Warring Heirs & Metaverse Estate Planning

Paul Newman with his wife, actress Joanne Woodward.
Paul Newman with his wife, actress Joanne Woodward. Photo: Fotos International/Archive Photos/Getty Images
Eriq Gardner
October 24, 2022

What’s a guy gotta do to make his intentions clear? Take Paul Newman, who beginning in 1986 repeatedly sat down with a friend to record recollections of his life. The idea was to use these interviews to create an autobiography. Then, in 1998, Newman halted the project and burned the tapes. But evidently, throwing hundreds of recordings into a pit of fire is the sort of move that’s open to interpretation. The transcripts survived, and so this past week, The Extraordinary Life of an Ordinary Man: A Memoir, was published. “If he didn’t want [the book] put out there, I don’t think he would have kept [the transcripts],” Clea Newman Soderlund, the actor’s youngest daughter, explained to The Wall Street Journal. And that fire? Ethan Hawke, who used the transcripts to create the HBO Max docu-series The Last Movie Stars, has a theory. “He got totally bored with being quote-unquote Paul Newman… and the mythologizing of himself,” Hawke told MovieMaker magazine. 

Wait, what? That guy whose face is plastered on salad dressing and microwave popcorn and uncommonly good frozen pizza got tired of mythologizing himself? Are we really to believe Paul Newman was only setting fire to his ego? That’s hard to believe, especially in light of what came next.