During Paul Newman‘s long career, he didn’t make many blockbusters but one of them was action thriller movie The Towering Inferno. While may have been successful – Newman didn’t enjoy making it.
Acclaimed actor Ethan Hawke made a 2022 documentary series about his hero Paul Newman and while promoting it, he revealed that he was inspired by Newman’s attitude to making one of the best disaster movies – The Towering Inferno – when he accepted the role of Marvel villain Arthur Harrow in Moon Knight.
“Do I think he [Newman] admired blockbusters and superhero movies? No, I don’t. He hated doing Towering Inferno. That was his idea of a giant sellout. You see him in physical pain in that movie. But, it’s still a job. You still have to put food on the table,” said Hawke.
Hawke continued to be bracingly honest about his reasons for accepting the role in the Disney Plus Marvel series; “I am an actor. That is how I pay my kids’ medical bills, that’s how I put a roof over our heads.” He knew that the job wouldn’t be “world-changing,” but says that he’s glad that he did it.
One of the reasons why Paul Newman hated making The Towering Inferno is because he famously had a rivalry with his co-star Steve McQueen, with them wrestling over who had top billing. This resulted in the first instance of ‘staggered but equal’ billing, with their names arranged diagonally on the screen.
McQueen’s feud with Newman on The Towering Inferno was reportedly so fierce, they even fought over who had more dialogue in the action movie. McQueen went back and forth to the screenwriter until the two stars had the same number of lines – leading to Newman calling McQueen “chicken sh*t.”
If you look through Paul Newman’s movies, from the mid-1950s onwards, The Towering Inferno does stand out as being nothing like anything else he ever made. Other than some of the best westerns, Newman made very few genre movies – although he did star in a bizarre science fiction film in the 70s for Robert Altman.
Newman was insecure about his acting talents and knew that he wasn’t even the best actor in his own house – as he was married to the hugely talented Joanne Woodward. He was also self-conscious about certain movies (such as The Silver Chalice) that he’d made which he knew were stinkers.
While The Towering Inferno was an outlier for Newman, it can’t take away from the fact that despite what he thought, we know he really was one of the best actors of all time. We’re looking forward to seeing some more great acting in House of the Dragon season 2 and Yellowstone season 5 part 2.