Paul Newman has a reputation not only as one of the greatest ever Hollywood stars, but also as a skilled racing driver, a family man with a decades-long marriage, and as a philanthropist – who raised millions for charity. Something else he was known for was being a prankster on set, especially when he had ‘friendly’ rivalries with certain directors.
A director that Newman worked with three times was George Roy Hill – on one of the all-time best westerns Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969), on the classic heist comedy movie The Sting (1973), and on hilarious sports movie Slap Shot (1977). Newman’s pranks on Hill combined his love of cars, with his love of…cutting things in half (?) – according to his friend A. E. Hotchner, who wrote a book about Newman.
“On Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, when Hill refused to make changes Newman suggested for a scene, Newman had the director’s desk sawed in half, causing it to collapse in Hill’s lap when he sat down. On The Sting, Hill once again resisted Newman’s suggestions – and later found his car cut in half. (Newman bought him a new one).”
From the mid-1970s to the early 1990s, Newman was a professional race car driver for the Bob Sharp Racing team. Therefore, the prank he played on Hill during the filming of Slap Shot was particularly cruel, given that the situation was plausible; “When Hill didn’t buy a round of drinks for the crew on Slap Shot, Newman staged a fake horrific car crash – with himself behind the wheel – and scared the daylights out of his director.” Incidentally – if you haven’t seen Newman’s vast array of leather and fur coats in Slap Shot – you’re missing on on some primo drip.
During Newman’s 50-year-long movie career he made classic movies in almost every genre – from sword-and-sandal historical epics to post-apocalyptic futuristic science fiction movies. There will never be another Hollywood star like him.
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