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Paul Newman faked his own death for fun

Paul Newman was a method actor who rivaled James Dean and Marlon Brando, but he certainly knew how to have fun on movie sets, terrorizing directors with pranks.

Paul Newman faking death on movie sets

Paul Newman was mainly known for playing stoic men of few words who wrestled with their masculinity in some of the best movies ever, including The Hustler, Hud, and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. It’s may come as a surprise then that one of the best actors of all time was such a huge prankster on set, and that some of his pranks got massively out-of-hand.


Paul Newman seemed to have disputes with many of his directors, and they would argue over script changes and other issues. Sometimes this led to Newman seeking revenge by playing elaborate pranks on them. This led to him faking his own death on two different movie sets – as one does.

According to A.E. Hotchner’s book Paul and Me: 53 Years of Adventures and Misadventures with My Pal Paul Newman, the actor first played the prank on the set of 1960’s war movie Exodus; “Otto Preminger, a humorless, vindictive man, had not only rejected Paul’s list of script suggestions, he had also lectured Paul on why an actor’s suggestions were never helpful.”

“In a pivotal scene, Paul was engaged in a bloody fight on the top balcony of a high-rise building when a perfect lookalike dummy was adroitly substituted for Paul during the fight. The script called for Paul to knock out the villain. But now Preminger, directing from a unit on the ground, saw the villain knock Paul’s dummy off the balcony, causing it to spin downward, landing with an ominous splat. Preminger was so shaken he collapsed and required first aid.”

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We like to think that Newman held onto that dummy for over a decade, just in case the need arose to use it again. That opportunity came in thriller movie The MacKintosh Man (1973), “after John Huston paid no attention to Paul’s lengthy list of script suggestions, with the cameras turning and Paul performing an active scene 60 feet above ground, Paul hurled a lookalike dummy through a window that landed on the ground below with a thud, causing Huston to yell ‘Cut!’ and race to the scene.”

We somehow think that neither Preminger or Huston were on Newman’s list of the best directors of all time.