Paul Newman turned down Ben-Hur because of this movie

Paul Newman hated the first movie he ever starred in so much, he couldn't let it lie for the rest of his career. And he made sure to never repeat his mistake.

Paul Newman

Paul Newman acted in 55 live-action movies between 1954 and 2002, becoming a legendary Hollywood star. These included successful westerns and disaster movies. However acclaimed and lauded Newman became, he never rested on his laurels and pushed himself to be a better actor throughout his career. This was partly because he knew that his wife Joanne Woodward was the really talented one in the marriage.


Newman achieved both critical and box office success, starring in hits such as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Sting, and The Towering Inferno. But he never forgot the embarrassment that was his first-ever movie role – The Silver Chalice. Newman is far from the only actor to get an inauspicious start in Hollywood, but Newman just could not let it lie.

In Shawn Levy’s 2009 biography of Paul Newman, he quotes Newman saying; “it’s a distinction to say I was in the worst film to be made in the entirety of the 1950s.” In 1963, The Silver Chalice was scheduled to be shown on television and Newman spent $1200 on newspaper ads imploring people not to watch it, which of course backfired.

Newman was so burned by The Silver Chalice, he would never star in another sword-and-sandal historical epic again, despite them being a hugely popular genre at the time. Ben-Hur was a massive hit in 1959, as was Spartacus in 1960. Newman was sent the script for Ben-Hur, which would go onto star Charlton Heston. His response was; “I wore a cocktail dress once. Never again!”

Paul Newman has been in the news recently, due to the release of his memoir The Extraordinary Life of an Ordinary Man, as well as Ethan Hawke’s HBO documentary The Last Movie Stars.

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