When you think of Hollywood power couples, there is arguably none bigger than Joanne Woodward and Paul Newman. Married for 50 years, until Newman’s death in 2008, they built up incredible acting careers while also living intriguing lives outside of their work.
The Last Movie Stars, a six-part series from CNN Films and HBO Max, explores the pair’s relationship and individual work in a fascinating new way. There was once a time when Newman asked his friend and screenwriter Stewart Stern to interview him and many people in his life — including Elia Kazan, Sidney Lumet, Karl Malden, Sidney Pollack and Woodward — for a memoir. While the tapes were eventually lost, the transcripts were not. And so Last Movie Stars director Ethan Hawke hops on Zoom with a handful of other actors — including George Clooney, Oscar Isaac, LaTanya Richardson Jackson, Zoe Kazan, Laura Linney and Sam Rockwell — who are equally passionate about the history of this iconic couple. They take part in a live reading of sorts, recreating many of the stories told in that planned memoir, while mixing in archival footage and interviews from over the years.
The end result is a lively and engrossing series (which will be available on HBO Max later this year) that reveals the glamor and charm of this famed Hollywood couple, while also exploring the challenges they faced throughout their lives and their social justice activism.
And what better place to play part of the series than the world’s most glamorous stage for cinema? The third and fourth episode played at the Cannes Film Festival on Saturday, chronicling Newman’s rise to fame, along with his political passions, and their struggles with Newman’s alcoholism and rumors of an affair.
As seen in the exclusive clip from the series debuting here, one of early highlights of Woodward’s career occurred in 1958 at the 30th annual Academy Awards where she won the Oscar for best actress for The Three Faces of Eve. As revealed in this clip, Woodward, just 27 years old at the time, had made her dress and was extremely excited when she realized it would be on display for all the world to see. As Hawke says in the clip, “She was heralded at that moment as this country’s greatest rising star.”