Movie Review The Last Movie Stars ()
The project relies heavily on transcriptions of recordings of interviews Woodward and Newman made with screenwriter Stewart Stern (of “Rebel Without a Cause” and the Woodard-Newman classic “Rachel, Rachel”) for a project of unfinished personal history. For unknown reasons, Newman destroyed most of the tapes, and the handful that remained were unusable, so Hawke assigned contemporary actors to read the recovered transcripts. George Clooney plays Newman, Laura Linney plays Woodward, and various supporting performers play actors, directors, and writers who knew the pair. Each of the voice performances succeeds both as an approximation of the sound of the person and as a work of interpreting the character (Brooks Ashmanskas’ version of Gore Vidal, in particular, is oddly on point).
The final product suggests a hybrid medium. It’s as if a radio play or podcast has been put together with clips from the stars’ films and period-appropriate documentary footage from Hollywood, New York and points in between. Occasionally we’ll see photos from Woodward and Newman’s family albums, home movie clips, and clips of Hawke and the voice actors discussing material via Zoom (Hawke began production at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic). 19).
The six-hour series follows the two actors from their first appearance together in the same New York cast (they were already dating at the time, even though Newman was still married to his first wife, Jackie Witte) until the last years of their lives. Along the way, “The Last Movie Stars” investigates the changing times. All the expected highlights are covered, from Woodward and Newman’s most acclaimed performances on stage and screen (including Woodward’s Oscar for ‘Rachel, Rachel’ and Newman’s belated recognition for ‘The Color of Life’). ‘money’) to their political activism for civil rights and Newman’s forays into race car driving and gourmet food products (Newman’s eldest daughter, Nell, founded Newman’s Own, which donates all proceeds to charitable charities).
But the show isn’t afraid of the pressure put on the marriage by Newman’s fame and drinking and self-destructive behavior, or the many tragedies they endured together, including the 1978 death of Newman’s only son. , Scott, from a drug overdose, which led them to create the Scott Newman Center for Rehabilitation. (The center finally closed in 2013.) And it’s quietly telling to hear all of Newman’s children speak so candidly about him and Woodward, about their seemingly insatiable sexual appetites (their room had two doors) at first disreputable wedding (“I can be disgusted with my father when I think of my mother,” says Stephanie Newman, whose mother is Jackie Witte, “But that’s not the only feeling.”)