An incandescent ‘it couple’ uniquely able to float above it all, Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward remained for decades more committed to their family and philanthropic endeavors than the glitz and glamor of Hollywood. The marquee-name pair were happiest when working with each other—Newman cast Woodward in four of the six features he would direct over the course of his life. But they were also fiercely private, choosing to raise their children thousands of miles from the bright lights of Tinseltown.
In the early days of the pandemic, one of their daughters approached Ethan Hawke with an idea for a project about her parents. He readily accepted, and the resulting six-part documentary, The Last Movie Stars, is set to premiere on CNN’s new subscription streaming service, CNN+, in early 2022.
“Exploring Woodward and Newman through their 50-year love affair has proven more rewarding than I could have imagined,” Hawke said in a statement. “Their work, philanthropy, and lives serve as a kind of North Star, illuminating what a substantive, meaningful life can look like.”
The film, from CNN Films and HBO Max, will draw heavily from Newman’s abandoned memoir, a project he began laboring on in the 1980s, discovered in the couple’s home long after Newman’s death in 2008. The unpublished manuscript, according to publisher Alfred A. Knopf, includes the star’s thoughts on “acting, directing, boyhood, family, fame, Hollywood, Broadway, love, his first marriage, his 50-year marriage to Joanne Woodward, drinking, politics, racing, his ultimate ride to stardom, and aging gracefully.”
The Last Movie Stars will be executive produced by Martin Scorsese, who will be interviewed contemporaneously alongside others like Sally Field and Melanie Griffith. Hawke, known for directing the 2014 doc Seymour: An Introduction, has tapped several actors to voice original interview transcripts, including George Clooney, Sam Rockwell, Oscar Isaac, LaTanya Richardson Jackson, Zoe Kazan, and Laura Linney.
“Ethan’s brilliant vision illuminates what fascinates us about Joanne Woodward and Paul Newman in a film worthy of their talents and passions. We look forward to sharing this unique, multi-chapter story with CNN+ subscribers,” Amy Entelis, executive vice president for talent and content development for CNN Worldwide, said in a statement.
The Last Movie Stars will air on HBO Max at a later date, though CNN Films will retain streaming and broadcast rights.