A documentary series directed by actor Ethan Hawke about the lives and decades-long romance of Hollywood icons Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward called “The Last Movie Stars” will premiere exclusively on CNN+, CNN’s upcoming streaming service.
“The Last Movie Stars” is a documentary series presented in six parts that explores the love and relationship between Newman, known for classics like “Cool Hand Luke,” “Hud” and “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” and Woodward, who is still alive at 91 and is an Oscar winner for films such as “The Three Faces of Eve.” Together, the two had a love affair stretching across 50 years that had been largely kept private until this film.
Early in the pandemic, one of Woodward and Newman’s daughters approached Hawke about completing a project commissioned by Newman from friend and screenwriter Stewart Stern. Stern interviewed figures like Elia Kazan, Sidney Lumet, Karl Malden, Sidney Pollack, Gore Vidal and Jacqueline Witte for a planned memoir, and he also sat down with both Woodward and Newman, discussing Newman’s first marriage to Witte from 1949 to 1958, his romance and life with Woodward, his personal demons and the loss of his son, Scott.
The film will also explore Woodward’s philanthropic endeavors, raising millions for various causes and being active in the civil rights and environmental movements, as well as how they managed to balance their careers with their own fulfilling marriage.
In addition to archival interviews with Woodward and Newman, Hawke enlisted actors Karen Allen, George Clooney, Oscar Isaac, LaTanya Richardson Jackson, Zoe Kazan, Laura Linney, Sam Rockwell and others to voice segments of the original transcribed interviews for “The Last Movie Stars.” Hawke also interviewed several of Newman’s daughters for insights into their parents and has contemporary interviews with Sally Field, Melanie Griffith and Martin Scorsese discussing what made Woodward and Newman’s careers unique.
“Exploring Woodward and Newman through their 50-year love affair has proven more rewarding than I could have imagined. Their work, philanthropy, and lives serve as a kind of North Star, illuminating what a substantive, meaningful life can look like,” Hawke said in a statement.
“Ethan’s brilliant vision illuminates what fascinates us about Joanne Woodward and Paul Newman in a film worthy of their talents and passions,” Amy Entelis, executive vice president for talent and content development for CNN Worldwide, said in a statement. “We look forward to sharing this unique, multi-chapter story with CNN+ subscribers.”
“The Last Movie Stars” will debut on CNN+ after the service launches later this year. The film will also later be available on the streaming service HBO Max.
Ethan Hawke, who previously directed “Seymour: An Introduction,” completed the film together with Nook House Productions. Martin Scorsese is also an executive producer on the film. In addition to Scorsese, Entelis, and Courtney Sexton are executive producers for the film. Mario Andretti is a co-producer. The film is produced by Emily Wachtel and Lisa Long Adler of Nook House Productions, Ryan Hawke of Under the Influence Productions and Adam Gibbs. Hamilton Leithauser is developing an original score for the film.
The deal for “The Last Movie Stars” was negotiated by Stacey Wolf, senior vice president of business affairs, and Kelly MacLanahan, assistant general counsel, both for CNN Worldwide, on behalf of CNN Films and CNN+. Marc Simon of Fox Rothschild LLP handled negotiations for Nook House Productions. Cinetic Media advised the filmmakers on this transaction. CNN Films retains streaming and broadcast rights for this film.