NEW YORK (AFP) — Paul Newman, known for his piercing blue eyes, boyish good looks and stellar performances in scores of hit Hollywood movies, has died, his foundation said Saturday. He was 83.
Newman, who had been battling cancer, passed away on Friday, Newman's Own Foundation said in a statement from Westport, Connecticut.
Tributes to Newman began flowing in from around the globe, with friends, co-stars and celebrities hailing an "exemplary life."
Robert Redford , Newman's friend and co-star in the much-loved films "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" and "The Sting," led the tributes.
"There is a point where feelings go beyond words," the 72-year-old was quoted as saying by the Entertainment Tonight news show. "I have lost a real friend. My life -- and this country -- is better for his being in it."
In Los Angeles, flowers were placed on Newman's star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame as the Motion Picture Association of America hailed his "extraordinary career."
"He will be remembered as an artist, gentleman and humanitarian whose extraordinary career was rivaled in every respect by an exemplary life," MPAA chairman Dan Glickman said.
Heart-throb George Clooney said simply: "He set the bar too high for the rest of us. Not just actors, but all of us."
Newman played youthful rebels, charming rogues, golden-hearted drunks and amoral opportunists in a career that encompassed more than 50 movies.
He was one of the most popular and consistently bankable Hollywood stars in the second half of the 20th century.
Newman was also a philanthropist, a health food mogul -- he once quipped that his salad dressing was making more money than his movies -- a race car enthusiast and a leftist political activist.
Newman won the Academy Award for Best Actor in 1987, late in his career, for his role as a pool shark named 'Fast Eddie' in "The Color of Money," co-starring with Tom Cruise. Many critics at the time said he was really being awarded the Oscar belatedly for his original performance of the same smarmy character in the 1961 movie "The Hustler."
Born Paul Leonard Newman on January 26, 1925 in Shaker Heights, Ohio into a well-off middle class family -- his father ran a successful sporting goods chain -- Newman acted in school plays as a youth.
He joined the navy in World War II wanting to be a pilot, but tests showed that he was color blind. Instead he served as a rear-seat radioman and tail gunner aboard Avenger torpedo bombers in the Pacific theater.
After the war Newman went to college, enrolled in the Yale drama school, and moved to New York where he acted in plays. That job eventually landed him television roles, and then in the movies.
Newman's film career almost ended with his first movie -- he considered his performance in the sword-and-sandal 1954 drama "The Chalice" so mediocre he paid for a page-size ad in a Hollywood trade publication to apologize.
Newman redeemed himself in his next movie, "Somebody Up There Likes Me" (1956), a portrayal of boxer Rocky Graziano, and by 1958 was nominated for an Oscar as an alcoholic ex-football player in "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof," starring alongside Elizabeth Taylor.
Hit movies rolled on from there, including "Exodus" (1960), "The Hustler" (1961), "Hud" (1963), "Cool Hand Luke" (1967), "The Towering Inferno" (1974) and "Slap Shot" (1977).
A committed liberal, Newman openly campaigned for several Democratic Party candidates -- which got him onto Republican president Richard Nixon's famous list of enemies in the 1970s, something he described as "the highest single honor I've ever received."
In the 1980s Newman participated in televised debates with conservative Charlton Heston on nuclear issues, and contributed money and an occasional article to The Nation, a prominent leftist magazine.
Later Newman film roles include "Fort Apache, the Bronx" (1981), "The Verdict" (1982), "Nobody's Fool" (1994), "The Road to Perdition" (2002), and as the voice of a vintage Hudson in the animated "Cars" (2006).
Newman had six children, three from an early marriage that ended in divorce and three with actress Joanne Woodward, whom he married in 1958. He had five daughters and one son, Scott, who died of a drug overdose in 1978.
What was the secret to his long marriage? That question was repeated so often that in one interview he simply responded: "I don't know what she puts in my food."
To supermarket shoppers, Newman may be better known as the smiling face on the successful "Newman's Own" brand of salad dressings and organic food.
"It's all been a bad joke that just ran out of control," Newman said in a 2003 interview. After-tax profits at the privately-owned company are donated to charity.
Newman became interested in auto racing while filming the movie "Winning" in 1968, and quickly became a race car enthusiast. Over the years he won four Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) championships, won the GTS class in the 1995 24 hour race at Daytona, and sponsored race teams.
In January 2005 Newman, then 79, escaped from his burning race car after it spun on track at the Daytona Beach circuit. He was not injured in the accident.
Newman retired from movie acting in 2007, at the age of 82.
"You start to lose your memory, you start to lose your confidence, you start to lose your invention. So I think that's pretty much a closed book for me," Newman told ABC News in an interview, referring to his acting career.
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