Q&A with Director Ethan Hawke and Producers Ryan Hawke and Emily Wachtel, moderated by JBFC Board President Janet Maslin (following episode 2)
The Last Movie Stars is an epic six-part documentary from CNN Films and HBO Max that chronicles Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward’s iconic careers and decades-long partnership. Director Ethan Hawke brings life and color to this definitive history of their dedication to their art, philanthropy and each other. Through long-lost transcriptions of interviews with Paul, Joanne, and those close to them, brought to life by contemporary actors, we’re given an intimate front-row seat to the lives and careers of the couple that would go on to forge an unmatched cultural legacy. Academy Award-winning director, writer, and producer Martin Scorsese serves as executive producer. Please Note: This special event is not considered a masked matinee.
Chapter One: Cosmic Orphans — Our journey begins as young Paul Newman and an even younger Joanne Woodward set out for stardom in 1950s NYC. Joanne finds early success as Paul, a married father of three, struggles to find his way, until the pair fatefully cross paths backstage during a Broadway production of “Picnic.”
Chapter Two: A Star is Born — Paul and Joanne are newlyweds working on The Long Hot Summer. They are finally able to express in public what they had discovered privately. Joanne is soon catapulted to stardom with the release of The Three Faces of Eve. She gets married, becomes a stepmother to three children, wins the Oscar, and gives birth to her first child—all within a year. While Joanne seems to be able to “have it all,” shortly thereafter she focuses more exclusively on managing her young family. Meanwhile, Paul felt, as he puts it, that he’d been “waiting 30 years for a chance to explode.” The chance arrives with the character “Fast Eddie” Felson in The Hustler. He stars in Hud, which Paul Schrader describes as “the most revelatory performance in cinema history.” Joanne very quickly finds herself raising six kids, with a diminishing career.
Chapter Three: The Legend of Paul Leonard Newman — There are many famous actors, but very few have scaled the epic heights of the cinematic stratosphere like Paul Newman. With Cool Hand Luke, Hombre, Harper, and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Paul arrives at a “Beatle-like” celebrity, representing the very best of what “American acting” can be. His fame goes hand in hand with personal challenges that begin to erupt on the surface. After Joanne’s semi-retirement for years, their romance and her career are lit anew, as they take their own money—with Paul directing Joanne—and make Rachel, Rachel. It’s an early example of American independent film at its finest.
Chapter Four: Paying the Price — Be careful of what you wish for: the price of Paul’s stardom becomes more apparent. He feels a great responsibility to use his power to promote justice and becomes extremely political, campaigning for Senator McCarthy and advocating for many social causes. Joanne, similarly civic-minded, embarks on a lifelong journey championing causes close to her heart. However, the family is beset with trouble as their oldest son Scott continues to act out. Joanne and Paul act together in Winning, a huge critical success. However, they also make an extremely political film, WUSA, that struggles mightily. Their marriage is rocked by Paul’s alcoholism and rumors of affairs. Again, Paul directs Joanne in one of her greatest performances, “The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds”…but at what cost?
Chapter Five: Against the Sky — Joanne and Paul’s relationship tips towards a breaking point. She delivers ultimatums, but he refuses to give up, and they find solid ground. After Joanne’s triumphant acting in Summer Wishes, Winter Dreams, she and Paul work together in The Drowning Pool, which is followed by her renowned television production of Sybil. After an unsatisfying commercial film, Paul spreads his wings with two wild pieces of art: Buffalo Bill and the Indians and Slap Shot. They begin to strike a new balance and find grace before their world is upended when Scott overdoses and dies. Paul throws himself into car racing.
Chapter Six: Luck is an Art — Joanne begins one of the happiest and most productive periods of her life. With her children grown up, she throws herself even more wholly into acting, achieving in television movies, theater, dance, film, and teaching. She remains an ardent activist. Over a period of years, she is nominated for nine Emmys, and becomes the artistic director of the Westport Playhouse. Initially Paul struggles to find stability after Scott’s death. He hides for years inside racing cars. With The Verdict his love of acting is reborn and it pushes him to stop feeling sorry for himself and “to do for others.” He and Joanne start Newman’s Own, an enormously successful business where 100% of the profits are given away to charity. It is arguably one of the most significant accomplishments of their lives, helping them give away more than 500 million dollars. Their hard work and love, as well as their ability to overcome challenges together for 50 years, culminates in a bittersweet ending.
This screening will include one 60 minute intermission following the Q&A at approximately 1:45 and one 15 minute intermission. We encourage attendees to enjoy lunch at one of the many eateries in the Village.