Was Paul Newman Really an Alcoholic?

As a six-part documentary series that explores much more than just the love story between Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, HBO Max’s ‘The Last Movie Stars’ is unlike any other. That’s because it even gives us an insight into their past as well as individual experiences to essentially shine a light upon the way they affected the entire industry by simply being themselves. The ‘Cool Hand Luke’ actor’s relationship with alcohol thus ends up being a significant piece of this production — so now, if you wish to learn more about the same, we’ve got the details for you.

Was Paul Newman an Alcoholic?

While the terms alcoholic and alcoholism have been carefully avoided for decades when it comes to entertainment artist Paul Newman, his own daughters have not shied away from them. They actually candidly described Paul as a “high-functioning alcoholic” in the original docuseries before indicating his tendencies created a destructive environment within their blended household. They said their father would get blackout drunk most nights while they were little children, only to dip his head into ice cold water the following morning to ensure a good, productive day ahead.

There was even a time Paul’s extensive drinking reportedly caused his wife, Joanne, to pack up her bags and take their children, yet they managed to work things out once he promised to give up hard liquor for good, per the show. Joanne’s last straw had reportedly been finding Paul a little hurt on the floor, leading to her ultimatum issue, his pledge, and their joint compromises to ensure stability for not just them but also their brood. We should mention that apart from ‘The Last Movie Stars,’ Shawn Levy’s 2009 raw, unvarnished biography of the actor places a specific focus on Paul’s alcohol intake as well.

Paul carried a bottle opener on a chain around his neck at one point, according to ‘Paul Newman: A Life,’ which he utilized to put away “beer after beer after beer, a case or more a day.” He then reportedly moved on to drinks like scotch the same evening, a process the book alleges Paul consistently repeated for years and gradually became rather known for in every area of his life. Onlookers/movie personnel seemingly told the author that the ‘Hud’ superstar was often seen “drinking beers on the set, in his office, at parties, during interviews, watching TV, getting ready for TV, and relaxing after dinner.”

However, as time passed following his son Scott’s death from a drug overdose in 1978, Paul began advocating against substance abuse in every way, shape, and form. He even urged Princeton University back in 2004 to end a campus binge-drinking tradition named after him to spread a more positive message — Newman’s Day constitutes participants trying to consume a beer an hour for 24 hours.

Even though Paul’s creative as well as philanthropic legacy continues to this day through his daughters, the sad reality is that he passed away from lung cancer on September 26, 2008. We should mention Paul had publicly admitted to both having a taste for alcohol and essentially giving up everything but beer mid-career decades prior (with a short relapse after his son’s demise).

Read More: Did Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward Ever Separate?