December 9, 2022

Paul Newman Died With Two Major Regrets Still Looming Over His Head

Many people tend to consider their career complete once they’ve achieved excellence in a single field. But Paul Newman didn’t stop trying new things after establishing an accomplished acting career — not even after he won an Oscar.

Newman, whose career spanned from 1953 to 2007, was also a philanthropist (via Britannica). He started the Newman’s Own Foundation, an organization established in 1982 which sells food items, including a famous line of salad dressings. All of the profits from the foundation were donated directly to charity: over the years, they’ve given away a staggering $570 million, according to the Newman’s Own Foundation.

But though Newman’s life may sound idyllic, it wasn’t all fun and roses. He served in the military during World War II, for instance, according to Britannica. And at the end of his life, Newman was diagnosed with cancer, which would eventually kill him. But his biggest regrets, as he expressed them to his close friend A.E. Hotcher, weren’t about any of that. They were about family (via Times Union).

Newman’s family life

Newman was born in Ohio, according to Biography. At an early age, he performed in school productions, but was more interested in pursuing a career in athletics than dramatics. In fact, he would go on to play college football after he finished his military service, but later studied theater. And it was the theater that brought him to his first wife, Jacqueline Witte.

Over the course of his life, Paul Newman had two wives and six children, according to Times Union. His first marriage lasted from 1949 to 1958, according to Biography. With Witte, Newman had three children, including his son Scott, who was born in 1950 (via The Cinemaholic). After Newman and Witte divorced in 1958, Scott and his sisters lived primarily with their mother, and Scott himself had something of a troubled life. He often got in trouble during school, and though he initially attended college, he later dropped out and became an actor and stuntman. But he faced difficulty in this career path, too. When speaking about being the son of a famous actor, Scott said, “They expect you to be like him, or they try to get to him through me … but I don’t have his blue eyes. I don’t have his talent,” adding, “I don’t have anything that’s me” (via The Cinemaholic).

The same year he divorced his first wife, Paul Newman remarried, to Joanne Woodward. Together they had three children, all girls, according to Biography.

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Newman’s big regrets

Newman had two major regrets in his life, as he shared them with his close friend A.E. Hotchner, according to the National Enquirer. One was a regret about his relationship with his father. Irish Examiner quotes Newman as saying, “I think he thought I didn’t show much promise in those days and I tend to agree with him.” When his father died, Newman had yet to make it as an actor, and his father thought he was a “failure.” Newman wished his father could have witnessed his success.

The other major regret of Newman’s was about his son, Scott. As a teenager, Scott developed drinking issues, according to The Cinemaholic. Those issues likely contributed to Scott’s premature death in 1978 at the age of 28, when the combination of alcohol, prescription drugs to treat pain from a motorcycle accident, and other illicit substances led to an accidental overdose. Newmen said he wished he and Scott had been closer. “I knew he drank too much and drugged himself, but I didn’t know how to open a door into him,” Newman said, according to Times Union. He added, “I don’t think I ever hugged Scott or patted him on the arm or back or rump — the things fathers do.”

But Newman mobilized that pain to do something good in the world. In addition to the Newman’s Own Foundation, Newman started the Scott Newman Foundation in 1980, which offers educational resources about substance abuse issues (via Britannica).