HARTFORD, Conn. – Paul Newman liked to joke about his trademark blue eyes, musing that if they turned brown his career might be in jeopardy, and was delighted to learn he was on Richard Nixon's enemies list, the Academy Award-winning actor's daughter said Monday.
Nell Newman, whose father died a year ago at age 83, gave a rare glimpse into the actor's life in an interview with The Associated Press. She was meeting with reporters in Connecticut as part of an effort by her company, Newman's Own Organics, to highlight its partnership with McDonald's Corp., where it sells coffee at McDonald's New England restaurants.
She said her father considered himself lucky and wanted to give back, leading to his passion for philanthropy.
"He always used to joke if his eyes turned brown, what would happen to his career," she said. "He always felt he was just really lucky."
The Hollywood star won an Oscar and took home two honorary ones, and had major roles in more than 50 motion pictures, including "Cool Hand Luke," "Exodus," "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid," "The Verdict," "The Sting" and "Absence of Malice."
Despite his Hollywood success, Newman preferred the company of race car mechanics to the Beverly Hills jet set. He and his family were most comfortable in Westport, the southwestern Connecticut town where they fished and roamed the land with their five dogs, including her dad's Irish wolfhound, his daughter said. The family also had six cats and even a pet skunk, Newman said.
Newman said her father enjoyed cooking and often took her to a farm stand in Westport and taught her how to pick the perfect corn and other vegetables and fruits.
She said her father relished playing practical jokes. When a friend took his bottle of gin, Newman went into the friend's office with a chain saw and cut his desk in half, his daughter said.
The actor also saved a document that showed he had turned up on President Nixon's enemies' list.
"He was tickled pink and framed it," Newman said.
Newman and writer A.E. Hotchner started Newman's Own in 1982 to market Newman's original oil-and-vinegar dressing.
The business grew, and it and Newman's Own Organics have given $250 million to charities. The actor left behind a private, independent foundation to carry on the work after he died.
Newman believed in supporting small organizations that did not have wealthy connections, his daughter said. She said her father was especially fond of his Hole in the Wall Gang camps for sick children. The camps have served 130,000 children since 1988.
"He liked quiet philanthropy," Newman said. He "didn't want his name on any buildings."