TEHRAN, Iran – Iranians mourned Paul Newman on Sunday in a rare instance of adoration of cinema trumping ideological and political differences.
In an unusual move, even a major state newspaper, IRAN, ran a front-page story about Newman's death. Government dailies traditionally trumpet the Islamic Republic's staunch anti-American stance and rarely cover American pop culture.
More liberal independent newspapers, including Iran's largest circulation Hamshahri, also ran front-page articles on Newman's death. The independent Etemaad and Kargozaran splashed large photos of the American actor on their front pages.
"The end of the last classic star," was Etemaad's headline. "The end of the blue eyed kid," Kargozaran mourned.
The Islamic cleric-run government tends to look down on cinema and other aspects of pop culture, particularly Western. Iran's Culture Ministry in March shut down nine cinema and lifestyle magazines for promoting "corrupt" foreign film stars after one of them published photos of Cameron Diaz, Naomi Watts, Mandy Moore and Angelina Jolie.
But many Iranians are avid movie fans, taking deep pride in their domestic movie industry and obsessively following American movies, mostly on bootleg DVDs or illegal satellite dishes.
Newman, who died Friday at 83 of cancer, became popular among Iranians in the era before the 1979 Iranian Revolution, when his movies "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof," "The Towering Inferno" and "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" played in Iranian theaters.
Just earlier this year, state TV — which regularly airs Hollywood movies — broadcast Newman's "Cool Hand Luke."
"He will not be repeated," 45-year-old film enthusiast Maryam Khayyami said in front of a movie theater in downtown Tehran.
A prominent female Iranian director, Tahmineh Milani, told the Associated Press that she has seen some 30 movies of Newman, "I am sad for his death. He had a positive impact on the world cinema," she said.