While we still have A-listers and celebrities, many have argued that a bonafide movie star is the thing of the past. Two examples of what a movie star truly was in the heydays of the 1950s and 60s were Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward. They're the subjects of a new docuseries, The Last Movie Stars.
This docuseries explores the lives of Newman and Woodward, who were married, using an interesting concept — with actors and actresses from today reading letters and interviews that detail their lives.
Who reads the letters and what is covered in the docuseries? Read on to find out everything you need to know about The Last Movie Stars.
When is The Last Movie Stars release date?
The Last Movie Stars is now on HBO Max, with all six parts of the docuseries available to watch. There currently is no release date for the docuseries in the UK or anywhere HBO Max is not available.
It’s actually been a bit of a bumpy road for The Last Movie Stars to arrive for audiences. The documentary premiered at the South by Southwest Film Festival and then had another screening at the Cannes Film Festival in the first half of 2022, but the original plan was for the movie to premiere on the CNN Plus streaming service (remember that?), as it is a CNN Film. With CNN Plus quickly dissolved, HBO Max became the new home for The Last Movie Stars.
What is The Last Movie Stars about?
The docuseries is meant to celebrate the personas, talent and love story of Joanne Woodward and Paul Newman, doing so in an interesting way.
The Last Movie Stars springs from a project that Newman had commissioned a friend and screenwriter Stewart Stern to do years ago. Stern was tasked with interviewing close friends, family and artistic collaborators, including Elia Kazan, Sidney Lumet, Karl Malden, Sidney Pollack, Gore Vidal, Jacqueline Witte, Joanne Woodward, Newman himself and others for a memoir that Newman planned to do. The interviews covered Newman’s youth, his first marriage with Witte, his romance and life with Woodward, personal demons and the loss of his son, Scott.
According to director, four-time Oscar nominee Ethan Hawke (who previously directed the documentary Seymour: An Introduction), the recordings of these interviews have been lost, but transcripts still exist. Hawke also filmed new interviews with some of Newman’s daughters and others like Sally Field and Martin Scorsese (an executive producer on the docuseries) to put together a portrait of Woodward and Newman’s careers and relationship.
To convey all of this, The Last Movie Stars uses many actors and actresses from today to read these transcripts along with archival footage.
The Last Movie Stars episodes
Here are the titles and synopses for all six parts of The Last Movie Stars docuseries:
Chapter One: Cosmic Orphans
"In the early 1950s, aspiring actors Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward meet as understudies on Broadway, sparking two of Hollywood's most iconic careers and a decades long love story. There's just on problem: Paul is already married."
Chapter Two: A Star is Born
"Finally able to go public as newlyweds, Paul and Joanne experience the ups and downs of Hollywood. Later, as the pressures of motherhood cause Joanne to take a step back from the limelight, Paul finds his star on the rise."
Chapter Three: The Legend of Paul Leonard Newman
"Through films such as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Paul achieves international renown alongside his status as Hollywood's leading heartthrob. Later, Joanne emerges from semi-retirement in Paul's directorial debut."
Chapter Four: Paying the Price
"While films such as The Sting and Winning further bolster both Paul and Joanne's career, the couple grows more outspoken about social justice issues, but troubles at home threaten their marriage and family life."
Chapter Five: Against the Sky
"As Paul's alcoholism continues to wreak havoc on their marriage, Joanne gives her husband and ultimatum — get sober or get out. Later, a personal tragedy causes Paul to dive headfirst into a dangerous hobby... racecar driving."
Chapter Six: Luck is an Art
"In the wake of their son's death, Paul and Joanne channel their grief into charitable work through Newman's Own. While Paul and Joanne each undergo a career renaissance, it is their love story that is their most enduring legacy."
Who is in The Last Movie Stars?
Using modern day actors to read the words of famous Hollywood figures from the past adds a different element to The Last Movie Stars. Here are the actors and actresses that appear in the docuseries:
- George Clooney as Paul Newman
- Laura Linney as Joanne Woodward
- Brooks Ashmanskas (The Good Lord Bird)
- Bobby Cannavale (Nine Perfect Strangers)
- Billy Crudup (The Morning Show)
- Josh Hamilton (The Walking Dead)
- Zoe Kazan (The Big Sick)
- Sam Rockwell (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri)
- Steve Zahn (The White Lotus)
The Last Movie Stars trailer
HBO Max has released the trailer for The Last Movie Stars, where Hawke discusses his method for creating the docuseries as well as teasing some of the tidbits that viewers are going to learn about these two iconic stars.
How to watch The Last Movie Stars
The Last Movie Stars is an HBO Max exclusive, available wherever the streaming service is offered. There are two subscription options for HBO Max (one ad-free, the other with ads), but the docuseries is available on either plan.
Michael Balderston is a DC-based entertainment and assistant managing editor for What to Watch, who has previously written about the TV and movies with TV Technology, Awards Circuit and regional publications. Spending most of his time watching new movies at the theater or classics on TCM, some of Michael's favorite movies include Casablanca, Moulin Rouge!, Silence of the Lambs, Children of Men, One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest and Star Wars. On the TV side he enjoys Peaky Blinders, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Saturday Night Live, Only Murders in the Building and is always up for a Seinfeld rerun.
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