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Paul says that he loves directing his wife. "Given the right parts, she is a great actress. She can find so many different facets of herself to play. Those are two different people in Rachel, Rachel, and The Shadow Box. That is magic." He and Joanne also take pleasure in acting together, says Newman. "When we work together, we both know we can't get away with any old tricks, because the other one is sitting there nodding his head knowingly and saying, 'Yes, I seem to remember your doing that on the 28th page of The Helen Morgan Story. Newman, says Stern, "is very sensitive to writing, and is the best director of actors I know. I think there's less impediment between his talent and its expression when he's directing. That's probably because, as in racing, 'Paul Newman' doesn't have to be there."
The portrayer of loners is himself a loner who likes to be with people, but who says he has few friends. His pal Hotchner says that during an unproductive period in the late '70s, Newman seemed least glum bobbing around with him on Long Island Sound in a fishing boat they call Cocadetoro (in fractured Spanish, bullcrap). His bawdiness can be spectacular; and, says Susan, she and her sisters are constantly heading off raunchy stories with not-now-Dad looks flashed across the room. After years of complaining that Robert Altman's cheap white wine tasted like goat pee, he gave the director a baby goat, saying, "Here, now you have your own vineyard." In a similar mood, he once had Robert Redford's face printed on every sheet of 150 cartons of toilet paper (which, on second thought, he did not send to Redford because the two are, as Newman says, merely "close acquaintances").
The laughter and the jokes die, and he feels alone again. He says he has been a good father "in flashes," and admits that at times his children "almost had to say a password" when they saw him to find out whether they were considered friend or foe that day.
He is a lifelong liberal "who was participating in civil rights marches in 1963. He speaks out on the nuclear freeze and gay rights and why everyone should use seat belts, although he feels awkward doing it, because he thinks he should. After a frustrating nuclear-freeze debate on television recently with Hollywood conservative Charlton Heston, Newman was doubtful about his own effectiveness. But he is an experienced campaigner, and he soon cheered up. "I've done better and I've done worse, but in the final analysis, it was better than not doing anything at all." His interest in weapons control is longstanding; in 1978 President Carter appointed him as a delegate to a U.N. special session on disarmament. He recalls feeling futile. But being No. 19, he says, on Nixon's enemies list made him feel fine. He doesn't have