“Racing became his passion and he went for it.” So says Paul Newman’s “Butch Cassidy and he Sundance Kid” co-star Robert Redford. Although Newman didn’t start racing cars until his late 40s, when most racers are thinking about retirement, it became a permanent part of his life following the making of the 1969 film “Winning.”
In that movie he plays Frank Capua, an up-and-coming racer with aspirations of winning the Indianapolis 500. For maximum realism it was decided the stars—Newman and Robert Wagner—would drive their own cars. He had always been interested in motor sport but had never been behind the wheel of a race car until signing up at a high performance driving school in prep for the film. He immediately felt the need for speed and became obsessed. “After that he got so boring,” laughs Redford. “[Racing] was all he talked about. It drove me crazy.”
As a driver and the owner of the Newman/Haas Racing team the actor would mentor Willy T. Riggs, the first African American championship racer, and win more than 100 races and 8 Drier’s Championships in IndyCar Series. Newman, after trying his hand at football and boxing, had found his sport. “I didn’t have any physical grace. The only thing I found any grace in was an automobile.”
“Winning: The Racing Life of Paul Newman” paints a picture of a deeply private man who loved pranks, cars and cherished the outlet that racing gave him as a pressure valve release from the day-to-day of being one of the most famous men on the planet. A combination of contemporary interviews with the likes of Jay Leno, Patrick Dempsey and “Cars” director John Lasseter and archival footage, the movie isn’t just a biographical look at one facet of Newman’s life. It focuses on his passion for racing but this isn’t a film for gearheads only. Racing is treated as a portal into the actor’s personality, an entrance into what really made him tick. By zeroing in on one of his passions “Winning” gives us a broader look at what made the man tick.
Director Adam Corolla (who restores and races Newman’s cars) is clearly a fan but it is his passion for both racing and Newman that fuels the doc.