Paul Newman has died at the age of 83. I'll leave the discussions of his life and career to the more eloquent writers out there, but I can say without a doubt that he's been my favorite actor for years, as well as one of my biggest influences as a film fan. When I was 15 or 16 I was a verifiable movie geek, but I wasn't very adventurous in what I watched, content to just see whatever was new. That was until I saw his movie Cool Hand Luke on cable one night. I hadn't ever seen such a great movie character, and soon I was seeking out all of Newman's films, astonished at how many great choices there were. Whether it was Hud, The Sting or The Hustler, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, or The Verdict, this was a guy that delivered in every film he was in. His movies were my introduction to the classics, and they undoubtedly changed the way I look at film as an art form. To this day, Cool Hand Luke is still my favorite movie.
I count Newman among the very best of the great actors from the 60s and 70s that made their craft look effortless. Guys like Steve McQueen, James Coburn and Burt Lancaster never tried to make their characters cool or larger than life, it just came naturally to them. But Newman just might have pulled it off with even more ease than all the rest. He had the gift of being completely at home and comfortable in the skin of whatever character he played. He was one of the very best of the kind of actor that seems to be forever disappearing from the screen: the guy that never has to tell a lie or put on an act to get a reaction from his audience.