‘The Last Movie Stars’: Ethan Hawke on What Didn’t Make Docuseries Cut

Joanne Woodward and Paul Newman
Courtesy of the Everett Collection

HBO Max‘s docuseries The Last Movie Stars pulls back the curtain on Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward‘s history together in their own words. Helping bring it all to life is director Ethan Hawke, who enlisted the help of some famous friends to breathe life into pre-existing transcripts taken from interviews with Newman, Woodward, and those closest to them.

But with several boxes of content to sift through, some information had to get left behind on the cutting room floor. When TV Insider caught up with Hawke ahead of the docuseries’ debut, he shared a little bit about the stories that didn’t make the cut.

“At a certain point you just have to get laser focused,” Hawke acknowledges. “There’s probably a 150-page transcript with Paul’s brother [Arthur] who is one of the most important people in his life.” The issue Hawke reveals is that problem “with opening that box is that it’s its own documentary. It was too big to bring up lightly.”

The Last Movie Stars HBO Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward

(Credit: Courtesy of HBO)

So, what would have been part of that chapter in Newman’s story? Hawke shares that Newman was “really close” with his brother but that “they had a sometimes combative relationship.” And that’s not all that got left on the cutting room floor. “Then there’s hundreds of pages with all his war buddies, the guys he served in World War II with, but that’s in some other documentary too.”

Ultimately, Hawke decided that the documentary was ultimately about “the story of two actors and their love affair. And if it didn’t relate to the love affair or their development in acting, I just let that go.” In order to help find the story of the documentary, Hawke turned to his daughter, fellow actor, Maya Hawke (Stranger Things).

“There were many moments, days, weeks in this process where I would get lost,” Hawke admits. “It was like wandering through the woods, and you learn a lot about your own gender bias.” And so, he sought opinions from the women in his life including Maya who he says he found “to be an incredibly helpful person to talk to because I knew that this movie would have some intrinsic interest with the older generation.”

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“People my age and older were going to remember when these movies came out, they’re going to bring a lot of their own [memories and thoughts], but I wondered what Maya would think.” In the end, Hawke says, “she was very helpful in ways to help me understand my subject and what might be interesting to young people and what might be relevant to today.”

When it comes to Newman and Woodward that isn’t too hard to do, they’re timeless. Catch the enlightening docuseries on HBO Max for a look into The Last Movie Stars‘ lives.

The Last Movie Stars, Streaming now, HBO Max