Running and racing with Paul Newman

Having secured a film financial pact with Oscar winners Merchant Ivory Productions it was time to launch into Hollywood and the Toronto International Film Festival in my home town was the place to do in 1987. The sparks were flying, people were talking after all how many people can do a deal with an Oscar winning team. It impressed David Putnam then the CEO of Colombia Pictures, and a meeting had been set. Paul Newman and his wife Joanne Woodward were in town and Merchant Ivory brought the film Maurice for the screening with Hugh Grant and James Wilby. James Ivory did not make it to Toronto as he was busy working on an adaptation of Tama Janowitez’s Slaves of New York. My partners all flew into town including Baron Thyssen-Bornemizia, Thomas Kaplan, and Daniel Sarnoff who’s grandfather had founded RCA Corporation and NBC Networks. Needless to say we were an excited bunch and I waited with much anticipation for the meeting with David Putnam at the Four Seasons Toronto. David Putnam’s advice to me was keep steady make quality films with strong storyline in another words he was telling me if it aint on the page it aint on the stage. I fully agreed with him after all it’s why we did a deal with Merchant Ivory Productions. David Putnam confided, “Look, I would sign you to Colombia Pictures in a heart beat with the deal you have in hand, but the guys in Hollywood are probably firing me as we speak.” No doubt, that was true, David Putnam was canned shortly.

The Toronto Star, Thursday, September 24, 1987

This left me now to work on Paul Newman who was staying at the King Edward Hotel in Toronto. Paul Newman and I had a bond and it had nothing to do with films, but everything to do with Indy Car Racing. I had been infected with the racing bug, of Indy and Formula 1, sponsoring my first driver John Graham who had raced for Paul Newman. Newman loved racing more then acting, he had his own team and during the festival I was delegated as Paul Newman’s running partner, well not real running more like jogging. Why? To talk Paul into doing a film in our contract with Merchant Ivory Mr. and Mrs. Bridge. It was only after miles of running that Paul confessed to me that it was not his call to make, it was his wife who was calling the shots, it was her project. “Gees, Mr. Newman wish you had told me that at the start,” after an exhausting jog, the human body is like a race car it’s got to be fully tuned,not after an infinite amounts of highly toxic assortment of alcohol. Paul Newman looked at me with those eyes, yes those eyes, those Cool Hand Luke eyes of his as only he could that you’ve seen a thousand times on the silver screen smiling and said, “welcome to Hollywood”. We did make the film, I had a chance to work on the set in Kansas City, my job? holding lemon tea bags to put on their eyes to keep the swelling down from long hours of shooting. Jane Morrison who is mentioned in The Toronto Star article and I met for the first time at the festival and she ended up working as Paul Newman’s personal driver during the filming in Toronto. I asked her, “how did you get along with Paul Newman?” She responded with great confidence, “well he got in the car, and said, “so your my driver?”, “yes, dont worry I am really a very good driver”. After she had finished I allowed for a comfortable pause before informing her that Paul Newman the actor was also one hell of a racing car driver. It was 1987, it would be the year that Paul Newman would win his first Oscar for the movie Color of Money and it would also be the year for me to hold my first Oscar, it was not mine, I had not been awarded it, it was just in the room where I was sleeping, in an apartment in New York, it was the 1986 Oscar presented to Ruth Prawer Jhabvala for Adapted Screenplay A Room With A View . Paul Newman went on to hold several trophies for his racing team, and my time also came on the Gold Coast of Australia. Magic is everywhere in life, you just have to be open to the idea that magic is real and dreams come true. That is how its been, and so it will here on the pages of My Name is Khan as it had been for the late great Paul Newman.

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