Paul Newman was always known more for his acting chops than his passion for racing. But a new documentary co-directed by comedian Adam Carolla and Nate Adams might just change that.
Titled Winning: The Racing Life of Paul Newman, the film, out now on video-on-demand, provides a rare glimpse into the actor's second career behind the wheel. And, yes, it is no coincidence it shares a name with Matt Stone and Preston Lerner's book, which was named for the 1969 Newman film about the Indy 500.
Like James Garner and other celebrities before him, Newman became acquainted with motorsport while making the film. But unlike other stars, he never fell out of love with the track. Despite assessing himself as a "slow study" in the trove of archival footage presented in the film, Newman went on to win four championships and placed second at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1979.
A longtime fan of "mechanical things," Carolla tells Esquire he always admired Newman.
"For me, it was a pretty simple equation," he says. "Everyone knows Paul Newman, but they don't know his real passion, which was racing. After talking to enough people who claimed to be Newman fans but had no idea about this side of his life, I just thought it'd be a great subject."
Putting the film together turned out to be easier than expected, mainly because everyone who was in his life at the time he was racing "was eager to step up," Carolla says. "They knew how excited he would have been about this." Though David Letterman, who often hosted the actor on Late Show, and Tom Cruise, who starred with Newman in the 1990 blockbuster Days of Thunder, declined to be interviewed, Carolla was able to get Sam Posey, Robert Redford, Mario Andretti, and others to reflect on the star.
"The reality is it's a lot of legwork," says Carolla, adding "the fun part [of making a film] is deciding the poster and cutting the trailer." But that hard work paid off, as the documentary is a moving and convincing tribute to the thing Newman loved more than acting. "I made the whole documentary because I knew he was passionate about racing and I had no idea how passionate he was until I got into it," Carolla quips. "I underestimated his passion for racing while I was making a documentary on his passion for racing."
This article was originally published on Esquire.com