Thursday, May 30

Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward’s Daughter Shares Rare Family Photos in Book ‘Head Over Heels’

Melissa Newman reveals a softer side to her parents, as well as never-before-seen family photos

Daughter of Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward On Their Long-Lasting Relationship

For many, Hollywood power couple Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward represented the ultimate in movie-star allure.

Together, the actors held two Academy Awards, four Emmys and a long résumé of classic movies such as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and The Three Faces of Eve. Their partnership has also been the basis for recent projects including Ethan Hawke’s Max miniseries The Last Movie Stars and Newman’s posthumous memoir, The Extraordinary Life of an Ordinary Man, both released in 2022.

Behind closed doors, however, the iconic stars revealed a softer side.

“They could have their knockdown, drag out fights, but they always came clinging back to each other,” their daughter, artist and former actress Melissa Newman, tells PEOPLE exclusively. “Which is amazing in Hollywood — that they managed to navigate this relationship.”

Daughter of Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward On Their Long-Lasting Relationship
Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward.JOANNE WOODWARD NEWMAN 

In her new photo book, Head Over Heels: Joanne Woodward and Paul Newman: A Love Affair in Words and Pictures, out now from Little, Brown Voracious, Melissa shares an intimate look into her parents’ relationship. Created alongside editor Andrew Kelly and designer Dan Miller, the book features more than 100 photos — some never-before-seen — of the iconic Hollywood couple, from the East Coast to Los Angeles to various movie sets around the world.

Melissa, 62, grew up surrounded by photography in her family’s Westport, Connecticut, home. She recalls that it often felt like her parents’ photographer friends, including Philippe Halsman and Bruce Davidson, “lived at our house,” snapping pictures. Newman and Woodward also took many photos of Melissa and her two sisters.

“There’s so many pictures of my parents with cameras hanging around their necks,” Melissa says. “My dad used to walk around with a hammer and nails. Every time a new photograph [came in], or he decided to put something on the wall…he would just be walking around looking for a spot.”

Daughter of Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward On Their Long-Lasting Relationship
Paul Newman with daughters Nell and Melissa.JOANNE WOODWARD/ JOANNE WOODWARD NEWMAN 

Head Over Heels features photos that were in Melissa’s childhood home. The book, which she says is “loosely thematic,” also incorporates quotes from her parents collected from interviews, transcripts and “charmingly naughty” letters between the couple.

“I’d get to a line [while reading the letters] and I’d be like, ‘Oh, Dad, I can’t put this letter in the book,’” she says. “I think there are a lot of cases in which you look at the photograph and you might not engage with it, but when you read the quote, you look back at the photograph with different eyes.”

Head Over Heels is all about seeing people from a new perspective. Paul Newman, who died in 2008, features in many lighthearted pictures. In one photo, he sings to a cow in Vermont. In another snapshot, taken by Rebel Without a Cause screenwriter Stewart Stern, he stares at himself in a mirror, eyes wide, his face covered in shaving cream.

Daughter of Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward On Their Long-Lasting Relationship

“My dad was a goofball,” Melissa says. “He really was. He was a silly goof, like a college frat boy in a way, with the beer drinking. And he just had a really silly sense of humor, which made him a wonderful grandfather. He was really fun with kids.”

His philanthropy includes initiatives like the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp, created for children with serious illnesses and their families. Melissa says that, to her, “that’s really the purest iteration of his legacy.”

Woodward, Melissa says, was often behind the camera, but had “a free spirit.” She recalls seeing photos of her mother, now 93, in costumes from her movies. One such photo that didn’t make the book features Woodward after she cut her hair with fingernail scissors for her 1955 film Count Three and Pray. Woodward claimed that her character, Lissy, would never wear her hair in the poofy braid that was originally planned.

“[My dad] really felt like my mother was the most important,” Melissa says. “As far as being an actor, he placed my mother above him as an actor till the day he died, I think.”

Daughter of Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward On Their Long-Lasting Relationship

Though her parents’ relationship was both “sweet” and “turbulent,” Melissa intends for Head Over Heels to showcase “the most beautiful, wonderful and intriguing aspect of their relationship, which was their relationship.”

“This is really, really just about their romance, which was complex,” she says. “It wasn’t simple. It wasn’t all roses. And between the quotes and the photographs, I think when you get to the end of the book, you really feel as though you’ve been with them.”