Paul Newman: An astrological perspective

Originally published in The Astrological Association Journal, January/February 2009

Paul Newman was a hero of mine. I loved his rebellious, sometimes cranky nature, his smouldering good looks with the piercing blue eyes. I loved it that he drove fast cars well and that he was so satisfied with what he had that he could donate some of his wealth to worthy causes. He exuded contentment in life and within his marriage. He was a wonderful cook – so much so that his friends inspired him to market his own sauces and dressings. What else could we expect of someone with the Moon in the 2nd house? In time, “Newman’s Own” brand, donating all its profits after tax to charitable causes, threatened to overshadow his acting career. Not that Paul himself seemed to mind very much! When he died, I couldn’t help but think, what if there were a few more celebrities like Paul Newman in the world?

My favourite Paul Newman role was the title role in Cool Hand Luke. In it, he played out his Saturn trine Uranus as a prisoner who would not be broken. In one rainy scene, he was challenged to eat 50 hard-boiled eggs in an hour. “No one can eat 50 boiled eggs”, one prisoner challenges and the betting begins. At 39 eggs, Luke’s belly was comically bloated. To the last second, there was uncertainty that he has eaten the last of the eggs, but of course he had – after all, he was the hero. When the men leave him, he lays down on the table as if crucified. It’s pure cinematic iconic religious symbolism at its finest. So much so, that the cast of Jackass (a somewhat raucous stunt group) tried to copy this feat – and failed miserably.

It is difficult to imagine someone as strikingly handsome as Paul Newman languishing away selling sporting goods. Yet, in the 1940s, that seemed to be his destiny. Paul Leonard Newman was born 26 January 1925 in Cleveland, Ohio, to a Jewish father who owned a prosperous sports shop. He and his family lived a comfortably affluent life, unmarked by tragedy or hardship. Paul’s first theatrical role, in a school production playing a joker, was when he was seven years old, or about the time transiting Saturn passed over his Sun in Aquarius. Paul’s mother was a Christian Scientist, and actively encouraged the young Paul’s interest in the theatre. We can see her influence in his unaspected Moon in Pisces. When the shadow of World War II loomed, Paul was called up for service. Initially Paul wanted to be a pilot, and as he had enjoyed a good run of luck thus far in his life, had no reason to doubt he would get what he wanted. However, during the medical examinations, it was discovered that the very same baby blue eyes that would become his trademark, were in fact colour blind, thus denying him his ambition. So he became a radio operator aboard a torpedo bomber. He and his team were responsible primarily for training replacement pilots and combat air crewmen, placing particular importance on carrier landings.

In the spring of 1945 he was ordered to be a part of the Battle of Okinawa, but because his pilot had an ear infection shortly before the attack, they were held back. According to sources, the rest of the detail failed to return. During this time, transit Jupiter was opposite to his natal Uranus. Upon his return from the war, Paul got the acting bug and played football. These pastimes changed when his father died a few years after graduation and it became Paul’s duty to pick up the reins of the sports shop. Newman’s natal chart shows a stellium in Capricorn with Jupiter, Mercury and Venus conjunct the Ascendant, all throwing a trine to Saturn, the planet of obligation and duty. However, the first house shows what Paul has to offer the world, and it is pretty much impossible to overlook the ambition, the intelligence, and the sheer attractiveness of such a person. An astrologer has to ask how long before such a person shatters the expected mould and makes a break for something a little more suitable. We can also find Saturn trine Uranus and see the rebel’s streak.

By 1953, the year of Paul’s first Saturn return, Uranus was opposed to this stellium in Cancer and conjunct his natal Pluto. This was when the shop folded up and Paul began treading the boardwalks of Broadway. By this time, he was married with three children and well on his way to Hollywood stardom. In 1953, the phase of his progressed Moon (unaspected natally) was new, indicating a time of renewal and change. This was the year he met the up-and-coming actress Joanne Woodward. It took another five years and a painful divorce before the two were married. In 1954, while still married to his first wife, Paul made his film debut in The Silver Chalice. This was followed by acclaimed roles in Somebody Up There Likes Me (1956), as boxer Rocky Graziano, but it was Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, released in 1955, opposite Elizabeth Taylor, that really launched his career and made him a Hollywood icon. Paul played the character Brick, an alcoholic unable to produce children with his beautiful wife and still mourning the loss of his best friend. One of the best parts of the film is when Brick refers to his brother’s numerous children as “neckless monsters”. During the making of this film, his progressed Jupiter had crossed over his natal Ascendant and progressed Venus was opposite his natal Neptune. How apt it is, then, that during this time Paul was involved with two women yet was playing a repressed homosexual married to Elizabeth Taylor! Incidentally, Paul became a vocal supporter of gay rights, and in particular, of same-sex marriages.

The 2nd of February 1958 was the date of Paul’s marriage to Joanne. On the day, transit Pluto was opposite his natal Moon, showing a powerful emotional shift, and Venus was passing over his natal Sun. It was an auspicious start to a marriage that would be hailed as one of Hollywood’s strongest. Some time later, when asked about temptation among so many beautiful Hollywood starlets, Paul quipped, “Why have hamburger when you can have steak at home?” Joanne was with him to the very end.

“Fast” Eddy Felson, Paul’s character in 1961’s The Hustler, would be reprised in The Colour of Money in 1986. During the filming of The Hustler, transiting Neptune was hovering over Paul’s MC, nearing conjunction with his natal Saturn, and was in trine with his natal Pluto. If Cat on a Hot Tin Roof made his name, The Hustler made sure that same name was kept in lights. However, Paul would not receive an Oscar for his portrayal of Fast Eddie in The Hustler. It was a disappointment that would echo seven more times, and not even winning an “honorary” Oscar in 1985 could stem the disappointment. He joked that the award was “a gift certificate from Forest Lawn”.

However, he would clinch the little gold man the following year for the reprise of his role as Fast Eddie 25 years after he first played him in The Colour of Money. This time it was Pluto on his MC with Saturn hovering around his Ascendant, making him the older, wiser man, not to be messed with. Another of Paul’s memorable roles was Butch in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. It is always fascinating to do the synastry of actor to the real-life person they portray on screen, and we have this opportunity to do this with Paul and Butch Cassidy, an American 19th-century train robber. Strikingly, the two men have their Saturns only a few degrees apart, and Butch’s Sun and Mercury conjunction is in turn conjunct Paul’s Mars. Small wonder then that it was easy to tune into the recklessness and violence of this character. Paul even named one of his many philanthropic causes “The Hole in the Wall Gang”, an organisation that provides holiday camps for terminally ill children that is funded through his cookbooks and recipes profits. Anyone who seen Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid will know that “The Hole in the Wall Gang” is what Butch and his outlaw buddies called themselves in the movie.

Paul was one of the few Hollywood actors who made the transition between ‘50s movie star and ‘80s film icon. Why would a boy from Cleveland do so well as a Hollywood film star? To answer this, we can look to comparing Paul’s chart to the Sibley chart of the US. We can see that Paul’s Pluto in Cancer is conjunct the Sun of the US, making an exact opposition to his Mercury-Venus in Capricorn in conjunction on his Ascendant. He always came across as a hard-working, blue collar man who was grateful that his position in society enabled him to take on the roles he valued and felt he could do well in (and maybe look good doing it too!). In interviews, he came across as thoughtful and stubbornly defiant of authority, and he never seemed truly to enjoy the superficiality of his fame. One always got the impression he couldn’t wait to get home, get into some proper, comfortable clothes and enjoy being in his own home with his family. Paul also enjoyed race-car driving. He said it was “the first thing he ever found grace in”. (I beg to differ!) He had Saturn sextile to his Mercury, which astrologically would have added a sense of discipline to his quicksilver movements. He continued to race successfully quite late in life, and we are not surprised to know that he was the oldest driver to be part of a winning team in a major sanctioned race, winning in his class at the 1995 24 Hours of Daytona.

In his final years, he provided the voice of Doc Hudson, a retired race car in Disney/Pixar’s Cars, and was the narrator for the 2007 film Dale, about the life of the legendary NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt, which turned out to be Newman’s final film performance in any form.

In 2002, Paul appeared in his final film performance in The Road to Perdition, as an unflinchingly ruthless gangster boss. The following year, he reprised another earlier role, in Our Town, receiving his first nomination for a Tony Award. During the productive time, his progressed Sun was conjunct his natal Mars.

On 25 May 2007, Paul announced he was retiring from acting. He told US broadcaster ABC that he did not feel he could continue acting on the level that he would want to. “You start to lose your memory, you start to lose your confidence, you start to lose your invention. So I think that’s pretty much a closed book for me.” He knew when to bow out gracefully. Shortly afterwards, on 1 June 2007, Kenyon College announced that Paul had donated $10 million to the school to establish a scholarship fund as part of the college’s current $230 million fund-raising campaign. By this time he had lived a full Uranus cycle, Neptune was opposing itself, and his progressed Moon was conjunct his natal Moon. Paul Newman died on 26 September 2008 at his beloved home in Newport, Connecticut, of complications from his battle with lung cancer. Transiting Jupiter, the ruler of his 12th house, was conjunct his natal Mercury. He had a beautiful Sun, Venus, Mercury conjunction of progressed planets in the 4th house and was surrounded by his wife, children and other loved ones when he finally succumbed.

Paul Newman was perhaps Hollywood’s greatest entrepreneur and philanthropist. Certainly he was one its greatest actors. Paul’s “Newman’s Own” line of food products of pasta sauce, lemonade, popcorn, salsa, and wine, among other things, continue to flourish, and as of early 2006, the franchise has resulted in excess of $200 million in donations. The franchise had begun in 1982, just as he began another new progressed lunar cycle, and this plus the love of his family and his wonderful roles during his acting career are his legacy. As David Letterman said: “Paul was not just a great actor, a race-car driver but a man who knew how to live his life because he took care of other people – not just here and there but as a full time commitment… It takes a humanitarian genius to not just think about it but to actually follow through with it.”

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