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Paul Newman: set for life at age 80

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Actor Paul Newman attributes his success to luck: the luck of having genes that gave him smarts, strong bones and good looks.

But while that kind of luck may have helped him in his early days as an actor after graduating “magna cum lager” from college, his later years have composed an exercise in discipline.

At a basic level, that means working out every day and ignoring doughnuts. At a higher level, it means excelling in three fields. Beyond making movies, Newman drives Formula 1 race-cars and founded and owns a wildly successful specialty-food business.

Newman is proudest of his business, Newman’s Own, which sells salad dressing among its 80 products and has donated $175 million to a summer camp for sick children.

He promotes that business and, at the same time, owns Newman/Haas Racing. Newman is the oldest driver to win a Formula 1 race.

(When Newman’s wife, Joanne Woodward, recently broke her collarbone by falling out of bed, Newman told her he wasn’t going to listen to any more gripes about his racing.)

He even beat Jay Leno handily this spring in a mini-race around the NBC studios, explaining that the secret lies in the turns.

Newman’s third job is his first: acting. In 2003, he returned to Broadway after 38 years and nabbed a Tony nomination for his role in “Our Town.”

He’s also drawn a string of Oscar nominations for his recent movies, including “Road to Perdition.”

And he worked diligently to portray himself as a wretched old man in this year’s TV movie “Empire Falls,” grinding food into his clothes, thinning his hair and even putting irritants in his eyes to make them bleary and bloodshot.

All this work, and the discipline behind it, comes at least in part from Newman’s regret that his strict father died before Newman buckled down and made it big.

But he isn’t complaining. His knees are good, and he likes life as a leader.

“At my age,” he says, “I ought to be able to complain about something.”

— Adapted from “Newman’s Luck,” Nancy Griffin, AARP: The Magazine.

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