Having fame that could equate to John Wayne’s but living a remarkably private and honorable life, Paul Newman is truly a man like no other. Newman, the distinguished actor, award-winning director, entrepreneur, dedicated philanthropist and political activist, made himself a superstar in the 1967 classic, Cool Hand Luke, playing a lead role as iconic as Clyde Barrow, Benjamin Braddock, or Virgil Tibbs.
With Newman’s elaborate portrayal of Lucas Jackson, a rebel and nonconformist that is lead to the anguish of imprisonment after a drunken night of mischief, Luke ends up being sentenced to two years of hard labor in a Floria chain gang. In this period, he is subjected to mental and physical anguish but eventually finds the courage to follow through with the ups and downs alike, seeking a place among the gang. In this classic film, the 42-year old actor redefined himself as the icon of individualism, rebellion, alienation, and protest for the college-age audience. With such an excellent production, you would definitely be interested in getting to know some behind-the-scenes information! Read on to get to familiarize yourself more with what went on off-camera!
A Novel by An Ex-Con
The film, “Cool Hand Luke”, was based on a novel written by American author, Donn Pearce. In the novel, Pearce writes about his experiences loosely based on what he went through during his own time spent with a Florida Department of Corrections chain gang. He also heard stories about a man named Luke Jackson, which later on became the main character of the film. Although, in the novel, the day-to-day harsh life of prisoners was more prominently mentioned than the experiences of the lead character, Luke Jackson. Ultimately, Pearce made Cool Hand Luke become part of his fellow convicts’ mythology of survival.
Pearce wrote about his arrest for burglary when he was 20 years old in 1949. He started out in the forgery business, forging documents that allowed him to travel to Europe and even Canada while the US Army was out to find him for being AWOL. All this occurred before he found more financial opportunities in burglary.