Paul Newman’s first big screen role was playing the middleweight boxer Rocky Grazuano in the 1950 film Somebody Up There Likes Me. Anyone who has seen pictures of Rocky Graziano can appreciate the irony. It’s like Charlize Theron playing Phyllis Diller.
As part of his preparation for the role, Newman worked out very hard and even did some sparring with Graziano’s real-life boxing nemesis, Tony Zale. Apparently, at one point, Newman overdid the “getting into the role thing’ and learned exactly how hard Tony Zale can hit, even ten years after he retired. As a result of that mishap, Zale was not allowed to play himself in the film. Newman was a bit gun-shy about sparring with him again.
Many years later, Newman made The Macintosh Man. The director, John Huston, was a notorious practical joker. During the course of filming, Newman got into it with a member of the cast playing a heavy named John Bindon. This did not strike onlookers as a particularly bright idea because Bindon was five inches taller and fifty pounds heavier than Newman. Further, Bindon was a really, really, really bad guy. For him, acting was a sideline. His full-time occupation was being a collection specialist for London’s notorious gangsters, the Cray Twins. Bindon had done prison time and was acquitted on a murder charge that many people thought he did not deserve. In the film, there is a scene that takes place in a house by a very tall, steep cliff. Newman, wearing blue jeans and a plaid shirt, walked into the house and onlookers heard what sounded like an extremely acrimonious argument between Newman and Bindon. A few seconds later, they saw a blue-jeaned and checked shirted figure fly out of a window and fall onto the rocks below. Horrified, Huston and other cast members ran into the house, only to discover Newman and Bindon rolling on the floor, laughing hysterically about the prank they had spent weeks setting up.
John Huston managed to have the last word. When he recovered from his shock, he managed to say, “Way to go, Bindon. You threw the wrong dummy out the window.”
p.s. John Bindon is no longer with us, but he did achieve one bit of immortality on YouTube by inspiring a song that celebrates his name. Just search “John Bindon” to listen to a bit that is extremely funny and extremely raunchy. You have been warned.