Plus, the actor's friend denies ever saying that Newman is battling the disease

By Stephen M. Silverman
Updated June 11, 2008 08:30 AM

Paul Newman has responded obliquely to a number of published reports that say he is gravely ill with cancer, while a longtime business associate and friend of the star has denied reports that quote him as saying the 83-year-old screen hero is battling the disease.

“I saw [Paul] last week and he seemed fine,” writer A.E. Hotchner told Access Hollywood Wednesday afternoon. “I have no knowledge of any diagnosis or doctors.”

Earlier in the day, the Associated Press reported that Hotchner, a founding partner in Newman’s Own salad dressing company, said that Newman had first informed him about his battle with cancer 18 months ago.

On Tuesday, Newman’s spokesman in Los Angeles, Jeff Sanderson, told Reuters and other media outlets: “Newman says he’s doing nicely.”

Without elaborating, Sanderson added: “He says he’s doing nicely, and this is the statement I wanted to share with you, and that’s what I have. I spoke to his office [in Connecticut]. This is the statement that came directly from him.”

Numerous unconfirmed media accounts have said that Newman is undergoing outpatient treatment for lung cancer at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in Manhattan.

A spokeswoman for the medical facility told Reuters she had no information about Newman’s being a patient there.

Possibly helping to stir the current concerns about Newman’s condition was a photo that appeared last Friday on Martha Stewart’s blog, in which, standing beside the domestic expert at a fundraiser for the Newman-launched Hole in the Wall Camp Gang, for kids battling severe diseases, the handsome leading man looked like a shadow of his former self.

Born in Cleveland and raised in the Midwest, Newman was a Broadway actor before making his first movie in 1954, the ancient costume drama The Silver Chalice, which he has called one of the worst movies of all time.

A Screen Giant

He is much better known for a progression of hits in the later ’50s and continuing through the ’90s, including Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, The Hustler, Cool Hand Luke, Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid, The Sting and 1986’s The Color of Money, which brought him his Oscar.

And all of these movies showed off his beautiful blue eyes to their best advantage.

One recent role was his distinctive voice only, as “Doc” Hudson in Disney-Pixar’s 2006 Cars.

Last year he announced his retirement from acting, saying on Good Morning America, “I’m not able to work anymore … at the level that I would want to.”

Last month, citing unspecified health issues, he withdrew as director of a stage production of John Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men” at Connecticut’s Westport Country Playhouse – whose artistic director is Newman’s wife of 50 years, The Three Faces of Eve Oscar-winning actress Joanne Woodward.

Besides acting and directing, Newman has two great passions that have long driven him: racecar driving and doing charitable acts. Through his food company Newman’s Own – whose motto is, “Shameless exploitation for the common good” – the star and his Newman s Own Foundation have “donated all profits and royalties after taxes for educational and charitable purposes,” according to the Newman’s Own Web site.

In all, that has amounted to more than “$200 million to thousands of charities worldwide since l982.”

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