After 50 years in film, Cool Hand Newman plans one last hurrah

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The brilliant blue eyes of Paul Newman were just 29 years old when he starred in his first film - a swords-and-sandals epic that the actor hated and which he later begged people not to watch.

Since then Newman has appeared in around 50 other feature movies, including such hits as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Cool Hand Luke and The Sting and along the way he has picked up an Oscar for best actor. This summer he can he heard in the animated feature Cars, in which he provides the voice for an angsty cartoon version of a 1951 Hudson Hornet.

Yet now at the age of 81, Newman has suggested his career as an actor may almost have run its course. Speaking to reporters he said he may only have one more film left in him - a project he has apparently already decided but about which he will not yet provide details.

"I will probably have one film left in me - the last hurrah," he told the Associated Press. "It's time. When it's time to get out, it's time to get out." Newman was speaking at the Double H Ranch in upstate New York, one of a number of camps he helped establish for children with cancer, Aids and other illnesses. The camps have been funded largely by proceeds Newman has donated from profits from his range of salad dressings and pasta sauces.

"When we started the camp we had no idea of the profound impact these camps would have on these kids," said Newman, who also has a keen interest in motorsports and once participated in the 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance race.

Before he was an actor, Newman served in the US Navy during the Second World War. He then attended university and studied acting before developing a successful stage career on Broadway. His first outing with the movies was in a film called The Silver Chalice that Newman later described as the worst of the "entire 1950s decade". When it was broadcast on television in 1966 he took out an advertisement in a trade paper apologising for his performance.

He quickly put that film behind him, building a career based on both his arresting looks and nuanced performances. By now he considers himself something of a Hollywood survivor. "You can't be as old as I am without waking up with a surprised look on your face every morning - Holy Christ, whaddya know. I'm still around," he once said. "It's absolutely amazing that I survived all the booze and smoking and the cars and the career." But if Newman is preparing to say goodbye to the movies he is apparently sticking by his charitable efforts. Max Yurenda, executive director of the Double H Ranch, said last night: "He is 100 per cent focussed on developing new projects - there is no indication that he is going to slow down at all. If anything it's going to pick up pace." The Double H Ranch, co-founded by Newman and the late amusement park developer Charles Wood in 1992, is currently raising money for a $15m fund. Camp officials say this will help them continue to take more than 1,000 summer campers every year.

Newman's involvement in the Cars cartoon is his first feature work since 2002's Road to Perdition in which he starred alongside Tom Hanks.

As to the project that might lure him in front of the cameras one last time, he recently gave a clue in an interview with the website. He said: "It would have to be either a wonderful character in a wonderful film or a character that was acceptable in a film with some social content."

A life in the movies

* Born in Ohio into a Hungarian immigrant family in 1925.

* He has acted in more than 50 films since he joined Warner Brothers in 1954.

* He has been nominated for 10 Academy Awards, including as a producer for Rachel Rachel (1968), starring his wife, Joanne Woodward.

* Won first Oscar in 1986 for role as ageing pool shark Fast Eddie in The Colour of Money.

* His first film, The Silver Chalice (1954), was panned by the critics. Newman called it "the worst movie of the 1950s".

* A huge fan of motor racing, Newman came second in the 1979 Le Mans 24-hour race.

* Launched his own food line in 1982 called Newman's Own, donating the profits to charity and raising $200million as of early 2006.

* His second marriage to the actress Joanne Woodward is one of Hollywood's most enduring. Asked why he'd never cheated in 50 years Newman said, "Why fool around with hamburgers when you have steak at home?"

* Starred alongside Tom Hanks in The Road to Perdition and won both an Emmy and Golden Globe for his role in HBO's hit mini-series Empire Falls.

* During World War 2 Newman failed to join the Air Force because he was colour blind and joined the Navy instead.