‘Outlander’ Star Sam Heughan On the ‘Pressure’ He Feels Portraying American Icon Paul Newman

Outlander star Sam Heughan is known for playing Scottish Jacobite Jamie Fraser on the STARZ time-traveling drama. But this month, fans will see him transform into American icon Paul Newman in the new film To Olivia.

Heughan didn’t have a lot of time to prepare for the role and he admits he felt pressure playing the screen legend.

'Outlander' star Sam Heughan arrives for the Premiere Of Sony Pictures' "Bloodshot" held at The Regency Village on March 10, 2020
‘Outlander’ star Sam Heughan will portray Paul Newman in ‘To Olivia’ | Albert L. Ortega/Getty Images

The ‘Outlander’ star has had a few film roles during his career

Heughan’s role on Outlander has made him a global superstar, and it’s definitely what he’s most known for. But the 40-year-old has had a few film roles in his career. And his name often comes up as a possible replacement for Daniel Craig in the James Bond franchise.

He once told Jimmy Fallon during an appearance on The Tonight Show that he had not been offered the soon-to-be vacant role of 007. Then he added, “I’m waiting for the call.”

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The Scot’s most recent movie role was in the 2020 superhero film Bloodshot with Vin Diesel. In 2018, Heughan starred in the comedy The Spy Who Dumped Me, alongside Mila Kunis, Kate McKinnon, and Justin Theroux.

While Outlander was on hiatus due to the pandemic, Heughan shot the drama Text For You with Priyanka Chopra-Jonas. He’s also set to appear in the action thriller SAS: Red Notice with Ruby Rose.

Sam Heughan portrays Paul Newman in the new biopic ‘To Olivia’

The new biopic To Olivia tells the story of American actress Patricia Neal and her husband, British children’s author Roald Dahl. Downton Abbey star Hugh Bonneville plays Dahl and Keeley Hawes stars as Neal.

According to Deadline, the film was originally titled An Unquiet Life. It takes place in 1962, when Neal and Dahl stepped out of the spotlight. At the time, Neal was an in-demand actress who starred in Breakfast at Tiffanys. Dahl was an up and coming author who wrote Charlie and The Chocolate Factory.

Despite the massive success in both of their careers, the unlikely couple retreated to the English countryside to raise their children. During that time, their relationship is put to the test. But tragic events ultimately strengthen their marriage.

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Neal went on to star in the 1963 classic Hud with Newman. She won an Oscar for her performance in that film, and he received a nomination. When Heughan joined the cast of the film in 2019, producer Donall McCusker said he was the perfect actor to play Newman.

“We are delighted that Sam has joined us, he is the perfect actor to play Paul Newman and a terrific addition to our already wonderful cast,” McCusker said.

The ‘Outlander’ star admits it was ‘daunting’ to play an American icon

According to The Sun, Heughan jumped at the chance to play movie legend Paul Newman. But, he only had two months to prepare for the role. He quickly took to studying Newman’s performance as pool shark Fast Eddie Felson in The Hustler.

“When I first heard about it, I thought, ‘Oh my God, this is a huge role to take on board,'” Heughan said. “I mean, Paul Newman is an icon. There are so many of these biopics where the actors will take months to prepare, if not years.”

Heughan says he was working on Outlander when he got the part in To Olivia. But, he decided to take the chance and accept the role. Even though he had such a short time to prepare.

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While doing his research, Heughan says he was amazed by Newman and Neal’s performances in Hud, as well as the real-life tragedy that the Dahl family experienced.

“Joining the cast of To Olivia wasn’t so much even about Paul’s part in it. It was more just that I loved the story,” Heughan explained. “I grew up with Roald Dahl and I thought Patricia’s story was incredible. And then I watched Hud and thought, ‘I have to do this.’ Paul Newman blows the screen apart. But To Olivia is a tragic, tragic story as well. So, it was daunting but I just had to do it.”

Sam Heughan adopted Paul Newman’s nuances

Heughan says it’s sad that many people don’t know much about Neal, despite the fact that she was a great Hollywood actress who won an Oscar. The Scot explained that Neal went through great tragedy and had to grieve. He says it’s incredible that such creativity came out of that grief, and it led to an Oscar.

The Outlander star admits that he doesn’t look much like Newman. But, he was able to adopt some of his nuances.

“I don’t look like Paul Newman, he’s such a striking guy — but it was about the essence of him, the fact he was a heavy smoker, he smoked out the side of his mouth and that makes you speak differently, and that all helps,” Heughan explained.

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He says he wanted to get “those little details” and then forget about the fact that Newman was one of the world’s biggest stars. Heughan says he looked at a lot of pictures of the blond Newman, but in Hud his hair was darker. And they wanted to emulate that.

“And then the costume. The wardrobe department was amazing — they got the exact same shirt, the exact same jeans, and that really helped,” Heughan noted. “You put the boots on and it really just makes you stand in a different way.”

To Olivia premieres February 19 on Sky Cinema.