I grew up watching Paul Newman movies with my mom, who thought he was very handsome and a wonderful actor. She was right. He was a wonderful man who did so much with his life, outside his acheivements in acting. It is inspiring. RIP Mr. Newman.
(CNN) -- Paul Newman, the legendary actor whose steely blue eyes, good-humored charm and advocacy of worthy causes made him one of the most renowned figures in American arts, has died of cancer at his home in Westport, Connecticut. He was 83.
He died Friday, according to spokeswoman Marni Tomljanovic.
Newman attained stardom in the 1950s and never lost the movie-star aura, appearing in such classic films as "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof," "Exodus," "The Hustler," "Cool Hand Luke," "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid," "The Sting" and "The Verdict."
He finally won an Oscar in 1986 -- on his eighth try -- for "The Color of Money," a sequel to "The Hustler." He later received two more Oscar nominations. Among his other awards was the Motion Picture Academy's Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award.
"Paul took advantage of what life offered him, and while personally reluctant to acknowledge that he was doing anything special, he forever changed the lives of many with his generosity, humor, and humanness," said Robert Forrester, vice chairman of the actor's Newman's Own Foundation. "His legacy lives on in the charities he supported and the Hole in the Wall Camps, for which he cared so much."
He was often willing to make fun of himself. Early in his career he was mistaken for fellow Method actor Marlon Brando; Newman obligingly signed autographs, "Best wishes, Marlon Brando."
Newman was a Method-trained actor who blazed his own career trail and didn't shy away from risky roles -- inside and outside films.
A portrayal as a race-car driver in 1969's "Winning" led to his actual competition in races; at 70, he participated in the 24 Hours of Daytona and he was still racing at age 80.
He stumped for liberal causes, including Eugene McCarthy's 1968 presidential candidacy, and earned a spot on Richard Nixon's enemies list -- "the highest single honor I've ever received," he said.
In 1982, Newman and his friend A.E. Hotchner founded Newman's Own, a food company that produced food ranging from pasta sauces to salad dressing to chocolate chip cookies.
"The embarrassing thing is that the salad dressing is outgrossing my films," Newman once wryly noted.
To date, the company -- which donates all profits to charities such as Newman's Hole in the Wall camps -- has given away more than $200 million. Newman established the camp to benefit gravely ill children.
"He saw the camps as places where kids could escape the fear, pain and isolation of their conditions, kick back and raise a little hell," Forrester said.
Today, there are 11 Hole in the Wall camps around the world, with additional programs in Africa and Vietnam. Some 135,000 children have attended the camps -- free of charge.
The Association of Hole in the Wall Camps "is part of his living legacy, and for that we remain forever grateful," the association said in a statement.
"We are greatly saddened by his passing. His leadership and spirit can never be replaced. But he has left us strong and confident."
Newman was half of one of the most successful showbiz marriages -- to Joanne Woodward, whom he married in 1958. He observed that just because he was a sex symbol there was no reason to commit adultery.
"Why would I go out for a hamburger when [I] have steak at home?" he asked.
Newman's daughters said described him as a devoted husband, a loving father, an adoring grandfather and a dedicated philanthropist.
"Our father was a rare symbol of selfless humility, the last to acknowledge what he was doing was special," they said in a statement. "Intensely private, he quietly succeeded beyond measure in impacting the lives of so many with his generosity.
"Always and to the end, Dad was incredibly grateful for his good fortune. In his own words: 'It's been a privilege to be here.'"
The statement requested privacy for Newman's family.
CNN's Larry King, who interviewed Newman through the years, said he greatly admired the actor.
"He lived a long and terrific life," King said Saturday morning. "He was much appreciated. Did some theater, graduated Yale. Long marriage to Joanne Woodward. One of those showbiz rarities."
Paul Leonard Newman was born on January 26, 1925, in Shaker Heights, Ohio, a suburb of Cleveland. His father owned a successful sporting goods store, but young Paul was taken with his mother's and uncle's interest in the arts and started acting while still in grade school.
"I wasn't running toward the theater but running away from the sporting goods store," he said later.