NEW YORK, July 11 (UPI) -- Screen legend Paul Newman is denying reports that he intends "Road to Perdition" to be his last film.
"No, it's probably closer to a vulture than a swan song," joked the spry 77-year-old Ohio native.
He keeps trying to retire from everything and discovered that he retired from nothing, Newman said.
"I was going to get out of the racing business and I'm back. I was going to let somebody else handle all the spaghetti sauce and I'm back in the spaghetti sauce. I just finished the first play that I've done in 35 years, which is like sticking a rifle in your mouth."
Newman said he particularly appreciated the arc of his character.
"He goes through an interesting progression in the film. He starts out robust and powerful and full of vinegar, and becomes a man beaten down by tragedy. It's a marvelous part."
Directed by Sam Mendes ("American Beauty"), the film is already garnering Oscar buzz and has been hailed by one critic as the best gangster movie since "The Godfather."
Acclaimed actors Jude Law, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Stanley Tucci have supporting roles in the drama, based on Max Allan Collins' graphic novel.
"(This) film, unlike other gangster films, is not really about explosions ... it was about family, but not even in the sense of Mafia family. It's really about family and vengeance, and I can understand that. And not only understand it, but in some cases admire it. That it happened to occur within the confines of the Irish Mafia is different, and I just found everything that happened in that film compelling and promising and it gave me a chance to deviate from the kind of stuff that I usually do," said the actor.
Newman's only son died of drug overdose in 1978.
Asked how the loss of his son impacted his performance, the eight-time Oscar nominee said, "Well, that's a very long time ago. I don't think at all, but it obviously has impacted me in other ways."
Newman spoke fondly of his relationship with his own dad, who was a partner in a sporting goods store years ago.
In the "Road to Perdition," jealousy and competition between Sullivan and Rooney's son, Connor (Daniel Craig) put all the main characters on a collision course. It ultimately brings Sullivan's work into his private life, leading to the death of his beloved wife (Leigh) and youngest son, ("Stepmom" moppet Liam Aiken,).
Then, Sullivan and his surviving son embark on a journey initiated by tragedy and fueled by rage.
A terrific gangster picture, "Road to Perdition" is also an excellent study of two families whose fates are determined by the complex, and often, combative relationships between fathers and sons.
"Rooney's son Connor is a bad guy, and his 'adopted' son, Michael, is kind of a good bad guy. Rooney is forced to protect one at the expense of the other, so it's an intriguing conflict," Newman said.
Richard Zanuck, the film producer along with his son, Dean, said that Newman was everyone's top choice to play the Irish godfather.
"We all agreed there was only one actor who could play Rooney. There was no second choice," said Zanuck, who worked with Newman in "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid," "The Sting" and "The Verdict."
Newman has not only been widely regarded as one of American cinema's most important and prolific actors for more than half a century, he is also well-known as a dedicated philanthropist. His Newman's Own line of food products have generated more than $100 million for charity. He said that helping those less fortunate than himself is not simply his obligation as a movie star. It is his duty as a human being.
"This is not a celebrity issue," Newman said. "This is a political issue and the concept that a person who has a lot holds his hand out to someone who has less, or someone who isn't hurting holds his hand out to someone who is, is simply a human trait that has nothing to do with celebrity. I am confounded at the stinginess of some institutions and some people. I'm bewildered by it. You can only put away so much stuff in your closet.
"I don't think that there's anything exceptional or noble in being philanthropic. It's the other attitude that confuses me," he said.