Julia, Jack & More Hit San Francisco For Paul Newman Benefit

Tom Hanks, Rita Wilson, Nancy O’Dell, Bruce Willis and Julia Roberts Tom Hanks, Rita Wilson, Nancy O’Dell, Bruce Willis and Julia Roberts

Weeks after the passing of Oscar winner and humanitarian, Paul Newman, Hollywood’s elite took to the stage to honor and raise funds for one of the late star’s charities.

Julia Roberts, Jack Nicholson, Tom Hanks, Bruce Willis, Sean Penn, Warren Beatty and Casey Affleck were among the A-listers who hit the stage at San Francisco’s Davies Symphony Hall on Monday evening, performing a reading of “The World of Nick Adams,” to benefit The Painted Turtle, a medical specialty camp in California, which helps provide hope and joy for children with life threatening illnesses. And, according to Danny Glover, who also joined the cast, though the night was for the children, it was also in celebration of their late friend.

“Paul means so much to all of us,” Danny told Access Hollywood’s Nancy O’Dell shortly before the performance. “He’s always been there, not only in support of his work, but advocating… So, it’s gonna be tough. You don’t replace a giant like Paul Newman.”

A young Paul once starred on Broadway as the title character in “The World of Nick Adams,” by A.E. Hotchner, based on a short story by Ernest Hemingway. On Monday night, however, Casey took on the role of the 19-year-old Nick, who breaks up with his girlfriend, leaves his small town and family behind, and runs into a motley crew of characters on his way to enlisting in the Italian Ambulance corps.

“We wanted to come out and support the fundraiser for The Painted Turtle,” Casey, who hit the red carpet with his pal Joaquin Phoenix (another show participant), told Access before the performance. “We’re just happy to be a part of it.”

Dressed in a pressed white shirt and wearing reading glasses, Jack Nicholson played the narrator, Ernest Hemingway, who described Nick’s experiences and run-ins, as members of the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra provided a sonic backdrop.

Hundreds of patrons were left delighted by the near two-hour production, which was kept to modest standards. Most of the actors, who sat on the side of the stage until their part required them to journey front and center, had just minimal costuming and read animatedly from their scripts.

Despite the stripped down performance, even the actors themselves were drawn in.

At times, as Jack read his lines, Julia, who sat to his left, leaned her face on her hand, admiringly gazing at her co-star.

Later, when Julia took the stage to play a brassy broad alongside Rita Wilson, Jack couldn’t contain his enthusiasm for their spirited portrayals as his trademark laugh echoed through the venue.

Danny DeVito and Joaquin, who played a team of thugs, stole fistfuls of laughter, no doubt due to the enthusiasm Danny said he was feeling when he hit the event’s red carpet shortly before curtain call.

“It’s really a joy to be here,” DeVito told Nancy. “We miss Paul, but he’s here in spirit. We’re all very, very excited about doing this for him.”

Though the cast, which also included Billy Crystal, Annette Bening, Edward James Olmos and Bruce Willis, kept the crowd enchanted, it was the children of The Painted Turtle who stole the show. Following the reading, alumni from the camp joined singing star Bonnie Raitt for a rendition of “Put A Little Love In Your Heart.”

Laughing, dancing, hugging and singing, the young people left some of the stars slightly misty eyed, after they put on a performance which Paul would have been proud of.

“He’s made such a huge difference,” Bonnie told Nancy. “He’s a real hero to all of us. We miss you if you are looking in.”

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