LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Actor Paul Newman told friends as far back as 18 months ago that he was battling cancer but has remained energetic and active in charity work, a friend and business associate said on Wednesday.
Writer A.E. Hotchner, who co-founded Newman's Own food products with the actor, told Reuters that Newman, 83, was doing fine as of two weeks ago. Asked if Newman had cancer, Hotchner said "he made it known to a lot of his friends."
Hotchner, who lives near Newman and his wife, actress Joanne Woodward, in Westport, Connecticut, said he did not know what type of cancer Newman had because "I don't believe it's any of my business, and I don't want to get into it."
The widely acclaimed actor of films such as "The Color of Money" and "The Sting" on Tuesday responded to a flurry of unconfirmed media reports that he was gravely ill with cancer by issuing a terse statement saying he was "doing nicely."
His Los Angeles-based spokesman Jeff Sanderson declined to elaborate and on Wednesday was not immediately available to comment.
According to numerous reports, Newman has been diagnosed with lung cancer and was undergoing outpatient treatment at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York. A spokeswoman for Sloan-Kettering has said she had no information about whether Newman was a patient there.
Last month, Newman stepped down as director of a stage play of John Steinbeck's "Of Mice and Men" at the Westport Country Playhouse in Connecticut, citing unspecified health issues. The blue-eyed star announced just over a year ago he was retiring from a half-century career in acting because of his age.
Hotchner said Newman remains involved in his charitable Hole In the Wall Gang Camp for children with cancer. Two weeks ago Newman auctioned off items at an event in Connecticut to raise money for the camps.
"He was there and energetic," Hotchner said, adding that he sees Newman about every two weeks.
"He's an automobile racer, he's always willing to get out there and hit the pack," Hotchner said. "He has all kinds of projects. He's busy with the camp."
The actor used profits from Newman's Own to found the camps, which are named after a gang of outlaws in his 1969 movie "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid." Since its creation in 1982, Newman's Own, which makes salad dressings, sauces and other food products, has donated more than $200 million to charity.
Newman, who appeared in some 60 movies, first made his name portraying brooding characters in films like "Cat On a Hot Tin Roof" and "Hud." But he enhanced his superstar status later by playing winking rogues and anti-heroes -- such as the title character in "Cool Hand Luke," a bankrobber in "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" and a suave con man in "The Sting."
He has earned nine Academy Award nominations but his only Oscar win was for best actor in the 1986 film "The Color of Money," portraying the same pool shark, Fast Eddie Felson, he had played when he was nominated in 1961 for "The Hustler."
His last movie part was a voice-over role in the 2006 animated film "Cars."