Hollywood icon Paul Newman is known for his work as an actor and director, but his legacy is his dedication to being a family man. However, he had a “complicated” marriage to longtime love Joanne Woodward, his daughters Clea and Melissa Newman exclusively tell Closer Weekly.

“There is this fairy tale of my parents’ perfect marriage,” Melissa, 61, says, explaining that things were not “all ice cream and cake” between the iconic couple behind closed doors. “There was a vibe of tension in the house that would sort of come and go.”

Melissa says her mother and father’s “desire to fight for their relationship” is what kept them together for 50 years “even in the worst of times” until Paul’s death in September 2008. The couple particularly struggled with balancing their family life with dual careers. In addition, Paul, who has been described as a high-functioning alcoholic, struggled with a drinking problem that also threatened their happiness.

Paul Newman, Joanne Marriage Was 'Complicated,' Says Daughter
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“My mother was always the rock, even when she said, ‘I’m drawing the line. You either get your act together or I’m out,’” Melissa recalls. “I think Dad respected her because he knew she wasn’t bluffing.”

Paul was a father of six children. He shared son Scott and daughters Stephanie and Susan with ex-wife Jackie Witte. He and Joanne went on to welcome three daughters — Nell, Clea and Melissa.

The philanthropist often grappled with guilt over leaving his first wife, which was exasperated by the death of his son Scott at age 28 after a fatal overdose. Paul himself said he “[didn’t] have a gift for fathering” in Paul Newman: The Extraordinary Life of an Ordinary Man, a new memoir about his life based on interviews he did between 1986 and 1991. “Then there’s the celebrity aspect,” he added at the time. “Being a star throws everything out of whack for your kids.”

However, Clea, 57, acknowledges that there was a “disparity” between how the public viewed Paul and his own perception. By the time he began having children with Joanne, 92, he was a more dedicated family man.

“I feel incredibly blessed that from my young adulthood to the time that he passed away, he was incredibly present, wanting to help and giving great advice,” Clea gushes about her father. “He worked really, really hard on him-self and he got to the other side. I give him such extraordinary credit for that.”