Aussie actress TONI COLLETTE has become like a surrogate daughter to Alzheimer’s-stricken JOANNE WOODWARD.
An insider said Joanne told the “Little Miss Sunshine” star: “I love you, dear. I feel like you’re a daughter to me.”
Talented “Sixth Sense” star Toni, 41, grew close to Paul Newman’s ailing 84-year-old widow while filming the indie drama “Lucky Them.”
“The film is very near and dear to Joanne’s heart,” said a source.
“Paul loved the script so much that, before he died, he sent copies to several actors, asking them to be in the movie.”
After Newman passed away at age 83 in 2008, “The Three Faces of Eve” Oscar winner Joanne took control of the film, which stars Toni as a female rock journalist searching for her missing ex-boyfriend.
“Toni jumped on board in late 2012 just for the chance to work with Joanne,” said the source.
“Joanne was already fading due to Alzheimer’s disease, but they became fast friends and Toni has maintained contact with her and visited her.”
Joanne wasn’t up for attending the movie’s preemr at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York on April 21. Daughter Clea Newman represented her mom.
But Toni, a mom of two young kids with her musician husband Dave Galafassi, has earned a place in Joanne’s heart.
“Joanne is so grateful to Toni,” said the source. “And she thinks Paul would be, too.”