‘His­tory is a set of lies agreed upon’

The Daily Telegraph - Review - - Cover Story -

‘ What a good set-up for a com­edy’.” Spool for­ward a little over half a cen­tury and Beatty, now 80, is in an­other ho­tel suite, this time in Clar­idge’s in London. He’s here to talk about that com­edy: called Rules Don’t Ap­ply, it ar­rives in Bri­tish cinemas this week­end, 53 years af­ter he first thought of it. Beatty wrote, pro­duced and di­rected the film, as well as play­ing Hughes, and while it’s the ro­man­tic farce he’d ini­tially imag­ined, it’s also some­thing less eas­ily de­fin­able – an el­egy for a by­gone world of moviemak­ing that of­ten it­self felt movie-made.

He greets me with a stiff salute and a just-kid­ding smile, and is un­mis­tak­ably the same man whose “tou­sled charm, in­no­cently puck­ered brow [and] ten­ta­tively parted lips” were swooned over by the critic Ken­neth Ty­nan in a 1975 diary en­try. More tou­sled, puck­ered and ten­ta­tive now, per­haps – but still very much a pres­ence to be reck­oned with.

Beatty has been off our screens for so long that an en­tire gen­er­a­tion knows him best as the quizzi­cally smil­ing se­nior who al­most-but-didn’t-quite an­nounce this year’s Acad­emy Award for Best Pic­ture. (On which, more later.) Be­fore that, he was last seen in 2001 in Town & Coun­try, a ro­man­tic com­edy only re­mem­bered to­day as a sig­nif­i­cant box of­fice wreck. The last proper Warren Beatty film – that is, one he di­rected, pro­duced, starred in and co-wrote – was the mad­cap po­lit­i­cal satire Bul­worth, way back in 1998.

His ab­sence from the spotlight has been as sus­tained and ab­so­lute as was his one-time com­mand of it. It was Bon­nie and Clyde, which he starred in and pro­duced, that in 1967 snuffed out the reign of the stu­dios in a bar­rage of blood, sex and bul­lets. Af­ter that, Beatty be­came a kind of one-man stu­dio sys­tem – a di­rec­tor, pro­ducer, writer and mar­quee-name star, who just all hap­pened to be the same per­son.

He’s alone in hav­ing twice been nom­i­nated for Best Ac­tor, Best Di­rec­tor and Best Screen­play Os­cars for a Best Pic­ture-nom­i­nated film: a feat Or­son Welles only man­aged once and Woody Allen once to date. (It hap­pened in 1979, for his Capra-es­que comic fan­tasy Heaven Can Wait, and in 1982, for his rad­i­cal po­lit­i­cal epic Reds.) This, it tran­spires, is why he’s re­luc­tant to sound off about the en­ve­lope mix-up in Fe­bru­ary that led to La La Land be­ing crowned Best Pic­ture for all of 150 sec­onds – be­fore the award was passed over to the ac­tual win­ner, Moon­light.

Beatty knew some­thing was up so held back, then looked to his co-pre­sen­ter and Bon­nie and Clyde co-star Faye Du­n­away for her view. But she mis­un­der­stood and, like a con­sum­mate Hol­ly­wood pro, smiled and read out what she’d been given.

“There is some­thing com­i­cal about it,” he winces. “But the acad­emy has al­ways been very kind to me, so I don’t want to pon­tif­i­cate about it. You know, they’ve al­ways sup­ported … Yeah, you’re prob­a­bly aware of my …” He stops, sens­ing trou­ble. “Well, you say it.” Si­lence. “Your own il­lus­tri­ous film­mak­ing ca­reer?” I ven­ture.

“Oh, yes!” he says sun­nily. Now I know how Faye Du­n­away felt.

Beatty’s close en­counter with Hughes came three years af­ter his big break in Elia Kazan’s Splen­dour in the Grass – and three years be­fore Bon­nie and Clyde made this self-de­scribed “pretty boy” and vir­tu­oso net­worker a Hol­ly­wood player in his own right. He signed a contract to make ke his Howard Hughes film at Warner Bros in the midSeven­ties, but an­other other decade passed be­fore efore he broke ground on the script with his then-writ­ing part­ner Bo Gold­man – and two more un­til he felt ready to cast it. “I couldn’t t avoid it any longer,” he says – as if the film is a pro­fes­sional fi­nal reck­on­ing. For his part, Gold­man had al­ways seen Rules Don’t Ap­ply as less of a straight Hughes biopic – in the style of, say, Martin Scors­ese’s The Avi­a­tor – than a not-so-thinly veiled film à clef. “Warren Beatty is Howard Hughes,” Gold­man said in 2010. “He felt Hughes was the guy who mas­tered the three Fs – ‘ the film-mak­ing, the fly­ing and the f–––ing’, as Warren called it.” Beatty art­fully de­murs: “I wouldn’t say I iden­ti­fied with Howard H Hughes, but I’m not so suresu at that point Howard Hughes iden­ti­fie iden­ti­fied with Howard Hughes. Hughes.” He’d rather claim com­mon gr ground with the fil film’s young lovers, c chauf­feur Frank F Forbes (Alden E Ehren­re­ich) and M Marla Mabrey (Lily Collins), a small-town beauty queen and aspiring ac­tress on the Hughes p pay­roll. Both a ar­rive in Los Ang Angeles in 1958, one

Warren Beatty re­veals how past en­coun­ters with pres­i­dents – and paramours – in­spired his lat­est film A Dis­ney exec told staff to get ex­cited then ‘slap’ your­self if Beatty pitched a film

‘ I got lucky’: with Annette Ben­ing, his wife of 25 years

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.