By John Foote
Though he has directed only a few films, one of them a bonafide masterpiece, Warren Beatty has always struck me as a brilliant filmmaker. Beatty won the Academy Award as Best Director for his extraordinary work Reds (1981) which should have collected a Best Picture prize as well, but was bizarrely ousted by Chariots of Fire (1981). Going back further we can never forget that it was Beatty who kick started the New American Film movement with his producing of Bonnie and Clyde (1967) a landmark film that set the stage for the seventies cinema. Never content to be just a movie star, relying on his good looks, Beatty wanted to make his mark and went to Jack Warner to be permitted to produce a film, which at the time was not something that happened as easily as it does now. It turned out to be the move that made Beatty a wealthy man, and if he had made no other films, would be his legacy.
It was announced yesterday that Beatty had agreed to act in, direct, produce and write a new film for Paramount in which he will finally portray Howard Hughes, long a dream project of his. Rumours abound that Beatty will poirtray the legendary Hughes in his old age, when his mind had begun to go, focusing on a romance he had with a younger woman. Straight up? I cannot wait.
In the years since Reds (1981) he has been strangely inactive, with just a few films to his credit, a couple of brilliant works, Dick Tracy (1990) and Bulworth (1998) along with some duds, Ishtar (1986) and Town and Country (2001). His performance in Bugsy (1991) might be the finest of his career, and while he produced the work, he did not direct, handing those duties to Barry Levinson who turned the film into one of the years best. When challenged by a strong role and good director, Beatty can be astounding, but his greater talent has always been behind the camera. In virtually every film he ever made since Bonnie and Clyde (1967) he had a great deal to say about the direction in the film, until trying it himself with Heaven Can Wait (1978) an enormously popular film that saw him earn four Academy Award nominations personally, a feat he repeated with Reds (1981)!
The man is a huge talent, one who I wished had worked more than he has, and certainly someone I wish audiences would appreciate more for his work onscreen and behind the camera than for his exploits as a stud.
Me? I am thrilled he's back.