The Wanderer Returns: Warren Beatty Planning New Comedy For Paramount

by Sam Price
June 21, 2011 1:22 AM
8 Comments
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This is what they call a turn up for the books: Warren Beatty is returning to make an untitled comedy for Paramount after a decade-long absence from our screens. The timing seems a little odd. His wife since 1992, Annette Bening, has never had a healthier career, and he was subject to a lavish AFI retrospective three years ago that seemed as if the filmmaking community was finally putting the old dinosaur out to pasture. But Deadline announces that Beatty is to “come home” to the studio that he won numerous Academy Awards for with a "quintessential Beatty, elegantly written and wonderfully entertaining” script penned by the actor that is to go into production later in the year. Oh, Warren, what’s that Carly Simon song called again?

His comeback, of course, has been touted for years – he famously was approached by Quentin Tarantino to play the eponymous role in both of the “Kill Bill” films – but this is the first time something concrete has been announced. Previously the loose talk surrounding a proposed “Dick Tracysequel, but even Beatty himself recently indicated that he was still writing it and there was no set timetable in place. After a decade spent in the wilderness, though, a return is perhaps understandable. No one wants dreck like “Town and Country” to go down as their final film.

There are a lot of prevailing myths about the seventy-four year old actor. The logic goes that, according Peter Biskind’s rock star profiling, he bent the Hollywood system to his will with a wink, a nudge and an obsessively domineering attitude. After his sizzling debut in Elia Kazan’s “Splendor in the Grass,” he seduced the industry by becoming one of the first actor-producers on “Bonnie & Clyde,” harassed Robert Altman non-stop on his revisionist western “McCabe and Mrs Miller,” convinced the most Communist-phobic country in the world to make a multi-million dollar film about a dead socialist buried in the Kremlin Wall (“Reds”) and then screened the damn thing in the White House for Reagan. He managed to achieve all of this, apparently, whilst courting the libidinous lothario persona he perfected with “Shampoo,” all the while with an array of hot babes on his arm (Julie Christie, Diane Keaton and Madonna the most notable) that indulged his every whim. A lot of this is total hagiography, of course, as sour episodes like his attempts to out-maneuver Pauline Kael on “Love and Money” and bonafide disasters like “Ishtar” bear out, but Beatty has an impressive legacy on which to trade.

He hasn’t directed since “Bulworth,” which had Beatty don gangsta threads and vaguely embarrass himself with numerous rap numbers. But he was one of those bigger-than-life characters that dominated the New Hollywood period, only to be left out in the cold after some of its more hedonistic excesses became financially untenable. "Reds" was part of the last-gasp hurrah that existed at the tail-end of the 1970s that is epitomized in the excesses of “Heaven’s Gate” and Francis Ford Coppola’s twin-punch of “Apocalypse Now” (a masterpiece, but not a cheap one) and the bloated “One From the Heart”.

"Bulworth" aside, the last time Beatty strayed into outright comedic territory as a writer/director was "Heaven Can Wait," the frivolous remake of “Here Comes Mr. Jordan” that even his co-star Christie took him to task for wasting his talents on such lightweight fare. And though he’s cropped up in memorable roles since then, the biggest question that Beatty and Paramount CEO Brad Grey should be asking themselves about the actor’s return from semi-retirement: is anyone going to care?

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More: Actors, Film Studios, Paramount

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8 Comments

  • LA2000 | June 22, 2011 2:14 AMReply

    No, no one will care. That's not necessarily a good thing, but it's how this business works.

    Love him or hate him, the problem for Beatty is that no one under the age of 35 who isn't a film buff has any recollection of him. This is not Hollywood's fault. It's Beatty's. He has become Norma Desmond by choice.

    Many of his big star contemporaries have managed to stay in the business, burnish their brands, and remain relevant. Nicholson, DeNiro, Hoffman, Redford, Eastwood, and Hackman are known quantities in a business where name recognition matters to the marketing department. Studios don't write you a fat check or pay for your passion project because you are a genius. They pay you big bucks because you make people show up to the theater. Beatty's last stab at Hollywood relevance was "Dick Tracy", 21 years ago. Robert Pattinson was 4 years old when it came out. Hollywood, which was hardly holding its breath for his next picture back in 1990, has moved on.

    Whatever he is working on will most likely never see the light of day unless he goes out on a limb, self finances, and dazzles. Either that, or he needs to pick up some stellar character roles from the Paul Thomas Anderson's and Aronofsky's of the business and make a splash like he is new to the business.

    The days of simply coasting on the credit card of his old Hollywood notoriety are way over.

  • Fred | June 22, 2011 1:00 AMReply

    @Sam Price
    I apologize, I was not directing the snark accusation at you, but the first comment and "your relegation" was not yours to bear per this article, but directed toward a general recent trend.

    Your piece was snark-free and thoughtfully written but as I have commented before, some tend to brush off actors "of a certain age." I tend to get defensive of the older stars and days, and to invert/paraphrase your statement earlier, maybe try to bring a historical context to contemporary reporting, but I do enjoy the work done here and you're welcome on my lawn anytime.

    PS Hold onto that VHS of The Fortune, it's rare as hell.

  • Sam Price | June 21, 2011 11:18 AMReply

    @Fred

    "I suppose your relegation of most actors over the age of 30 to museum pieces or “random dude” status..."

    If I was interested in purely trading "snark" Fred (I'm not) surely the post would then read "WHO DAT OLD MAN BEATTY LOLZ?" rather than - I don't know - try to take into account Beatty's mercurial talents/flaws and put them in a contemporary context. Of course I probably could have just smeared my feces on a VHS copy of The Fortune and posted it on YouTube and it would probably still have inspired a similar "Get off my lawn" response. And thanks for reminding me the 1970s were a great era. In the meantime I'm off to play with my Etch A Sketch.

  • Fred | June 21, 2011 5:58 AMReply

    "anyone gonna care? not a chance."
    Probably not snarky teenage blog commenters.

    "...frivolous remake of “Here Comes Mr Jordan”, “Heaven Can Wait”, which even his co-star Christie took him to task for wasting his talents on such lightweight fare."
    Was that before or after the ten Oscar nominations and #3 showing at the year's boxoffice?

    "...after some of its more hedonistic excesses became financially untenable."
    How good it is to have clarification in a world where, in every week that brings a 300 million dollar schlockbuster, inspiring your authors to use the word "soulless" in decrying the death of art in film, that we should be blaming Coppola, Beatty and Cimino for spending all the money. Too bad you didn't blog in the time when money was heaped at projects with an artistic vision instead of numbers-crunched Mattel toy photoplays. It was a great era.

    And, finally, you're probably right....I suppose your relegation of most actors over the age of 30 to museum pieces or "random dude" status is more a reflection of the public pulse than a creation of it.... Beatty's project will probably do a fraction of the business of the hemorroidal "Green Lantern"s opening weekend.

  • rudyard | June 21, 2011 5:52 AMReply

    Check out Mickey One and All Fall Down, as well.

  • rudy | June 21, 2011 5:51 AMReply

    I have been waiting for this news for a long time. If Jack can crank out films why cant Warren? I hope that he works with Quentin Tarantino or Paul Thomas Anderson one day...

  • gonad | June 21, 2011 4:07 AMReply

    Check out an early Beatty film from 1964 called Lilith, amazing film.

  • fanny bunz | June 21, 2011 2:26 AMReply

    anyone gonna care? not a chance.

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