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BEATTY, WARREN - LIFE ACHIEVEMENT AWARD 2008

At a gala ceremony in Los Angeles this week, Warren Beatty was awarded the American Film Institute's (AFI) 36th AFI Life Achievement Award, the highest honour granted by the Institute for a career in film.

"a force both in front of and behind the camera for more than 40 years"

Tall, athletic and handsome, Warren Beatty has been a force both in front of and behind the camera for more than 40 years - producing, directing, writing and
acting.

The younger brother of actress Shirley MacLaine was born in Richmond, Virginia, on March 30, 1937. In his youth, Beatty enjoyed acting in amateur plays and after attending Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, for just one year, he dropped out to study acting with Stella Adler.

In 1959, Beatty landed his first major role on the CBS sitcom THE MANY LOVES OF DOBIE GILLIS opposite Tuesday Weld. His Broadway debut in William Inge's A Loss Of Roses in 1960 earned him a Tony nomination, and a year later he appeared for the first time on the big screen in Elia Kazan's study of teenage love, SPLENDOR IN THE GRASS, co-starring Natalie Wood. Beatty’s role as Wood's troubled but charismatic boyfriend established his early screen persona as an impish, sexy but earnest "bad boy."

Similar roles followed, solidifying this image—an Italian gigolo opposite Vivian Leigh in THE ROMAN SPRING OF MRS. STONE (1961); the older brother in ALL FALL DOWN (1962); and a nurse who becomes too involved with a mental patient in LILITH (1963). One of Beatty’s most accomplished portrayals of the 1960s was the title role of Arthur Penn's MICKEY ONE (1965). His bracing performance as a paranoid nightclub performer established him as a major talent.

In 1967, Beatty turned to producing, with director Arthur Penn’s BONNIE AND CLYDE. By championing the script, supervising rewrites and assisting with casting, Beatty proved to be a truly hands-on producer. In addition, his charismatic lead performance earned him a Best Actor Oscar nomination, one of 10 Academy Award nominations for BONNIE AND CLYDE, including Best Picture.

Robert Altman's anti-Western McCABE AND MRS. MILLER (1971) showcased Beatty’s remarkable performance as a self-deluding frontiersman. Politically active—he played a visible role in McGovern's 1972 presidential campaign and later served as an unofficial advisor during Gary Hart's 1988 bid—Beatty acted in two of the more socially astute films of the 1970s, including THE PARALLAX VIEW (1974), about an organization of political conspirators; and SHAMPOO (1975) which he co-wrote with Robert Towne. A few years later, HEAVEN CAN WAIT (1978), a loose remake of HERE COMES MR. JORDAN (1941), garnered 10 Academy Award nominations, including nods for Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Director (Beatty and Buck Henry) and Best Screenplay (Beatty and Elaine May).

"acting, writing, directing and producing efforts all coalesced brilliantly"

Beatty's acting, writing, directing and producing efforts all coalesced brilliantly in 1981 with REDS, an epic love story based on the life of journalist John Reed, set against the Russian Revolution. Meticulously filmed, this sprawling, passionate tale was inter-cut with documentary interviews of "witnesses," real-life individuals (like Rebecca West and Henry Miller) who were Reed’s contemporaries. Beatty also elicited strong performances from co-stars Diane Keaton (as love interest Louise Bryant), Jack Nicholson (as Eugene O'Neill), Edward Hermann (as Max Eastman) and Maureen Stapleton (as Emma Goldman). Nominated for 12 Oscars, REDS received three, including one for Best Director for Beatty.

In 1987, Beatty and Dustin Hoffman teamed as struggling singer-songwriters in Elaine May's ISHTAR, a loose homage to the Hope/Crosby road movies. Although savaged by the press and entertainment insiders, both Hoffman and Beatty—cast against type—delivered charming turns as the musically challenged duo, and the deliberately awful songs written by Paul Williams perfectly suited the material.

In 1990, Beatty directed and starred in the comic strip hit DICK TRACY. The film's stylized primary colors production values, deft performances from the supporting cast (including Dustin Hoffman, Al Pacino, Glenne Headley and William Forsythe) and
enjoyable score by Stephen Sondheim all contributed to its commercial success.

As mobster Benjamin Siegel in the Barry Levinson-directed BUGSY (1991), Beatty proved once again his immense talents as an actor. BUGSY earned 10 Oscar nominations, including one for Beatty as Best Actor. The film also marked his first collaboration with future wife Annette Bening, who co-starred as Virginia Hill.

Beatty and Bening went on to co-star in LOVE AFFAIR (1994), the second remake of the 1939 Leo McCarey film. For this updated version, producer/ writer Beatty managed to charm screen legend Katharine Hepburn out of semi-retirement to play a one-scene role.

Following a four-year hiatus, Beatty returned to the big screen with BULWORTH in 1998. As director, co-producer and co-writer, Beatty also starred as a politically incorrect US senator, opposite Halle Berry. Most recently, Beatty co-starred with
Goldie Hawn, Diane Keaton and Garry Shandling in TOWN & COUNTRY, released in 2001.

Among his many honors, Warren Beatty received the Irving G. Thalberg Award in 2000, and in 2004 he was among the six individuals selected for the 27th annual Kennedy Center Honors for his significant contribution to the arts.

"whose work has stood the test of time"

Established by the AFI Board of Trustees on February 26, 1973, the award is presented each year based on the following criteria: "The recipient should be one whose talent has in a fundamental way advanced the film art; whose accomplishment has been acknowledged by scholars, critics, professional peers and the general public; and whose work has stood the test of time." In 1993, the trustees extended the criteria to encompass individuals with active careers and work of significance yet to be accomplished.

Published June 14, 2008
 

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Warren Beatty


... with wife Annette Bening


... Al Pacino


... Jane Fonda


... Bill Clinton


... Dyan Cannon


Dustin Hoffman


... Elaine May


... Diane Keaton







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