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
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
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
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
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
Goldie Hawn, Diane Keaton and Garry Shandling in TOWN & COUNTRY, released in
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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... with wife Annette Bening
... Al Pacino
... Jane Fonda
... Bill Clinton
... Dyan Cannon
... Elaine May
... Diane Keaton