Actor. Director. Writer. Producer.
He’s starred in countless movies. He’s received countless awards and has been nominated for even more. He received the Irving G. Thalberg Award in 1996, the Oscars’ greatest honor.
Suave. Handsome. Charming. Intelligent.
He’s known as an infamous seducer of Hollywood. He finally settled down in 1992 and married Annette Bening and had four kids.
That’s how the majority of the Museum of Moving Image’s Salute went. Stars either spoke of his vast array of incredible talents, of his ability to make anything from a film to a big break happen. They thanked him for inspiring them when they were younger; for always being there when they needed some help. But they also came to respect him as a family man, as someone who’s made as many films as he has and would be willing to throw it all away for his family.
And like this, the rest of the night ran. Every name you could think of was in attendance, from stars of his new upcoming film, Rules Don’t Apply like Lily Collins, Alden Ehrenreich, Oliver Platt, Haley Bennett, Matthew Broderick, Paul Sorvino, Candice Bergen, and more, to some of his closest friends and family, like Lee Grant, Mandy Patinkin, Robert Benton, Barry Diller, and of course, Annette Bening.
Perhaps it’s fitting the night ran with such sectionalism. There was truly a divide between his two lives: his film and his family life. And just with that, we see how his return to filmmaking after his fifteen year “break” (which everyone assured us was anything but) was greeted with great alacrity from fans and his close ones.
Set to release on November 23, Rules Don’t Apply follows Collins and Ehrenreich as Marla and Frank, two people hired by Howard Hughes (played by Beatty) who fall in love with each other. Given Beatty’s fifteen-year hiatus, plus the long line up of stars, many people have said this is his Citizen Kane. We asked a couple of costars what it meant to act beside him and their answers truly gave reason for the 30th Annual Museum of Moving Image gala. Check out some of the interviews below.
What was it like being directed by your husband for the first time?
It was delightful. I was told long before I met him that actors love working with him. We’ve made movies but he wasn’t the director then; no I enjoyed it. He was so supportive and enthusiastic and he let me improvise and he laughed at what I did uproariously. “Oh good, that was good. Let’s do it again.” You know, he was encouraging.
Don’t tell anyone but she’s the world’s greatest actress. I’m being discreet about that.
How do you feel being in Beatty’s first film after his fifteen-year break?
Incredibly lucky. I mean I’ve gotten the chance to work with a lot of film legends in my career and I add him to the list as pretty extraordinary. Like Jane Campion. I went to film school because I saw The Piano and then later on I got to give her a call.
How was Beatty like as a director?
Incredibly encouraging to me.
Anything surprise you?
How encouraging he was.
And tell us about your show Channel Zero.
It’s kind of like this wacky show that Nick Antosca created and the folks at Syfy allowed us to go do it up in Canada. Small crew of really fantastic professionals and we tried to make something unique and interesting and it seems so far that it’s coming out pretty well.
What was it like with Beatty before on other films before this one?
Well he’s a marvelous director and he creates an atmosphere on set that’s like no other—maybe Scorsese has the same kind of “unproblem, uncritical” atmosphere that makes it very easy for an actor to give his best. That’s a director’s job. Just to say that “everything will be alright. And he’ll put it together. He’ll keep you on that path up the mountain. When you can trust a director like that, you don’t have to defend yourself. I’m a director, I do the same thing: when you can make actors feel that they’re loved in a certain sense, that’s really what it’s about. If you love actors, which any really good director has to, then you get the real kind of work out of it. Like Hitchcock didn’t like actors, and if you look at his work.
You’re kidding. Hitchcock? What about The Birds?
He called them cattle. The point is, he couldn’t do what Scorsese, Kazan, Beatty get. Because they liked them and they put them through their faces and it was a masterful storytelling to put it altogether.
You’re working on iCreep.
Well it stars myself and Dascha Polanco from Orange is the New Black. Dascha has 2.1 million followers on Instagram. So between her and I, we have 2.1 million followers. And it’s really a drama about a lonely guy who can’t connect with people until he meets Dascha and she kind of rocks his world. And it’s about connection and disconnection, like he’s used of just taking pictures of women on the streets, but what does he do when he has the opportunity to make a real connection? And it’s all an allegory for today; we’re all so obsessed with our phones but are we doing enough to stay connected as a culture.
What was the inspiration for it?
I myself have had trouble connecting and I saw this guy on the subway take a picture of this lovely woman right up to her face without permission and she freaked out. She got upset and he just walked away, very cold. And it fascinated me and I thought to myself “Who is this guy? How did he get like that and is this what’s coming?”
I got a job once to run a 16 mm projector for a movie that Warren Beatty wanted to see. The problem was, I didn’t know how. So when the film got all tangled up in the projector, I went out and said “Look Mr. Beatty it’s broken. I’ll fix it, I’ll be right back.” It wasn’t really right back, but after a while I went out and said, “Mr. Beatty, it’s hopeless.” Beatty said that was nonsense, dragged me back to the projection room where he saw about 2000 feet of spagettied film spread out across the floor. I looked at him dolefully and he looked at me for a beat and burst out laughing. And we’ve been friends ever since.
Warren wasn’t a director or a writer to me. He was my big brother, always in my imagination that that’s where Warren lives. But I want to tell a different story than that. I’m at his house one day and there’s some people around. Something’s being screened and there’s a powerful scene about love and relationships, family, obviously that’s all it’s about. For some reason, Warren and I end up leaving the screening and we go into the house and we’re in the hallway and all of a sudden he looks at me and I look at him, because the movie scene was about family. And he looks at me and all of a sudden his eyes weld up with tears and he broke down. And I just held him, because I knew more than any movie that he had ever made, what Warren wanted to make more than anything was a film. And then Annette came along. And she gave Warren the greatest gift: herself and her children.
There’s a lot of different ways I can approach this moment. I’m very proud of my husband—put Jimmy [Toback] and Barry [Levinson] in the room with him to create Bugsy and it would only have been that particular combination of men that could have created such an elegant yet perverse, glamorous yet brutal, witty yet violent film. It’s quite remarkable. I came into the story late. I met Barry first at a bar and then I was asked to shoot the picture. And I remember one day that sticks in my memory, I was not in the scene but it was the scene in which Warren, as Bugsy, is confronted with a compatriot who has betrayed him. And Dick Sarafian played the part. And in this scene Bugsy goes berserk and he loses it to the degree that it was quite remarkable to where he had Dick Sarafian on the floor, humiliating him and he was on all floors and Bugsy was smacking him on his ass saying “Oink like a pig, bark like a dog.” I mean it was a remarkable scene and Warren was very very convincing as this psychopath. And before the scene, we were all sitting together and Warren was chatting quite amiably, charming as always, went in, did this scene, and came back again. Absolutely relaxed, charming, amenable. And what was my reaction? Well I guess I sort of started to fall in love with him.
In 1974, Warren said this, “Anyone who said an artist should stay out of politics is a fool. I’m talking about an artist who is able to say what the truth is.” It’s no wonder the word ‘bulworth’ has become an adjective and even a noun.
I knew Bob [Benton] was going to talk about his wife meeting me when going over Bonnie and Clyde. Bob, do you remember many years ago that I thought the person most suited to play Clyde Barrow was in fact Bob Dylan. Do you remember that? And I’m glad I changed my mind. Let me know how the next joke works out. I was going to say Bob Dylan, and now look: the Nobel Prize. And then I thought I would stumble around and mumble a bit and say ‘Speaking of the Nobel Prize, do you think it would be in poor taste to inquire about the possibility—and I would be willing to travel. I mean yes I’m thankful for this (gestures to the MoMI award) and I’m known for being very decisive and really Stockholm is not that far away.”
I run these jokes by Annette, and Annette, she’s very honest, and I think the smartest thing I ever did was to talk her into marrying me. And you know, I could be smart, and then to have these four kids, that I like to call four small Eastern European countries and then we negotiate with. Each one of these people whom I love so much who came up here tonight that I feel like I can tell a story involving a lot of you—that scare you? Don’t worry, I won’t do it, Annette told me not to talk too much.