“You’ve achieved success in your field when you don’t know whether what you’re doing is work or play.”—Warren Beatty
It’s safe to say that there have been few movie stars quite like Warren Beatty. His career has spanned decades, one of which saw him only make two movies! More than just a leading man, Beatty’s desire for control over a project he’s working on led him to becoming a producer, director, and writer as well. And while some might write him off as an egomaniac, his efforts have paid off at the box office and the Academy Awards. Beyond his filmmaking, he was known as one of the biggest playboys in Hollywood, sleeping with an untold number of women before settling down with his current wife Annette Bening. His storied life, with smash hits and major flops making up his sparse but diverse film career, has given rise to a legend in Hollywood lore. Read these 42 facts to find out more!
Warren Beatty Facts
42. Always Wanting to Taste the Forbidden Fruit
Perhaps ironically, Beatty grew up in a very conservative, religious family which frowned highly upon sex. According to the man himself, Beatty didn’t lose his virginity until he was nearly 20 because of that. Beatty has also gone on the record saying that when it came to sex, he had thought of little else since he was 11. He’s also decried the “American sexual Puritanism” which he says makes America a “laughingstock” when it comes to sexual matters.
41. Oscar Records
Throughout his long career, Beatty has been nominated for fourteen Oscars! He’s had at least one nomination during the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, and it doesn’t end there; Beatty is one of only seven men who netted Oscar nominations for Best Director and Best Actor for the same film. Not only that, Beatty and Clint Eastwood are the only two men who have done it twice (Beatty did it with Heaven Can Wait and Reds). As if that wasn’t enough, Beatty was nominated for Best Writer, Best Director, Best Actor, and Best Picture for both films. He remains to be the only person in Oscar history to do that even once, let alone twice!
40. Starting out Strong
After a series of appearances on television series and one performance on Broadway, Beatty caught the eye of director Elia Kazan, who cast him in the 1961 film Splendor in the Grass opposite Natalie Wood. The film was a hit, and Beatty was nominated for a Golden Globe. Beatty would later thank Kazan for giving him “the most important break in his career.”
39. In Gratitude
Screenwriter Elaine May had co-written the Oscar-nominated screenplay for Heaven Can Wait. Years later, Beatty wanted to repay the favor to May by helping her get the chance to direct a film project over which she had creative control. With his help, May also got Dustin Hoffman to co-star in the film. Unfortunately, the film happened to be Ishtar, one of the most famous box office bombs of the 1980s (though to be fair, it has gotten quite a few fans since then, including Edgar Wright, Martin Scorsese, and Quentin Tarantino).
38. With a Touch of Maple Syrup
Beatty is actually of Canadian-American background. His father, Ira, was a public-school administrator and real estate dealer from Virginia, while his mother, Kathlyn (nee MacLean), was a drama teacher from Nova Scotia.
37. I Don’t Take Requests
Before he ever made it as an actor, Beatty worked as a pianist in a cocktail lounge. Given how he looked back then, it’s safe to say that was probably one of the most appropriate jobs he could have gotten.
36. Hate the Player?
Among the many women who are reported to have slept with Beatty, the list includes Mary Tyler Moore, Melanie Griffith, Vanessa Redgrave, Candice Bergen, Daryl Hannah, Raquel Welch, and Princess Elizabeth of Yugoslavia!
35. Second Childhood
According to Beatty’s sister, Shirley MacLaine, he would spend his childhood listening to Al Jolson records. This paid off later when Beatty played Howard Hughes in The Rules Don’t Apply, where Hughes sings a Jolson record while flying his plane. Usually when I re-visit my childhood, I just look up videos on Youtube…
34. Ever the Fickle Fellow
After Beatty had graduated from high school he was offered a total of ten different football scholarships. He ended up turning them all down to attend Northwestern University, studying liberal arts. Beatty would leave that after a year to join the Stella Adler Studio of Acting, one of the centers of method acting in the US.
33. Sure, I’ll Take a Cheque
Even when the studio let Beatty go ahead with Bonnie and Clyde, he wasn’t given an upfront salary. The studio was so negative towards the film’s chances that Beatty got 40% of the gross profit. The film ended up being played in theatres for six years, by the end of which Beatty’s personal profits were $28 million. For anyone curious, $28 million in 1973 was worth $150 million in 2016. It continues to be one of the largest back-end deals ever made in Hollywood!
32. No Strings Attached
Beatty made Shampoo while he was in an on-and-off relationship with actress Julie Christie, who only agreed to be in Shampoo for Beatty’s sake. That bit of generosity didn’t stop Beatty having an affair with Goldie Hawn, their co-star, while he was still together with Christie. As you can imagine, Christie and Beatty ended their relationship during the production, but they remained friends. They even reunited to work on the film Heaven Can Wait in 1978.
31. Friendship on Film
Beatty has collaborated with screenwriter Robert Towne his career. Towne has done screenwriting work on five Beatty films, while also acting in another film that Beatty executive produced (The Pick-up Artist). Additionally, Beatty received a “thanks” credit on the film Ask the Dust, directed by Towne. And sometimes, isn’t a little “thanks” all we really need now and again?
30. Beat Me to It
In 1983, Robert Towne and Beatty were developing a screenplay called The Mermaid. It followed the story of a sailboat racer who fell in love with a mermaid. Sadly, we never got to see Beatty fall head over heels with a mermaid because in 1984, Ron Howard and Tom Hanks released a little mermaid movie (heh) called Splash, and it turned out to be a huge hit. Beatty saw the writing on the wall and abandoned his project.
29. Failed Follow-Ups
At different points in his life, Beatty was actually serious about making sequels to his films Dick Tracy and Bulworth. The sequel to Bulworth would feature a satirical look at the 2000 US presidential election. As for Dick Tracy, Beatty has been intending to make a sequel since the first one came out in 1990, but as of 2018 it has yet to emerge.
28. Well, that was Unexpected
Speaking of the missing Dick Tracy sequel, Beatty has spent years clinging onto the rights to the Dick Tracy character. His efforts to do so included a bizarre 2010 special on TCM where Beatty played Dick Tracy… in an interview with film critic Leonard Maltin. Safe to say it wasn’t quite the sequel we had in mind.
27. Devoted Dad
Beatty’s eldest child, Stephen Ira, was originally assigned female at birth, but later came out as transgender in 2006. Beatty has since referred to Stephen as a “revolutionary, a genius, and my hero, as are all my children.”
26. He’s a Superhero!
Allegedly, Beatty was an inspiration for the visual appearance of Charlie Vicker, AKA the Green Lantern. Vicker was created in 1967, the same year that Bonnie and Clyde took the world by storm.
25. A Love Story in Space??
In the 1990s, Beatty was interested in a script titled Ocean of Storms. It followed an aging astronaut who went into space and falls for a female astronaut along the way. Beatty was in the middle of persuading Martin Scorsese to direct him in it when he was forced to give it up thanks to Clint Eastwood and his 1999 film Space Cowboys.
24. No Thanks
Aside from making fewer than 30 films in over 55 years, Beatty spent his career turning down an incredible amount of famous film roles. These include Gordon Gecko in Wall Street, Bill in the Kill Bill films, Richard Nixon in both Nixon and Frost/Nixon, and Michael Corleone in The Godfather! However, according to Beatty himself, there’s only a few film roles he regrets turning down the most prominent example is the role of Jack Horner in Boogie Nights.
23. You Turned Down Warren Beatty?
For anyone who’s annoyed at the idea of Beatty having been just another “wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am”-type celebrity, what went around eventually came around for him. Beatty allegedly pursued supermodel Stephanie Seymour, but she left him in the dust to go after Guns & Roses front man Axl Rose.
22. Oh Yeah, It’s Opposite Day
In 1975, Beatty appeared in both Shampoo (which he also produced and co-wrote) and the Mike Nichols film The Fortune. Allegedly, Shampoo was widely considered by Columbia Pictures to be a flop in the making; it had only been greenlit along with The Fortune, which everyone was convinced was going to be a big success. Because the universe likes to mess with expectations, The Fortune ended up becoming a disappointment while Shampoo made $60 million on a $4 million budget!
21. Lifelong Obsession Worth the Wait?
Beatty spent forty years of his career crafting a movie about the controversial billionaire Howard Hughes. However, like many of his projects, it was frequently stalled or had to be shelved when other projects beat him to the punch (such as Martin Scorsese’s The Aviator). He finally got the chance to make his Howard Hughes film when he released The Rules Don’t Apply in 2016. Unfortunately, it was a box office flop and received mixed reviews from critics.
20. Team Rocket Forever!
At one point, Beatty was talking about directing, producing, and starring in a live-action film adaptation of the TV series Pokémon! Beatty’s children were fans of the show, so he planned to make the film and act as the head of Team Rocket and gym leader Giovanni. We’re not sure who he thought could play Jessie and James, but no doubt everyone has their own ideas about that!
19. Finally Settled Down
In 1992, after years of countless affairs and sexual adventures, Beatty married actress Annette Bening, with whom he is still married as of 2018. The couple has four children together.
18. Love at First Sight
Beatty met Bening when she was auditioning to play Virginia Hill in the gangster biopic Bugsy. Reportedly, Beatty saw her audition and promptly telephoned director Barry Levinson and remarked “She’s terrific. I love her. I’m going to marry her.” Levinson, knowing Beatty’s reputation, didn’t think Beatty was serious, merely overly enthusiastic. However, it appears that Beatty was true to his word!
17. Draft Dodger Before It Was Cool
Long before the Vietnam War made draft dodging a common topic, Beatty had concocted the perfect scheme to avoid being drafted. On the 11th of February 1960, Beatty joined the California Air National Guard and got a dishonorable discharge less than a year later. This caused him to be considered ineligible for military service and allowed him to pursue an acting career without worry of being drafted.
16. Never Worked Together
Despite both being Hollywood royalty, siblings Beatty and Shirley MacLaine have never worked on a feature film together. The one time they nearly did was a film adaptation of Scott Thorson’s memoir Behind the Candelabra: My Life with Liberace. Beatty never got the film project past a few script drafts and casting decisions (which included Justin Timberlake as Thorson, Robin Williams as Liberace, MacLaine as Liberace’s mother, and Johnny Depp as Dr. Startz, Liberace’s plastic surgeon). HBO eventually released a made-for-TV film adaptation of the book, but with a completely different cast.
15. Totally About Me
For those of you too young to remember, Carly Simon’s hit song “You’re So Vain,” released in 1972, inspired a long conversation which tried to identify who she was singing about. One of the more popular candidates for that dubious title was Beatty, with whom Simon had had a relationship. In 2015, after years of playing coy, Simon herself admitted that Beatty had inspired the song, but only the second verse. She joked that Beatty thought the whole song was about him, which ultimately proves the lyrics in her song completely accurate!
14. The President Wants You
In the early 1960s, while John F. Kennedy was President of the United States, a film was made about the young Kennedy’s WWII service called PT 109. Kennedy himself expressed his support for Beatty to play him in the film. Beatty was asked to meet with Kennedy to discuss playing the role. Beatty, however, refused to do the film, since he had issues with the screenplay’s quality. He was proven right when the film was released in 1963 and became a box office disappointment. Kennedy later met Beatty and admitted that Beatty had been right to pass on the film. They were friends until Kennedy’s death later that year.
13. For Bobby
JFK’s death wasn’t the last time that Beatty interacted with the Kennedy family. He developed a close relationship with Robert F. Kennedy and became very involved in Kennedy’s presidential bid. After Kennedy was assassinated in Los Angeles, Beatty became a lifelong advocate for gun control.
12. Obsessive Compulsive Director
One of the most ambitious films of Beatty’s career was the John Reed biopic Reds, which runs more than three hours long and was nominated for twelve Academy Awards. It won three, including Beatty’s only Oscar win, for Best Director. That might be something which his cast and crew would disagree on, since Beatty drove them batty with his demands for multiple takes of the same scenes. Maureen Stapleton (who won an Oscar for acting in the film) claimed to have been told to do as many as eighty takes of one scene! When she finally snapped at Beatty, asking him “Are you out of your f***ing mind?!” she got an applause from the crew!
11. He Became a Family Guy
Looking at Beatty’s IMDb page, you might notice that since Bugsy, Beatty has appeared in a total four feature films as of 2018! While it’s not entirely uncharacteristic of Beatty to take time in between film projects, he had a more specific reason for taking things easy after 1992—this was when his marriage to Annette Bening began. Beatty took a lot of time off to raise his budding family. Given that he was in his late 50s and early 60s when his children were born, we can’t blame him for taking things easy!
10. Don’t Wait for Me, Warren
In the 1978 hit comedy Heaven Can Wait, Beatty plays a football player named Joe Pendleton whose soul is accidentally taken out of his body prematurely by an angel. Originally, however, the main character of Pendleton was meant to be a boxer, and Beatty wanted Mohammad Ali to play the role! Ali, however, was committed to his boxing career, so Beatty rewrote the screenplay to make Pendleton a football player to make it more appropriate for Beatty to play the role instead.
9. Well Played!
While he was filming Reds, Beatty was so dedicated to this story of the far-left-wing journalist John Reed that he would take the time to explain his story and his political causes so everyone working on the film knew what the film was truly about. While filming scenes in Spain, Beatty lectured the Spanish extras on the rights of the working man, which prompted them to take the lessons far more seriously than anyone could have imagined! The extras left the sets en masse, refusing to return until they got fair wages for their work. For his part, Beatty agreed to the wage increase, recognizing a great moment of irony when it happened.
8. That’s Just Badass
Despite what you’d think about Beatty, given his political views and his history of campaigning for Democratic presidential candidates like Robert F. Kennedy or George McGovern, Beatty was actually friendly with Ronald and Nancy Reagan. His friendship with President Reagan went back to when the two of them were working in Hollywood together, and Reagan even invited Beatty to screen Reds at the White House in 1981.
7. Marriage Obstacles
Beatty’s reputation as a notorious ladies’ man ultimately got in the way with Annette Bening when he wanted to settle down. According to Bening herself, many of her friends and family expressed concern with her relationship with Beatty. Some also commented on the fact that there’s 21 years between them. However, the marriage has lasted to the day of this writing, so it’s hard to say her faith was misplaced.
6. Oopsie Daisy!
In what must be one of the craziest moments in his life, Beatty and his Bonnie and Clyde co-star Faye Dunaway introduced the Best Picture winner at the 2017 Academy Awards. However, they were given the wrong envelope—they received the card that announced Emma Stone, of La La Land, as the Best Actress winner—leading Dunaway to mistakenly announce La La Land as the Best Picture rather than the actual winner, Moonlight. In a shocking moment, producers rushed onstage to make the correction, while Beatty tried to explain that he was given the wrong card. The media sensation took the world by storm and was referenced at the 2018 Academy Awards by bringing Beatty and Dunaway back to announce the Best Picture winner. Thankfully, things went smoothly the second time around.
5. A Presidential Inspiration
In 1998, Beatty released his political satire film Bulworth, following a suicidal US senator who arranges an assassination hit on himself while he decides to spend his remaining lifespan speaking his mind freely for once in his life. The film wasn’t a big success, but it had a lot of admirers, including US President Barack Obama. He apparently “talked longingly [while in private] of going Bulworth,” at least according to The New York Times in 2013. It certainly would have been interesting to see Obama rapping about the wage gap!
4. Wagging Tongues
As influential and successful as Bonnie and Clyde became when it was released in 1967, Beatty had to go to extreme lengths to ensure it would get made. Beatty ended up begging for the right to produce the film himself, to the point where he threw himself onto the ground of studio head Jack Warner (one of the original Warner Bros.) and swore that he would lick his shoes for the privilege! Apparently that works?
3. Making a Pass at Princess Leia
One of Beatty’s biggest hits, Shampoo, followed a satirical story about a hairdresser and his many love affairs. One of the ladies in this film was none other than a 17-year-old Carrie Fisher! According to Fisher, Beatty even tried to proposition her during production. Personally, we think Beatty’s lucky that this was before he had to worry about a jealous Harrison Ford hunting Beatty down!
2. I was Busy…
According to Beatty, he was once visited in a hotel room by Edie Sedgwick (known for her affiliation with counterculture artist Andy Warhol) while she was dressed in “nothing but a rain slicker.” Naturally, this led to Beatty and Sedgwick spending some “quality time” together, but there was something else happening at the same time; it was the same day that Neil Armstrong’s walk on the moon caught the attention of people across the world! Beatty and Sedgwick had been so preoccupied that they missed the moment!
1. Goodbye, Norma Jean
Beatty was one of the last people to see Marilyn Monroe alive. A twenty-five-year-old Beatty met her at a producer’s home during a party. According to a 2016 interview with Beatty, the two of them spent the evening together, which involved Beatty playing piano for her and a moonlit walk along the shore which he described as more soulful than romantic. Monroe died the next day.