In this compulsively readable and constantly surprising book, Peter Biskind, the author of the film classics Easy Riders, Raging Bulls and Down and Dirty Pictures, writes the most intimate, revealing, and balanced biography ever of Hollywood legend Warren Beatty.
Famously a playboy—he has been linked to costars Natalie Wood, Julie Christie, Diane Keaton, and Madonna, among others—Beatty has also been one of the most ambitious and successful stars in Hollywood. Several Beatty films have passed the test of time, from Bonnie and Clyde to Shampoo, Heaven Can Wait, Reds (for which he won the best director Oscar), Bugsy, and Bulworth. Few filmgoers realize that along with Orson Welles, Beatty is the only person ever nominated for four Academy Awards for a single film—and unlike Welles, Beatty did it twice, with Heaven Can Wait and Reds.
Biskind shows how Beatty used star power, commercial success, savvy, and charm to bend Hollywood moguls to his will, establishing an unprecedented level of independence while still working within the studio system. Arguably one of the most successful and creative figures in Hollywood over the last few decades, Beatty exercised unique control over his films, often hiring screenwriters out of his own pocket (and frequently collaborating with them), producing, directing, and acting, becoming an auteur before anyone in Hollywood knew what the word meant. In this fascinating biography, the ultimate Hollywood Star comes to life—complete with excesses and achievements—as never before.
In his refreshing biography, Biskind (Easy Riders, Raging Bulls) examines Beatty's dual and often dueling status as Hollywood legend and notorious womanizer without letting either subsume the other. Beatty's film career began with a starring role in director Elia Kazan's Splendor in the Grass opposite Natalie Wood, the first of his co-stars with whom he had relationships (the list includes Leslie Caron, Julie Christie, Diane Keaton, and Annette Bening, whom he married). As producer and star of 1967's Bonnie and Clyde, Beatty inhabited the brief and violent life of the titular bank robber in a film Pauline Kael called the most exciting American movie since The Manchurian Candidate. From 1971's McCabe & Mrs. Miller, now considered one of the finest westerns of all time, to his Oscar-winning turn as director in 1981's Reds (which he both produced and starred in), Beatty had a hand in some of New Hollywood's most important films. But Biskind does not gloss over the fact that Beatty has not had a box office hit since 1990's Dick Tracy, nor does he ignore the string of flops that have deflated the actor's career (Ishtar, Bugsy, Love Affair, etc.). Yet his respect for Beatty never dwindles, and readers are left with a complicated portrait of a complicated man, arguably a great actor of his generation.