Questioning Warren Beatty's AFI award

Warrenbeatty_lWho else but Warren Beatty could garner tributes at his AFI Life Achievement Award ceremony, in the form of a stoner joke from Robert Downey Jr., a rap performance from Pras, and a pat on the back from Bill Clinton?

The Splendor in the Grass star brought some Old Hollywood glamor to the gala in his honor at the Kodak Theater, which aired Tuesday night on the USA network. There’s no question the man’s got charisma; his charm is the only remedy for watching even but a few moments of Ishtar. And his passion to get Bonnie and Clyde made is almost as legendary as its heroes — apparently, Beatty knelt at the feet of studio boss Jack Warner and begged to get the film made.
But as much as I admire Beatty’s contributions to cinema in the ’60s and ’70s, he surely must have the thinnest filmography of any star of his stature — he’s only made eight movies in the last thirty years. Compare that to Robert Duvall, who’s made almost 65 films in the same period! Of course, Beatty’s versatile as an actor and as a director, able to take on such diverse projects as Reds, McCabe & Mrs. Miller, and Dick Tracy.
But look at some of these other titles on his resume: The Fortune, Ishtar, Love Affair (I will never forgive him for making Katherine Hepburn say “F— a duck”), Town & Country. And even going back to his Hollywood golden-boy days of the ’60s and early ’70s, we find such forgettable entries as Promise Her Anything, Kaleidoscope, The Only Game in Town, and $. Call me a film snob, but I’m even a bit of a skeptic when it comes to Bonnie. Part of me thinks the film just rips off French New Wave movies that did it better, such as Breathless, Jules and Jim, and Pierrot le fou.

What do you think, PopWatchers? Is Beatty all that? Or do you think there was another overlooked icon more deserving of the award? Maybe I’m just bitter that Woody Allen still hasn’t been honored.

addCredit(“Warren Beatty; Kevin Winter/Getty Images”)

Comments (21 total) Add your comment
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  • Jakeem

    Beatty’s honor is well deserved, but I wish the AFI had celebrated his famous sister’s brilliant career first!

  • bud

    Okay, you’re a film snob.

  • Adam B.

    It’s simple: this is about Beatty as producer more than Beatty as actor — the man broke open the studio system which allowed the 70s boom to happen. Read your colleague Mark Harris’ book on 1967.

  • Jennifer

    Yep, Beatty is all that.

  • donner

    while I’m not a huge Beatty fan, I think he’s underrated in Hollywood…he’s turned in a good, respectable body of work and hasn’t been the go-to guy (Jack Nicholson anyone) for the aging leading man…I think he makes smart choices, that are not mainstream…I say leave him alone, he’s done better than 75% of his peers…

  • Gail

    As an actor and director, he is overrated, and thank you for bringing that out in the open. His career seems to be similar to that of Kevin Costner, only Warren is a better actor.

    • Pietro P

      I agree!

  • YCO

    Beatty took control of his carreer in a way that actors had never dared before….
    and his projects, the pet projects: Reds, B&C etc…..are cornerstones in cinema.
    He does have a weakness for lameness and self-emulation – but the guy IS an original in a land of wannabes and copycats.. and THAT is reason enough for praise.

  • postsoviet

    Beatty’s biography is definitely thin, but remember that he has made amazing projects he not only starred in, but also produced, directed and co-wrote (cf. Reds, Heaven Can Wait, Bullworth). He definitely has a commitment to his art, even if the results are sometimes mixed (Dick Tracy) and downright questionable (Love Affair). Before anyone invokes Woody Allen as a counterexample, remember that the aesthetic and scope of each of Beatty’s projects is rather grand and none of them are considered intimate in scale or vision. And when he makes a film that’s spot-on, it’s brilliant work. Congratulations Warren Beatty!

  • postsoviet

    To clarify my comments, I also note that having a proliferation of films doesn’t mean the collective work constitutes art. Other directors who made few films in the latter years of their careers but still made lasting impacts include Kurosawa and David Lean.

  • Priscilla

    Yes, Beatty is all that AND MORE! I think it’s even more clear that he’s all that BECAUSE he has such a small body of work, yet it still contains many groundbreaking, influential, iconic and important movies. That alone makes him more than deservign of this honor.

  • Molly

    I will never forget his rambling, half-drunken, inane acceptance speech at the Golden Globes for some lifetime achievement honor. That was when I began to despise Beatty. IMHO, meh.

  • Raven_Moon

    I know this goes against popular opinions, but I’ve always thought Warren Beatty was overrated, as well as Woody Allen.

  • Chris

    Splendor in the Grass, Bonnie and Clyde, The Parallax View, McCabe and Mrs. Miller, Shampoo, Heaven Can Wait, Reds, Dick Tracy, Bugsy, Bulworth. Even with the movies that didn’t work, that’s 10 classics or semi-classics, 5 of which he had a hand in as director or writer. A remarkable career really and certainly deserving of an achievement award. As an actor, he never showed amazing range (I think Bugsy is his best performance) but he was always savvy and involved with casting dynamic co-stars, including Dunaway, Hackman, Christie (three times), Hawn, Nicholson, Keaton and Bening in some of their best performances. No small feat.

  • Movie_Dearest

    They have probably tried to give it to Woody Allen, but he (like Katharine Hepburn before him) probably wouldn’t show up, so they have to go to the next guy on the list.
    I would have said give it to Hackman before Beatty.

  • Another Katharine

    Seriously, is it that hard to spell Katharine Hepburn’s name correctly? K-A-T-H-A-R-I-N-E. You should really know that, especially if you’re working for an entertainment magazine.

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