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Biography Star: How Warren Beatty Seduces America

Peter Biskind has written an unauthorized biography of Warren Beatty in which he calculates that the actor/director has slept with 12,775 women.

Like the infuriatingly elusive subject of Star: How Warren Beatty Seduced America, author Peter Biskind wants to have his sex and be taken seriously, too.

His doorstopper of an unauthorized bio strives to make a two-fold case for still caring about Beatty, a 72-year-old senior citizen who hasn’t done a movie since 2001: that he deserves the title of showbiz stud supreme and should be ranked among the world’s best filmmakers.

On the first score (pun intended), Biskind abundantly succeeds. Countless anecdotes from such brand-name prey as Julie Christie, Diane Keaton and Madonna prove to the point of exhaustion that it was just one fling after another for Beatty once he arrived on the scene in 1959 and flashed his baby blues at Joan Collins.

It wasn’t until 1992 that the nesting instinct finally trumped his playboy life and led to marriage with Bugsy co-star Annette Bening, mother of his four children.

Some will be drawn in by recent gossip headlines marveling at Biskind’s estimate of how many women Beatty has actually bedded: 12,775. Far easier than recounting who said yes is listing the few who resisted —Kim Novak, Paula Prentiss, Elizabeth Taylor, Elaine May, writer Lillian Hellman, a then-virgin Carrie Fisher and comic Sandra Bernhard. That he was able to snare such class acts as Jackie Onassis and Mary Tyler Moore might make you wonder how Mother Teresa didn’t make the cut.

But the repetitive scenario behind nearly every conquest soon turns into an exercise in serial monotony, as does Biskind’s other pitch: Beatty as a master of cinema. Yes, he deserves praise as the star and producer of Bonnie and Clyde, the 1967 game changer that introduced extreme violence and celebrity outlaws to Hollywood, as well as for 1975’s scathing, comical Shampoo and 1998’s audacious political nose-thumber Bulworth.

It’s also impressive that, thanks to 1978’s afterlife comedy Heaven Can Wait and 1981’s epic Reds, Beatty is only the second filmmaker since Orson Welles to be nominated in four Oscar categories in one year. But people still talk about and even watch Citizen Kane. Reds, with its Russian revolution backdrop, not so much. And don’t forget 1987’s Ishtar.

Just as Beatty charmed and cajoled every object of desire, so, too, he wooed studio executives and co-workers into indulging his wishes. The seduction soon devolved into badgering and bullying. For every source that extols Beatty’s virtues as a generous lover, great friend and a genius artist, there are more who damn his vanity, insane perfectionist streak, cruel manipulations and tendency to claim credit for the work of others. He couldn’t commit to a relationship. And he couldn’t decide on a take of even the simplest scenes, preferring to shoot up to 100 versions, to the horror of cast and crew.

Occasionally, Beatty would get his comeuppance, such as when a ticked-off Katharine Hepburn, who was basically kidnapped into appearing in 1994’s turgid Love Affair, refused to do more than two takes and walked off the set. He later tried to sweet-talk her, telling the then-86-year-old, “If I had only met you 30 years ago.” Her response, once he was out of earshot: “Is that supposed to be a compliment?”

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