New York City’s Museum of the Moving Image honored Warren Beatty at its 30th annual salute gala on Wednesday, and while Beatty mostly used the opportunity to crack some jokes and thank his longtime friends and collaborators, he also voiced his concern for the future of the movie business.
“We have to figure out in the movie business how we encourage the patrons of the arts to invest in what we would have to call mid-priced movies — movies that cost more than $3 million and less than $103 million,” Beatty said. The 15-time Academy Award nominee, Best Director Oscar Winner and Irving Thalberg Award recipient then pointed out that 1962’s “Lawrence of Arabia,” which he called “one of the greatest movies ever made,” could probably not get funded today. “It’s four hours long, it can only play one time a night and it’s not a sequel,” he said. “I think we have some thinking to do about that.”
The evening took place three weeks before the release of Beatty’s sixth film as a director, the comedy-drama “Rules Don’t Apply,” in which he plays billionaire industrialist and movie producer Howard Hughes. The movie stars Lily Collins as an aspiring actress who falls in love with her driver, played by Alden Ehrenreich.
The first film Beatty has directed since 1998’s “Bulworth,” “Rules Don’t Apply” also marked the first time that all four of his children were able to watch him work as a director, Beatty’s wife Annette Bening noted during a short speech. “That was my dream, and now that has come true,” Bening said, adding that Beatty is just as “relentless, principled, and tenacious” a filmmaker as he ever has been. Each speech was accompanied by clips from films that Beatty has starred in, produced, or directed, including “Bonnie and Clyde,” “Shampoo,” “Heaven Can Wait,” “Reds” and “Bugsy.”
Other speakers at the event included screenwriter Robert Benton, who told a story about his script for “Bonnie and Clyde” being rejected by virtually everyone in Hollywood until Beatty said he wanted to produce the film, and actor Mandy Patinkin, who credited Beatty with reviving his acting career by casting him in “Dick Tracy.”
Sony Pictures Classics co-president Micheal Barker presented Beatty with the Museum of Moving Image’s annual award, noting that one of the things that distinguishes Beatty from the rest of Hollywood is his photographic memory. “Be careful what you say to him,” Barker said. “He’s been known to call in a marker he remembers 30 years after the fact.” Barker added that Beatty has always immersed himself in every project he’s ever worked on by asking more questions than anyone else.
“No question exists that Warren has not asked,” Barker said. “What he does with these answers is his gift, and why in American movies he is the best actor, the best producer, the best director and screenwriter all rolled in one.” The title “Rules Don’t Apply,” Barker added, is perfect for a Warren Beatty movie. “Warren’s movies have always been about characters who use the rules to break the rules,” Barker said. “He understands and makes it very clear, time and time again, that this is what freedom in America is all about.”
While there was no direct mention of Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump or the presidential election, Beatty did reference the political climate in his remarks. “I’m wondering now whether it is possible to get away with yelling fire in a crowded theater, because I feel that the theater that we live in right now is a cacophony of voices in which the voices of wisdom are difficult to hear,” he said. “The temptation is to try and be funny about politics, but the truth is I just can’t think of a joke in this campaign that hasn’t actually happened.”