Warren Beatty: Living legend

Warren Beatty is a Hollywood legend, and has the years and long list of credits to prove it. He talks with our Mo Rocca:

Warren Beatty doesn’t have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Why not? “Well, you don’t have to have a star if you don’t wan to, you know?” Beatty told Rocca.

“But, I mean, come on...”

Let’s face it, Warren Beatty doesn’t need a star on Hollywood Boulevard to remind people that he’s a living legend.

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Warren Beatty with correspondent Mo Rocca on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame. CBS News

His first movie part, opposite Natalie Wood in 1961’s “Splendor in the Grass,” made him a household name.

Beatty was only 29 when he produced and starred in “Bonnie and Clyde,” alongside Faye Dunaway. It changed the way Hollywood depicted violence.

And in 1981 he starred in, and won an Oscar for directing, “Reds,” a three-and-a-half-hour epic about American Communists in the early 20th century.

But it’s not just his work that’s captivated the public for over half a century; it’s also his love life. He’s had relationships with Julie Christie, Diane Keaton and Leslie Caron, and was rumored to be linked with, well, a lot of beautiful women.

So much to talk about. But as Rocca learned when he sat down with him at the American Film Institute in Los Angeles, Warren Beatty isn’t the easiest person to interview.

“Did you have mentors early on?” Rocca asked.

“I got to meet a generation of producers, and directors, and screenwriters, and actors, and actresses that I learned a lot from.”

“Does anyone spring to mind as somebody that really taught you something?”

“H -- here’s what, when you say … name somebody.”

“Yeah?”

“I, I always avoid that.”

“Sure.”

“That’s why I’m such a bad interview.”

But Beatty has a movie to promote, so here we are. In “Rules Don’t Apply,” he plays the famously secretive billionaire Howard Hughes, though the film centers on an aspiring actress from Virginia and her driver -- both church-going small towners -- who struggle to keep their religious values intact in 1958 Hollywood.

Frank:  “She still believes that once you’ve been intimate, or gone all the way, with a person, in the eyes of God you’re committed to that person.”
Marla:  “I agree with Sarah.  That’s why I’ve never done it. That’s why I’m waiting, because I have to be sure.”

Beatty himself was raised Southern Baptist in Virginia before coming to Hollywood in the late ‘50s.

Rocca asked, “One of the characters in the movie says, ‘Once you’ve been intimate, you’re married.’ Was that your understanding when you were growing up?”

“I would say that as a teenager, I was all over the lot,” Beatty replied. “I I didn’t know for sure what I felt about all of those things. I don’t wanna pontificate on your show about this.”

“Fine.”

“Because you’re editing, and I’m not. And so I wanna be very clear about what I say, and I have learned in my long period of being -- what’s the word, famous or well-known?”

“Yeah, famous.”

“I have learned that, I, uhm, if I wanna say something, I should say it myself.”

Especially when it comes to his new movie.

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Warren Beatty wrote, produced, directed and stars in “Rules Don’t Apply.” Francois Duhamel/20th Century Fox

“At first I thought that it was a movie mainly about Howard Hughes,” Beatty said.  “And then my own self-obsession took over, and I thought, ‘No, no, this is -- what I’m more interested in, is what was Hollywood like when I came here.”

Beatty’s Howard Hughes is a man obsessed with his privacy. “He very much wanted to stay out of sight. And he was very interested in controlling the image of himself, of how he was seen.

“Now, I see a look on your face, and you’re gonna say, ‘How is that in common with me?’ Well, I’ll tell you what: the title that most interested me in a long time was the Christopher Lash title of his book called, ‘The Culture of Narcissism.’”

“In my defense, I wasn’t gonna call you a narcissist; you’re a control freak, but I wasn’t going to call you a narcissist!” Rocca said.

“Well, control freak is, I’m guilty, but ask anybody who works with me, I want ‘em to give feedback, and I do collaborate with smart people.”

And Beatty is friends with a lot of smart and famous people -- in politics and, of course, in Hollywood.

At Hollywood’s famed Musso and Frank Grill, one of his longtime favorites, Beatty pointed out the booth where he first met Jack Nicholson. “1964, 1965.”

By then, Betty’s older sister, Shirley MacLaine, was already a star.

“You never made a movie together,” Rocca said.

“That’s true.”

“It would have been neat if you had.”

“Not a bad idea.”

“You wouldn’t have to play brother/sister, just play two characters.”

“I think we shouldn’t play man and wife. That would not be a good idea,” Beatty said.

“No, that would be pushing the envelope a little too much.”

“Yes. That would be throwing the envelope away!” he laughed.

And there’s another woman Beatty will talk about. He met actress Annette Bening during the production of 1991’s “Bugsy.” They now have four children.

Rocca said, “Okay, this is a part of the interview where we talk about how much you love your wife.”

“Yeah!” Beatty laughed.

“How much do you love your wife?”

“It is the most intelligent thing that I ever have done. My life has completely flowered with Annette and the kids. And I am extremely proud of her in every respect.”

“What do you think your life would be like if you hadn’t met Annette?”

“I try not to think about it,” he laughed.

“I mean, would you be on Tinder?”

“On Tinder? Oh, I’m not very good on that stuff.”

“You wouldn’t be, like, dating a Kardashian?”

“Oooh – “

“Okay, we don’t know.”

It seems that after 58 years in Hollywood, Warren Beatty is happy to talk about his movies and his marriage -- and let the rest speak for itself

“Next March you will have been married for 25 years?” Rocca asked.

“That is correct,” Beatty replied. “It seems like 25 weeks. I feel very positively about it, and very lucky. And I could go on and on and on.”

      
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