While clearing my head to make space for the new year/decade, I came upon these absolutely true Warren Beatty recollections. I’m never going to do anything with them. The Goodwill Store didn’t want them.
Here, they’re all yours…
The first time I meet him, I am led into his office on the backside of a shopping center up on Mulholland, about half a mile from his home. He is sitting on a couch. The blinds on the windows behind him are open, so that when he stands to greet me, all I can see at first is his silhouette. He’s wearing all black, which heightens the silhouette effect.
The silhouette floats toward me, into a shaft of light from a skylight, revealing the famous face. Then he flashes his eyes, literally flashes them at the precise second the light catches them so that for an instant they are the brightest bluest things in the whole universe.
The effect is dizzying. “I’m Warren,” he says as we shake hands. This, I think, is how Mowgli the boy in "The Jungle Book," must have felt when he looked into the eyes of Kaa, the snake.
Jeffrey Katzenberg enters the screening room for dailies at his usual hyper pace. Everyone is waiting on him, including Warren.
Jeffrey apologizes to Warren, then, by way of smoothing over his tardiness, says, “You’ll be proud of me, Warren, I bench pressed 150 this morning. My new personal best.” Warren nods, lights go down, dailies roll. Fifteen minutes later, when the lights come up, the room is silent, waiting for Warren to speak.
The pause seems to go extra long.
Finally, Warren says, “I don’t like liars, Jeffrey,” he says. “And you lied to me.” The room is suddenly on full alert, like animals at a watering hole where a big cat and a water buffalo are getting ready to go at it.
“What? What are you talking about, Warren?” asks Jeffrey defensively. “About what?”
“I didn’t think you were that kind of person, and I can’t tell you how much it disappoints me that you are.”
This goes back and forth with Warren teasing Jeffrey about what particular lie he’s referring to. Jeffrey defends himself like he’s in a dark room being attacked by someone in night goggles. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
This goes back and forth a few more times until finally Warren says to Jeffrey, “The last time we talked about lifting weights, you told me your best in the bench press was 160. Today you’re saying it’s 150. You lied to me.”
Jeffrey laughs it off, breaking the tension and others in the room laugh, too. Warren only smiles mysteriously.
Harrison Ford is taking a piss in the studio’s executive men’s room when someone unzips at the urinal next to him. Harrison glances over and sees that it’s Warren.
“Hello, Harrison,” says Warren, and proceeds to make small talk for the rest of their time as urinal pals, while Harrison goggles at being only inches from one of the most famous penises in all of penishood.
Moments later, the two men are in the same screening room to view dailies. Warren stands up front, addressing the small audience, when he pauses in mid-sentence and announces dramatically, “I am going to do something that’s going to give me great pleasure …”
He walks over to Harrison, who’s sitting in the front row, bends down and zips up Harrison’s wide-open fly as Harrison melts with embarrassment into the upholstery.
Cue laughter. Scene.
Costume designer Milena Canonero and I have soup at a restaurant on Sunset. She has worked with Warren on a number of occasions, and because he is a fascinating subject, the conversation naturally comes around to him. “He is Hollywood,” she says of him.
And a little later: “He’s always casting. He’s a chronic caster.” Chronic caster may be the best description of the Hollywood ethos that I’ve ever heard. Welcome … to the ChroniCast.
I get a call from Warren, who feels that Richard Sylbert has overstated his importance to "Dick Tracy," which they’d worked on together.
The two men had described each other as friends, so the call comes as a surprise. What is more surprising is how hard Warren rips Richard.
“You want to know what kind of talent the man has, look at the clothes he wears,” he says. “Khaki. Do you know anyone with talent who wears khaki?” I cannot think of any talent/khaki combos at that moment except for my cousin Ronnie who’s an amazing auto mechanic back in Indiana, and anyway, Warren is on a roll.
“Last week, he and I were in New York to host a screening,” he continues. “He was wearing his khakis, of course. And while we’re onstage together for the panel discussion after the film, he farts. Not once. Repeatedly. Until the whole stage smelled so bad, it was almost impossible to stay up there.”
A well-timed beat. “He does not deserve the credit he’s claiming.”
Earlier, when speaking with Richard, he’d asked me rhetorically of Warren, “Do you know what he’s more concerned about than anything else in the film?
“This,” he said, patting the underside of his chin with the back of his hand.
Richard tells me what a wonderful piano player Warren is.
“When he is at a party, he will wander off and find a piano in another room and start playing. You’re at the party and you hear that piano music coming from another room, it’s good, you’re going to go and find out who’s playing. Pretty soon the whole crowd has moved to the room where Warren is playing the piano.”
“Oh, that Warren, I don’t like him,” says my assistant, Sue, a savvy Italian from New York who’s a veteran of the studio game and calls ‘em like she sees ‘em regardless of who they are. I would be nowhere without her.
“Why?” I ask.
“I was at the filing cabinet with my back to the office,” she says. “Someone taps me on the shoulder. I turn around and it’s him, standing almost on top of me. And he does that trick where he flashes those eyes of his–“
“Kaa,” I nod.
“Mike, I almost fainted. I had to grab the filing cabinet to keep my knees from buckling. And then he says, ‘Hi, I’m Warren.’ Like I don’t know who he is.”
“It was a mean thing for him to do, sneaking up on me like that. He could have announced himself. He knew exactly what he was doing. You think he doesn’t know the effect he has on people? He knows. ”