No question — it’s been a rough year for Warren Beatty, a figure long used to winning in Hollywood.
While the “Prince of Hollywood” is hardly a professional loser — check out his screen accomplishments below — the 80-year-old actor-director-producer has taken his lumps lately.
There was, of course, that embarrassing snafu at the Oscar ceremonies this year in which guest-hosts Beatty and Faye Dunaway announced the wrong best-picture winner (La La Land” instead of Moonlight). Beatty came across on national television more an addlepated geratric than the legendarily accomplished figure he is.
It may surprise you to learn that he has been Oscar-nominated a whopping 15 times with the eight movies he produced nabbing a HUGE 52 Academy Award nominations. Only Beatty and Orson Welles (Citizen Kane) have been nominated as actor, director, writer and producer of the same film. And only Beatty has managed this feat twice with 1978’s Heaven Can Wait and 1981’s Reds.
Sure, he’s slowed quite a bit in recent years. His last feature (Town & Country) came out 15 years ago, and disappeared quickly. His last acting-directing effort dates back to 1998’s Bulworth, a reasonably well-received but a modest boxoffice entry (less than $30 million in all in the U.S. and Canada).
For example, his latest movie — Rules Don’t Apply, a romantic comedy set in the 1950’s about RKO mogul Howard Hughes interacting with a young couple (played by newcomers Lilly Collins and Alden Ehrenreich with Beatty as Hughes) — has supposedly been germinating for four decades.
The considerable pre-release hype for Rules Don’t Apply pivoted on Beatty’s long-nurtured fascination with Hughes, the RKO studio boss and one of the greatest womanizers (and most eccentric figures) in Hollywood history.
The similarities shared by Beatty and Hughes — another of Hollywood’s legendary lotharios — are obvious. So Beatty’s movie project was watched with interest, not the least by us given its subject matter and time frame.
Then the picture opened.
We quote in its entirety the box office report published last Nov. 28 in The New York Times:
Bombing outright was Warren Beatty’s ‘Rules Don’t Apply,’ a romantic comedy drama set in the late 1950’s. Independently financed for $27 million and distributed by 20th Century Fox, ‘Rules Don’t Apply’ collected a breathtakingly bad $2.2 million for the period. (Worldwide, the final gross came in at $3.9 million versus the movie’s production budget of $25 million.)
Now for the good news: despite bombing at the box office, Rules Don’t Apply turns out to be a remarkably good picture, a solid addition to the Beatty repertoire. For classic movie fans, it’s a must.
The picture is set mostly in Forties Hollywood when Howard Hughes ran the RKO studio as his personal playground. Collins is winsome as a would-be starlet new to Hollywood being chauffeured around by Ehrenrich, a young on-the-make Hughes hireling. (There are guest cameos throughout the picture including those by Mrs. Beatty (Annette Bening), Martin Sheen, Candice Bergen, Matthew Broderick and Paul Sorvino.
Beatty plays Hughes more as a genial eccentric rather than the out-of-control wacko depicted in other movies about the mogul. He wisely stays in the back round letting the relationship between his two young stars propel the action. The picture in general carries a bright quality, buoyed by a solid script and even Martin’s delightful, quite moving rendition of the title song.
In short, Rules Don’t Apply is highly recommended. (We caught it on DVD.) Thank you, Warren Beatty.