Warren Beatty is one of the smartest people in show business, and certainly shows it when it comes to politics both national and local in California.
Over the weekend, Beatty was clever enough to use the media to get attention for his ideas and opinions in the California proposition voting.
He and his wife, Oscar-nominated Annette Bening, tried to crash a rally where Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger was speaking. They were turned away. Warren knew they would be. It didn’t matter.
And it looks like Beatty helped hand Schwarzenegger defeats in all of his propositions.
Yesterday afternoon, Beatty and I talked about his political actions of the last year, and where he stands on several subjects.
For one thing, you should know that he’s developing a new movie right now and has no plans at the moment to run against Schwarzenegger.
“I don’t want to run,” he told me. “My first concerns are about Annette and my children. I think I can be very effective [speaking out],” Beatty said. “If you’re careful enough you can affect public opinion. The more people that are active, the better it is.”
That’s clearly what Beatty wants to do at this point, and he is quite serious about it. He was kind of amused when he heard a local legislator try to deride his acting career in order to negate his politics.
“He said something like, 'Dick Tracy' wasn’t a very good movie,” Beatty recalled. “He called me an out-of-work actor.”
In fact, San Diego County Republican Party Chairman Ron Nehring told a crowd: "We have an A-rated actor in here while they have a B-rated actor out there.”
For the record, Beatty has 14 different Oscar nominations in writing, directing, acting and producing.
He won the Oscar for directing one of the great epics of all time, "Reds," in 1981.
His body of work as a director and writer — including "Shampoo," "Heaven Can Wait," "Bonnie & Clyde," "McCabe & Mrs. Miller," "Bugsy," "The Parallax View," "Splendor in the Grass" and most recently "Bulworth" — puts him among Hollywood’s artistic elite.
No matter what you think of Schwarzenegger as a governor, "legendary filmmaker" or "award-winning actor" are not sobriquets that will ever be associated with him.
But that’s all right with Beatty. At 68 years old, he’s not looking for audience approval. This isn’t about Hollywood. In fact, he told me that he stayed out the 2004 presidential campaign because he felt the Republicans had “demonized” the world of entertainment.
“I told John Kerry, I will speak for you, but I assure you I will hurt you,” he said. Now that an actor is governor, however, Beatty feels he’s on a more level playing field.
Beatty has made three important speeches this year that got him a lot of attention. The first, in which he accepted an award last March, he resolved: “It’s become time now to define a Schwarzenegger Republican. A Schwarzenegger Republican is a Bush Republican who calls himself a Schwarzenegger Republican.”
He criticized Schwarzenegger, who has still not appeared on a regular ballot or participated in a debate, for “calling Democrats “stooges” and “girlie men” and “losers” and his general disrespect and bullying of honest legislators who’ve also been willing to make the sacrifices necessary to serve in public office, with a lot less fanfare than the governor I might add. It should be pointed out that they’ve all been elected by the people in what is called a representative democracy — with checks and balances.”
Two more speeches followed — one in May at the Goldman School of Public Policy at UC Berkeley and one in September in front of the California Nurses Association.
Beatty is a strong advocate for public education and unions, and sticks up for teachers, firefighters, police and healthcare workers.
When I spoke to him, he was passionate about the various propositions on the California ballot yesterday, especially redistricting. He’s infuriated by the state’s standing at No. 43 in education and at what he calls “the scapegoating of teachers.”
So Hollywood and politics are about to enter in a fractious year in California. If Beatty is somehow drafted into a nomination — and I don’t think it will happen — he’s ready to suffer the inevitable slings and arrows.
A private man, his personal life was subject for tabloid fodder for three decades until he married Bening in 1992. They have four children.
“No one knows more about that than me,” he laughed. Something tells me all the skeletons in Beatty’s closet have been danced around the time more than once.
And even if Beatty decides without a doubt to remain out of the action officially, he’s going to be a force to contend with.
“The First Amendment doesn’t grant you the right to be taken seriously,” he said. “People will quickly dismiss you if seem silly.”
He added that after 40 years of participating in Democratic politics from Kennedy through Clinton: “I think I’ve earned the right to be taken seriously.”
Cyndi Lauper launched her “Body Acoustic” album last night with a hot show at the Ethical Cultural Society on Central Park West in New York City. Cyndi’s re-recorded her biggest hits and added a couple of new tracks, including one she wrote with guitar great Jeff Beck called “Above the Clouds” and “Water’s Edge,” a lovely ballad she performs with Sarah McLachlan.
During the ECS show, an off-the-cuff gig in front of about 250 people, Cyndi hit a note on “Money Changes Everything” that is probably still reverberating in the domed auditorium. Bravo!
Add this album to your must-get list, along with Stevie Wonder and Santana…
The Hollywood Reporter has picked its 35 movie industry players under the age of 35 who are movers and shakers. Bobby Cohen, who was known at Miramax for his devastating mimicry of both Bob and Harvey Weinstein, was named for his work at Red Wagon (Sony), where he’s behind the imminent "Memoirs of a Geisha." Interestingly, no names from powerhouses HBO, Miramax or Dreamworks. Check out the other names at www.hollywoodreporter.com to see who tomorrow’s studio heads might be…
See famed literary photographer Nancy Crampton’s work beginning tomorrow at the Leica Gallery here in New York, 670 Broadway, Suite 500. Nancy’s first book of pics ever, from Quantuck Lane/Norton books, is a perfect Christmas gift for the big reader in your world…