- Born: 1937
- Rank: 67
- Score: 545.95
- Awards: Oscar / DGA / Golden Globe / LAFC / NBR
- Nominations: 2 Oscars (for directing – 14 total nominations) / 2 DGA / Golden Globe
- Feature Films: 4
- Best: Reds
- Worst: Dick Tracy
Films (in rank order):
- Reds – 1981
- Heaven Can Wait – 1978
- Bulworth – 1998
- Dick Tracy – 1990
Top 10 Best Director Finishes (Nighthawk Awards):
- 1978 – 5th – Heaven Can Wait
- 1981 – 3rd – Reds
He was born in the single greatest year for acting in history. In the twelve months of 1937 the following people entered the world: Ned Beatty, Tom Courtenay, Edward Fox, Vanessa Redgrave, Jane Fonda, Anthony Hopkins, Morgan Freeman, Dustin Hoffman, Jack Nicholson and Beatty himself. That’s 10 acting Oscars and over 40 nominations. As could be expected, the first of these to become stars were Beatty, Fonda and Redgrave. Family connections do help, after all, when you are getting started on a career. But talent eventually comes to the front and that’s where Beatty stands out. Not that he is the most talented actor of the bunch (that would be Nicholson), but he is the most multi-talented. In fact, he is one of the most multi-talented people to ever come into film.
After years of being an acting star and even doing some producing (his first two nominations were both for Bonnie and Clyde – one for acting, one for producing), he started to write (co-writing Shampoo and earning another Oscar nomination) before he decided to do the whole thing. While he co-directed Heaven Can Wait with his co-star, Buck Henry, he did become the first person since Orson Welles to get 4 Oscar nominations for one film. Then four years later he did it again and this time the Academy (as well as many others) gave him Best Director for his epic film, Reds. After that it was a while before he finally decided to direct again, putting all his effort into Dick Tracy, which looked great, but got knocked down for not being Batman the year after Burton’s vision. But Dick Tracy is solid entertainment and doesn’t deserve the hits it takes. Then, 8 years later he finally made one more film, his political satire Bulworth. With some hope, he might make another film, but he’s 72 now and it’s looking less and less likely. Even so, like Olivier before him (who also made 4 films) he made the best of his directorial efforts while also giving us a fantastic acting career (I wouldn’t give him the Oscar for his directing for Reds because of Raiders, but I would have given him Best Actor over Henry Fonda).
Bulworth – #16 film of 1998
It is full of tiny little details. In the opening scene, the camera pans around the office and there is a picture of Senator Bulworth with Robert Kennedy. It’s a real picture of Beatty with Kennedy from 1968 the day Kennedy was killed. That kind of authenticity is part of why this is the right film from Beatty – he is utterly convincing as this politician who has lost his way and doesn’t know where next to go.
Bulworth is a very good film, but not a great film and it’s the middle part, where he suddenly decides to start rapping and embracing African-American culture where the film falters a bit. It just seemed odd and jarring. The first two he does it provides an excellent scene as his aides are staring at him, wondering what the hell he is doing and wondering how on earth they are going to explain this.
But then Halle Berry enters the scene. It seems like a distraction, but it’s not for two reasons. First of all, she gives a fantastic performance, showing her acting ability for the first time and giving a hint as to what was to come. Second, the interactions between them really form a human relationship that cut to the heart of the film. Bulworth remembers why he became a politician in the first place. He remembers what the whole thing is about.
But Bulworth is a stronger film because of the ending. (SPOILER). It doesn’t lack the courage of its conviction. In the opening, we see Bulworth order his own assassination and of course, by the end, as he seems to have discovered some real human emotion and things seem headed towards a happy ending, he doesn’t chicken out, he doesn’t fuck around. Beatty is a good director and a good writer and he stands tall and Bulworth dies because it’s the only answer in a good film.
A side note to Bulworth and one of the reasons I decided to focus on it. There are actors who are enjoyable, who every time they are on screen you want to smile. They rarely play bad guys and they always seem to be good people as well as actors, yet they never get credit and they sure as hell never get any awards. Oliver Platt is the best example of this kind of actor. I always enjoy seeing him. I give him extra credit for doing ads for the wonderful kids show Between the Lions, but his best work on-screen might be in Bulworth as his key aide who’s trying to decide what the hell to do as his boss has clearly gone bonkers. You’ll smile when you see him. I always do.