Why Hollywood Won't Cast Warren Beatty Anymore

Warren Beatty is among the handful of living actors we could call a screen legend. The man born Henry Beaty (and the younger brother of Shirley MacLaine) has been a silver-screen idol for more than 50 years, starring in classic movies such as Bonnie and Clyde, Shampoo, Bugsy, Heaven Can Wait, Dick Tracy, and more. He's also a writer, director, and producer, notably wearing all of those hats to make the 1981 epic Reds, which somehow won a slew of Oscars despite being a sympathetic story about Communism released at the peak of the Cold War. 

Beatty consistently made and starred in films up through the late '90s, but his output started to slow a bit after the 1998 release of Bulworth. He's a family man now, putting aside his legendary showbiz Casanova status in 1992 to marry Annette Bening and raise four kids. (Although perhaps you saw Beatty at the 2017 Academy Awards accidentally awarding best picture to La La Land.) Here are a few reasons why it seems like Hollywood won't cast Warren Beatty anymore.

He'd rather be in charge

To wonder why Warren Beatty doesn't get cast in projects as much as he used to supposes that Warren Beatty is also a working actor for hire, heading to auditions every day and constantly on the phone with his agent to talk about the latest scripts he's been sent by some hot new director. Beatty isn't that kind of actor, and he hasn't been for a long time. 

It's been more than 15 years since Beatty starred in a movie that he didn't also have a major hand in creating, be it as a director, writer, or both. Among his biggest, most notable, and most recent films, Beatty wrote and directed Reds, directed Dick Tracy, co-wrote the 1994 remake Love Affair, co-wrote and directed Bulworth, and co-wrote and directed Rules Don't Apply. 

Not only does Beatty have a better track record by making movies for himself instead of for other people, but two of Beatty's acting-only gigs came in projects that are among the most problematic and spectacularly unsuccessful movies ever released: Ishtar and Town & Country.

He was in Ishtar, which still means something

Most every movie star has a flop every now and then, but they take the hit (or lack thereof,) lay low for a while, then re-emerge with a movie that restores the trust of studios and audiences. However, it may take a bit more effort and time (forever, perhaps) to live down that time you starred in what's regarded as one of the worst movies ever made

Warren Beatty headlined and produced the 1987 movie Ishtar. Sort of an updated, Cold War-set version of those old Bing Crosby/Bob Hope "Road" movies, Beatty and Dustin Hoffman play two terrible, middle-aged songwriters who still harbor dreams of being pop stars and jump at the offer of a lounge singer gig at a hotel in Morocco. They wind up in the fictional nation of Ishtar instead and somehow get caught up in a plot to overthrow the country's government. 

Ishtar somehow managed to gross $14 million – a fraction of its $55 million budget. Critics loathed it even more than audiences did. Robert Ebert called Ishtar "a truly dreadful film, a lifeless, massive, lumbering exercise in failed comedy." Gene Siskel found the movie "shockingly dull." On Siskel and Ebert's TV show, they both named Ishtar the worst movie of 1987. 

His other big flop tanked in the town and in the country

The subgenre of "romantic comedies about the relationship problems of older, wealthy adults" was quite popular in the 2000s. Diane Keaton usually starred in these movies, such as Something's Gotta Give and Town & Country. The latter also starred Goldie Hawn, Garry Shandling, and Warren Beatty. This light and slight film which seems destined to play on Sunday afternoons on TBS forever, somehow took three years and $90 million to produce. 

Beatty plays a rich architect, married to an interior designer (Keaton) but having an affair with a cellist (Nastassja Kinski). The couple's best couple friends (Hawn and Shandling) are also dealing with their own affairs. 

The movie's budget was initially projected at $44 million. A large part of that was Beatty's $10 million salary, and while he was not the director, he reportedly acted like he was, allegedly demanding endless retakes that added up to extra months on the production schedule. The film's scheduled 60-day shoot in 1998 came and went, with some members of the cast moving on to other, contracted projects. Reshoots commenced a year later, but when test audiences didn't like the movie, Town & Country went back into production for even more reshoots in 2000. When it finally made it to theaters, the film earned back just $6.7 million at the American box office, which didn't even cover Beatty's inflated salary.

Rules (of commerce) do apply

After the failure of Town & Country, Warren Beatty stayed out of the movie business for 15 very long years. In 2016, he returned with Rules Don't Apply, which he also directed and co-wrote. A stylish, nostalgic romantic comedy set in 1958, Beatty portrays mogul Howard Hughes, a looming presence over the movie's main storyline — the romance between a starlet (Lily Collins) and her driver (Alden Ehrenreich). Hughes forbids the romance, but love doth bloom anyway. 

What didn't doth bloom: the box office success and awards attention afforded to the previous major Howard Hughes movie, 2004's The Aviator, which made $102 million and earned Leonardo DiCaprio an Oscar nomination. 

The generically-titled Rules Don't Apply racked up a paltry $3.6 million, just shy of its $25 million budget. Hollywood is a cutthroat place, where stars are only as good as their last movie, and Rules Don't Apply was a huge bomb, sinking Beatty's comeback chances. 

It gets worse. According to Deadline, Beatty set up a company called Tatira 2 to produce Rules Don't Apply, which was sued by the film's financier, Regency Entertainment, for breach of contract. Beatty and Tatira 2 allegedly never paid the company some agreed upon payments — perhaps because the lack of box office success precluded that — so Regency filed a lawsuit seeking $18 million in damages.

He just kept saying no to good movies

While Hollywood hasn't cast Warren Beatty in many movies over the last few decades, that doesn't mean Hollywood isn't interested in him. Maybe filmmakers just got tired of asking him because he turned them down too many times. 

In 2016, Beatty revealed on the podcast Happy Sad Confused (via The Playlist), that Superman producers "came to [him] first" for the lead role, but he passed. Other iconic parts which Beatty declined: adult film producer Jack Horner in Paul Thomas Anderson's Boogie Nights (he felt weird doing a movie about pornography because he was a dad by that point,) and Bill in Quentin Tarantino's two-part Kill Bill (he didn't want to be away from his kids for months on end.) Beatty also turned down the chance to portray President Richard Nixon — twice — in Oliver Stone's Nixon and Ron Howard's Frost/Nixon. Beatty told Vanity Fair, that he said no to both films because "Nixon was not treated compassionately." 

Perhaps even worse: In the late '60s, Paramount chief Charlie Bluhdorn offered Beatty the chance to make the film version of a novel about an Italian-American family. "He said I could do whatever I wanted, produce, write it, direct," Beatty recalled on Happy Sad Confused. "I read the galleys, and I said, 'Charlie, there's no movie here.'" Francis Ford Coppola got the chance to direct instead, and that movie was a little something called The Godfather. 

Warren Beatty sure can't pick 'em!

He's too busy not making movies

Warren Beatty may have only released a few movies in the last 20 years, but it's not like those are the only movies on which he's worked. There are lots of movies that Beatty almost made, but then didn't, for a variety of reasons. Sure, every actor and filmmaker has to make tough choices about where to place their time and effort, but Beatty's unmade movie list is so long, and his made movie list is so short, that it suggests he might be a bit unreliable. 

In 1983, Beatty teamed up with Oscar-winning screenwriter Robert Towne to make Mermaid, a love story between a boat racer and a, uh, mermaid. It was canceled when a possible actors' strike delayed production, and then the similar Splash beat it to theaters. 

Throughout the '90s, he developed a movie called Ocean of Storms, in which he'd play an old astronaut. Aaron Sorkin wrote (and was apparently never paid for) a version of the script and Martin Scorsese was reportedly interested in directing, but the film never got off the ground. 

That was about the time when Beatty thought about and then abandoned a sequel to his 1998 political satire Bulworth. Beatty also could've solidified his career and legacy with a big film franchise — like, say, another Dick Tracy movie or five. A sequel to that 1990 hit never materialized due to various financial, contract, and studio issues.

He's tough to work with

Film productions are a collaborative business, and it seems like there are a lot of moviemakers who don't want to invest their time and money in a Warren Beatty project because he can reportedly be a challenging guy to worth with, or work for. 

In Peter Biskind's Beatty biography Star (via The Atlantic), screenwriter Bo Goldman claims he should have been a credited writer on Dick Tracy, but Beatty iced him out. Shampoo writer Robert Towne supposedly thought Beatty didn't deserve his co-writing credit on that movie and tried (unsuccessfully) to get a mutual friend to get Beatty to withdraw his name. 

Beatty also allegedly won't play ball with movie studios — he hates doing publicity. He didn't promote Reds at all. He later told Entertainment Weekly that he felt a "conventional publicity blitz" would be inappropriate considering the movie's important, historical subject matter. For Ishtar, he pulled out of both an Esquire cover shoot and a plan to ride a camel in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. 

There's also the matter of payment. Beatty has been sued for breach of contract or lack of payment on more than one occasion. In addition to that aforementioned Rules Don't Apply suit, Aaron Sorkin reportedly had to take Beatty to court to get paid for his work on one of those unmade movies

He's getting long in the tooth

Despite the popularity of Blue Bloods and Grace and Frankie, Hollywood is still a young person's game — movies and TV series almost always feature young faces playing young characters, and those older, more established actors slowly fade from view. Take Warren Beatty, for example. In 2018, the Oscar-winner turned 81-years-old. Unless Hollywood starts making a ton of films about dudes in their eighties, the movie business just doesn't have a place for him. That's sad, but true.

On the other hand, people in all kinds of professions retire in their sixties or seventies so as to enjoy their golden years doing something other than working. Beatty has earned the chance to slow down or even stop working in showbiz. He doesn't have anything to prove. He's got a big family, and he's amassed a fortune. He's slowing down, and that's perfectly expected. 

But on the other other hand, Beatty is still making the Hollywood rounds, such as mis-presenting an Oscar to the makers of La La Land at the 2017 Academy Awards and then getting a do-over and correctly giving a best picture trophy to the team behind The Shape of Water at the 2018 Oscars. Also, let's not forget that he directed a movie as recently as 2016, so if there's a project out there that Warren Beatty is interested in, clearly he's going to pursue it. And we'll be paying attention.