The untold truth of Warren Beatty

Warren Beatty is a Hollywood legend. Not only has he been nominated for and/or won virtually every filmmaking award for which there is a category, he is also a unabashed Casanova of the highest order whose randy reputation made it possible for people to believe an April Fool's joke about a tunnel between his house and the Playboy mansion. Beatty is also notoriously introspective, making him a tough interview, and at times an even tougher collaborator. With only 32 acting credits to his name over a career that spans 56 years at the time of this writing, his selectiveness with his projects only serves to deepen the mystery surrounding him. Here is the untold truth of Warren Beatty.

He was fond of the ladies

We're going for the big one right away, because although it's hard to say that Warren Beatty's reputation as a honey hound is "untold," the details of it may surprise you. To start, according to Star: How Warren Beatty Seduced America, the unauthorized biography of the Dick Tracy star, author Peter Biskind puts the figure of notches on Beatty's bedpost at just under 13,000. That would be an astronomical number of sexual partners for a prostitute to have, let alone an actor, which is probably why Beatty so easily laughed off the suggestion. In his AARP interview, he disputed the figure based on mathematics alone, but also said, "Look, I never misled anyone. And … and I'm a nice guy." So, he considered it "nice" that he told all the women he slept with they were basically just widgets on a sexual assembly line? Classy.

But in that same interview, Beatty divulged a clue to his upbringing that could be the key to understanding his lustful years of cavorting with the ladies. Referring to a character in his new film, Rules Don't Apply, Beatty said, "I — and the character of Frank — come from a Protestant American background. The consequences of American Protestant puritan sexual guilt and repression, which I feel is the theme of the movie, is something I have a strong interest in." Ah yes, the old "curiosity about that which is taboo" excuse. But doesn't that beg the question: Once you experienced the so-called taboo behavior 1,000 or 2,000 times, what exactly becomes the excuse for the next 10,000 or so?

He's not thrilled about the 'You're so Vain' rumor

Aside from where the island where Elvis, Biggie, and Tupac are secretly living out their lives, one of the biggest mysteries in music is who Carly Simon was talking about in "You're So Vain." Beatty's name has long been listed as the lyrical target next to a slew of '60s and '70s rock legends that Simon was also once connected with. But out of them all, Simon finally admitted that the second verse in the song was indeed about Beatty, according to People. Which still leaves the door open for the song to actually be about more than one jilted lover. But as far as Beatty is concerned, he's not really clear where all of this came from.

In an interview with The Toronto Star, the Bugsy actor gave his rambling response to the controversy. We're not going to include the entire diatribe here, because it veers wildly off course, but Beatty did start his response with a rebuke of what he calls "invented memory," and he concluded his statement with the following: "I've been around. I've been famous for a long time. So Carly, I don't know how to respond. I would say there is invention there that is simply not true, but that's fine. And there's some small amount of truth there. Not a lot, but that's just one example of what has happened with me for a number of books. I won't name the people, but if you name them, I would respond, let's say." Uh, sick burn? (We honestly have no clue what he's talking about at this point.)

He had a difficult reputation early in his career

By now you should be starting to piece together that Warren Beatty is something of an eccentric. Just his ability to transition from a wanton wang-slinger into the respected husband of Annette Bening and father of their four children alone is a testament to the raw charm this guy must exude that allows him to operate on a whole other level. But that charm wasn't so apparent in his early days on Broadway in New York City. According to an archived 1967 Esquire interview, Beatty quickly earned a reputation for showing up late, being uncooperative, and screwing up one production so badly he left one of his co-stars in tears. Somehow though, the play was well received, and Beatty jetted to Hollywood, saying this of his theater experience, "I don't want to go through the mess of doing a play just to win the approval of four critics who decide whether you're going to be allowed to keep doing the play. That's a bore." So, he definitely started calling his own shots early in his career.

Beatty's unruliness from the outset of his creative endeavors may have hinted at the auteurship of his future. Since his early, turbulent days on the stage, he has been the star, writer, director, and producer of five of his own films, which puts him into a category with Mel Gibson and Clint Eastwood who have also dealt with their share of "difficult" rumors. Then again, all of those guys tend to sweep the awards when left to their own devices, like Beatty did with Heaven Can Wait and Reds, both of which earned him Academy Award nominations in all four major categories. So, maybe his problem was the he's the kind of guy who would rather just do it himself, because clearly, he can handle it.

He was integral to George McGovern's 1972 presidential campaign

Though his political satire, Bulworth, cemented in viewers minds that Warren Beatty had become completely cynical in regards to politics, the reality is that he's always been an avid supporter of the Democratic Party. And while he never considered a run himself, because he equates running for political office with "crucifixion," according to People, Beatty has been a background player for many political campaigns. "I will confess to having been flattered at being kicked around as a possibility, but I had seen so many close friends go through such agonies. Gary Hart, George McGovern, Hubert Humphrey, look what happened to Bobby and Jack [Kennedy]! I knew all of them," he said.

His largest role was probably in McGovern's failed bid for the presidency in 1972, for which Beatty told AARP that he dedicated a year of his life. And he wasn't just some celebrity spokesperson, delivering a canned stump speech to a fundraiser full of wealthy friends. He seemingly approached the campaign with the same passion he previously reserved for his roster of famous lovers. According to Vanity Fair's oral history of McGovern's campaign, Beatty was "the third or fourth most important person in the campaign," which to an aspiring politician would be an envious position. But as an idealist, Beatty was truly just there for the cause. His other duties included fundraising, staging concerts, giving speeches, and even advising the candidate and senior staff. Beatty's own words on his involvement were, "I don't dabble. Dabbling is sort of a waste of time." We get it, Warren. You're intense.

He is fascinated by the rap world

During a New York Times profile while promoting Bulworth, Beatty revealed how he decided the character of Senator Jay Billington Bulworth would unveil his populist message through rap. It was a comedic device, meant to ease the inevitable polarization of the audience who may not agree with the particular political message. But that's not to say that Beatty thinks rap is laughable in any way. In fact, he said, "Rap music is the language of social protest. He who fails to listen, fails to hear at his own peril."

And his interest in rap didn't just develop as a result of his involvement with the movie, for which he was once again star, writer, producer, and director. Ten years before Bulworth even started production, Beatty requested an introduction to Def Jam founder, Russell Simmons, who later introduced him to Death Row founder, Suge Knight. He continued a friendship with both, even through Knight's incarceration for an assault that led to a parole violation. Of his time with Beatty, Simmons said, "Once, I went to his house with Bobby Shriver and a date, and it was us and Annette and Warren and we had this long dinner and, finally, Annette went to sleep and my date was dozing off but we sat for hours and hours. He's such a charming person that you don't mind all the questions."

Suge Knight had a similar affinity for Beatty with whom he met frequently to get "pumped for information." According to a former Death Row employee, "Suge, who is always at least four hours late, would show up on time for Beatty." Although Bulworth ultimately bombed, earning only $26 million against a budget of over $30 million, Beatty walked away with a lifetime of cred in the rap world.

He has a transgender son

Warren Beatty and Annette Bening have four children. According to a Vanity Fair profile, their eldest, Stephen, "transitioned at the age of 14," and "changed his name from Kathlyn Elizabeth to Stephen Ira." Stephen was quick to take to Twitter to support his dad for the recent Oscar debacle in which he announced the wrong Best Picture winner. He tweeted, "Proud of my dad for his grace! It's live, stuff happens. Showbiz!" And the love certainly goes both ways. Of his transgender activist son, Beatty said, "He's a revolutionary, a genius, and my hero, as are all my children."

In a separate interview, Beatty said this to People about all of his children, "We are married now for 25 years, and we have these four, what I like to call small eastern European countries that we negotiate with, and we send ambassadors, and we negotiate, and they're the best thing that's ever happened to me – they, and her." For a guy who was also once known as "The Samurai of Sex," he sure turned into a real family man.

He is borderline obsessed with Howard Hughes

Thanks to his first movie in 15 years, Rules Don't Apply, being released in 2016, the notoriously press-shy Beatty did a bunch of interviews to promote it. While talking about the movie that centers on a romance that blossoms between two young staffers of Howard Hughes, Beatty also spoke glowingly about the legendary recluse. He told The Boston Globe that he's "always wanted to include him in a movie," and he relayed an anecdote about when he stayed at the Beverly Hills Hotel and was delighted to find out that Hughes had booked "seven suites and five bungalows" in an apparent diversion tactic so he'd be left alone.

In another interview with IndieWire, Beatty also revealed that he could relate to Hughes, saying, "I felt, as I feel now, that a man who is not paranoid is a man who is not in full possession of the facts. There is a sensible caution — or sensible paranoia — that can get out of hand with the man we're talking about, Mr. Hughes. I hope it hasn't gotten out of hand with me." So not only has he been waiting decades to get his portrayal of Hughes exactly right — IndieWire actually states was contracted by Warner Bros. to produce a script in the 90s — but he also identifies with Hughes' struggle to retain his privacy. "I've always felt that Hughes was a difficult character for people to identify with," Beatty also said, which again echoes his own self-reflection. In nearly interview cited in this article, the reporter who spoke with Beatty remarked on how concerned he was with how he came across, often striking questions and openly asking the reporter how his responses soudnded. Legendary lothario, disappearing for years between projects, and obsessed with his outward image: Can you even tell if that's a description of Hughes or Beatty at this point?

He is game for a Dick Tracy sequel

Aside from Bulworth, Dick Tracy is arguably Warren Beatty's most out of the box movie. With its shockingly bright color palette, characters created with some of the most questionable makeup and facial prosthetics in movie history, and outlandish performances, it has gone down as either a total dud, or a cult classic, depending on fans' tastes. So naturally, Beatty wants to do another one. In his AARP interview, he coyly responded to a question about a possible Dick Tracy 2 with, "Jeffrey Katzenberg once asked me to do a sequel. At the time, I thought sequels were beneath me. Now I realize how far below sequels I am." In his Reddit AMA, he was more direct, simply saying "Yes" when asked if he'd don the yellow trench coat and watch-phone once again. (Incidentally, he still has both in a locked closet in his bedroom.)

But in true Warren Beatty fashion, it took 19 years and a lawsuit by Tribune Media Services, who were about to regain the rights to the character for him to do anything about it. Which is why the world was treated to the truly bizarre 2010 TV Movie, called Dick Tracy Special, in which Beatty, in character, gets interviewed by Leonard Maltin for 30 mins and shows clips of the original film. In what has to be the most blatant attempt to retain his film rights, Beatty even waited until nine days before the deadline to start principal photography on the special, according to Reuters. At the time of this writing, Beatty is 79 years old, and still hasn't put anything in motion on the real sequel. And if his usual production schedule is any indication, we'll be lucky if Dick Tracy isn't pushing himself around in a wheelchair that can make phone calls by the time he gets around to making it.

He had a crush on Ellen Degeneres

For a guy with who had a supposed uncanny ability to woo women, Warren Beatty sure missed some major red flags when he unabashedly flirted with Ellen Degeneres on the set of The Larry Sanders Show. During a 2016 appearance on Ellen, Beatty recalled the story about how he had a long talk with Gary Shandling about how impressed he was her. DeGeneres must have sensed he was leaving out a key detail, and according to WENN, she said "I think you didn't know I was gay at the time." She then pressed him by jokingly saying, "You wanted me," to which he surprisingly nodded and even admitted that he was dating Annette Bening when this all went down. In her own appearance on the show, Bening admitted, "He talked about you all the time. I didn't want to share that (the fact you are gay) with him." Bening seems super chill about the whole situation based solely on the fact that Degeneres doesn't swing that way, but if there was a guy out there who would've been able to seal that deal anyway, it's definitely Warren Beatty.

His talents actually seem limitless

As is the case with most brilliant and good-looking people, it's usually annoyingly easy to find some other aspect of life in which they excel. Beatty is no exception since on top of being a Renaissance Man of the film world, a fabled fornicator of lore, and a high-level political operative, he also happened to be the Zack Morris of his high school. He was class president and "star center on the Washington and Lee High football team," according to Esquire. He also turned down ten football scholarships to study drama at Northwestern, where he only lasted a year before ditching everything and hightailing it to New York City. Once there he briefly worked as "a bricklayer's assistant, construction worker and sandhog on the third tube of the Lincoln Tunnel," before his star turn on Broadway which led directly to Hollywood. He's stated that he doesn't have hobbies, and that's probably because he seemingly becomes an expert at something the second he starts doing it. Think we're overstating that a bit? Did you already forget the time he decided that as a 60 year old white dude he was going to rap in a movie about politics, and for that he earned the respect of Suge Knight? We rest our case.