As more than one rapper has memorably commented, haters are everywhere. Eventually, they were bound to get around to Warren Beatty.
A recent Entertainment Weekly post took aim at the actor’s AFI nomination, charging Beatty with a thin filmography and a late career full of clunkers. We’re not going to defend *Ishtar*—although some have—but judging Beatty by that standard is like judging Michael Caine by *The Muppet Christmas Carol*. Let’s remember the good times, shall we?
His reputation for visionary epics is well-known, but his 70s work in particular stands among the best in American film. *McCabe & Mrs. Miller* set the tone for a decade of transgressive film (as well as dozens of “revisionist westerns” that have clogged arthouses in the decades since), while *Shampoo* (which Beatty co-wrote with Robert Towne) is still one of the best films ever made about either Los Angeles or the 1960s. On the films he’s best known for—*Shampoo*, *Reds*, *Bugsy*—Beatty was involved from all angles: directing, co-writing and producing. His greatest skill was navigating the machinery of Hollywood, and it’s hard to overestimate the effect he had on the industry as a whole from the bombshell of *Bonnie and Clyde* alone.
As he’s settled into the role of Hollywood legend, the list of roles he’s declined has become more impressive than the roles he’s played—the nixed list includes Michael Corleone in *The Godfather*, Butch Cassidy in *Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid*, Gordon Gekko in *Wall Street* and Bill in *Kill Bill*—but if anything, the list is a testament to his restraint. Becoming more selective with age is only sensible, or one risks going the De Niro path. Beatty is just protecting his legacy.
After all, there are a lot of haters out there.
- — Russell Brandom