Warren Beatty was honored by the Museum of the Movie Image Wednesday night at their annual gala on Park Avenue in Manhattan. The evening featured a glittery crowd of A-listers, who celebrated with Beatty and his wife Annette Bening.
The salute to Beatty featured speeches by Robert Benton, Lily Collins, Aiden Ehrenreich, Barry Diller, Lee Grant, Mandy Patinkin, Oliver Platt, Paul Sorvino and Annette Bening, who reminisced, told anecdotes and meted out praise to the beloved actor, director, writer and producer.
Celebrity guests included Matthew Broderick and Sarah Jessica Parker – in an elegant but zany hat – Jeannie Berlin, Paul Schneider, Gina Gershon, David Rasche and Michael Barker.
After taking a 15-year break from movies, in part to raise four children with Bening – Beatty first became a father at age 52 – he’s back with a new movie, “Rules Don’t Apply,” which he wrote, directed, produced and in which he stars as billionaire Howard Hughes. The movie is about Hollywood in the late 50’s, the period when Beatty first started making films. Alden Ehrenreich and Lily Collins co-star as lovers; she’s an actress and he’s her chauffeur, and it appears they try to keep their relationship a secret from Hughes, who forbid his staff to date the starlets.
Although Beatty and Bening made movies together before “Rules Don’t Apply,” this is the first time he’s directed her. What was that experience like, I asked Bening on the red carpet.
“It was delightful. I was told long before I met him that actors love working with him,” she said. “I enjoyed it. He was so supportive and enthusiastic, and he let me improvise and he laughed at what I did uproariously, saying, ‘Oh good! Oh good! That was good. Let’s do it again!’ He was encouraging.”
Beatty interrupted to say of his wife, “Don’t tell anybody but she’s the world’s greatest actress.” Bening also has a new film coming out, “20th Century Women,” which premiered at the New York Film Festival and is sure to make her an Oscar contender for the fifth time.
The presenters’ speeches, which were full of humor and heart, were the highlight of the event.
Patinkin mentioned a time when he had a heartfelt conversation with the legendary playboy in a hallway following a screening, ”All of a sudden he looks at me and his eyes well into tears and he broke down and I held him because I knew more than any movie he had ever made, what Warren wanted to make more than anything was a family. And then Annette came along and she gave Warren the greatest gift of his life, herself and her children.”
Alden Ehrenreich spoke of the five years between meeting Beatty and getting the part. “I met Warren for the first time in the summer of 2009 for ‘Rules Don’t Apply.’ I was 19 years old,” he said. “We met for lunches and dinners that lasted six or seven hours. I know that many of you have probably had that experience. For those of you who haven’t, do not wait for Warren to stop speaking to excuse yourself to go to the restroom. He doesn’t.” Ehrenreich noted Beatty’s habit of leaving voicemails with, “ This is Hollywood legend Warren Beatty, which is a hard call not to return.”
Annette Bening told the audience, “There are a lot of different ways I can approach this moment. I’m very proud of my husband.”
She added, “This is a very private event for me even though it takes place in public, because my husband has all of the qualities that his comrades are articulating, he still has as a moviemaker. And he’s made a film recently, and for me, in this moment, this is what I’m thinking about is that he is still as relentless, he’s still as principled, he’s still tenacious as ever. It was a dream come true for me that our children who are now 24, 22, 19 and 16, have been able to see him at work. That’s my dream, so now it’s come true because he’s made his movie. Plus, if he didn’t make the movie, I was going to have to kill him, so he made a good choice. “
In his speech, Warren Beatty lived up to his reputation as a talker. “Here’s the thing. Nobody knows better than Annette. I can talk a long time.” Then he tossed his prepared speech, which he said was conventional stuff. “The way you talked about me, let’s me put it this way, I liked it,” Beatty said.
Beatty riffed on making “Bonnie & Clyde,” in which he told director Barry Levinson that Bob Dylan was more suited to play Clyde Barrow.
He also made a lighthearted stab at politics. “I was trying to be funny tonight, and of course, the temptation is to try to be funny about politics, but the truth is I just can’t think of a joke in this campaign that hasn’t actually happened, so I decided to not try. I think the smartest thing I ever did was to talk Annette into marrying me.”
No one seemed to have more fun than Beatty and Bening, who posed for endless selfies with friends and people who appeared to be strangers, and they were nearly the last to leave the party.