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Warren Beatty's new biographer estimates that the notorious lothario has been with almost 13,000 women: an impressive figure to everyone except perhaps Wilt Chamberlain and Hugh Hefner.
Just as astounding, if Peter Biskind's Star is to be believed, was Beatty's ability to thrive in Hollywood for 40 years despite infuriating almost everyone he worked with, from writers and directors to producers and studio bosses.
Star is a gossipy, shallow book about the only person besides Orson Welles to get Oscar nominations for writing, directing, producing and acting in a single film – Welles did it once, for Citizen Kane. Beatty did it twice, for Heaven Can Wait and Reds.
But why would anyone waste 627 pages on a narcissistic playboy, who, despite Biskind's claims of genius, has made and/or starred in only a handful of noteworthy movies? Yes, he deserves credit for Bonnie and Clyde and Shampoo. But don't forget that Beatty – now a 72-year-old family man who hasn't made a dramatic film in nine years – also appeared in two of the biggest bombs in movie history: Ishtar and The Fortune.
Biskind spends a lot of time chronicling Beatty's love life, including affairs with Natalie Wood, Joan Collins, Julie Christie, Diane Keaton, Madonna, Mary Tyler Moore, Jacqueline Onassis and Carly Simon, who supposedly wrote You're So Vain about him.
Not all Beatty's conquests were famous or beautiful. Tall or short, skinny or stout, actress or waitress, Beatty was always on the prowl, according to Biskind, who uses a half-baked formula to come up with his guess of 12,775 lovers.
Sex may be the book's biggest selling point, but Biskind seems even more interested in the incessant squabbling that went on during the filming of every Beatty movie. Whether he was acting, directing, producing, Beatty drove everyone crazy on the set with his indecisiveness, vanity and endless takes, Biskind writes. (An assistant once saw him in front of a mirror separating his eyelashes with a pin).
Given the book's length, you'd think it would at least cover Beatty's entire life. Yet Biskind virtually ignores his first 20 years and the past 18 years.
The author's excuses are lame: He didn't write about Beatty's childhood in Virginia, because "I just wasn't interested in his difficult father and sainted mother...".
As for Beatty's marriage to Annette Bening – they finally wed in 1992 – Biskind decided that was off limits because he didn't want to embarrass them or their four children.
Somehow, I don't think Beatty is easily embarrassed.
- Out now from Dh120
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