As a teen, I thought Warren Beatty was hot. It's one of the weird aspects of being in denial about one's sexual orientation: you struggle to convince yourself that you are straight even as you have attraction to gorgeous males. The mental gymnastics are insane. Now, Vanity Fair has a lengthy article on Richmond, Virginia born Beatty - who has a transgender son. On a dreary Saturday morning, the article is an interesting read. Here are brief highlights:
He is one of the most famous actors of the second half of the 20th century, was the most talked-about wooer of women in his day (his former paramours are legion, and all are beauties), and is one of Hollywood’s more successful filmmakers, known for equal amounts of shrewdness and seductive charm. He has been called “the Prince of Hollywood,” “the Pro,” and “Boss.” He was a famous movie star before any of them—before Clint, before Redford, before Dustin, before Pacino, even before his good friend Jack Nicholson. Throughout his nearly 60-year career as an actor, director, screenwriter, and producer, Warren Beatty has been nominated for 14 Academy Awards (including best actor, best picture, best director, best original screenplay, and best adapted screenplay), winning the best-director Oscar for Reds in 1981. He pops up in the diaries of Andy Warhol, the journals of J.F.K. historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr., a biography of James Baldwin, and countless celebrity memoirs. Although a decade can pass between the release of his movies, when they arrive on the scene they are cultural events. And he’s coming squarely back into the public gaze again this year, with Rules Don’t Apply, the rumored re-release of Bulworth, and the upcoming 50th anniversary of Bonnie and Clyde, in which he starred as Clyde Barrow.
Due to be released next month, Rules Don’t Apply has been described as a biographical film about eccentric billionaire Howard Hughes, but it’s actually about two would-be lovers finding themselves in the labyrinth of Hollywood against a backdrop of 1950s sexual repression. Beatty plays Howard Hughes in a supporting role.
“There’s this misapprehension that it’s a biopic,” Beatty explains, “which it’s not, although Howard is an important character in it. I wanted to do a story about a girl who comes from being the Apple Blossom Queen of Winchester, Virginia [Marla Mabrey, played by Lily Collins], and a boy who is a Methodist from Fresno [Frank Forbes, played by Alden Ehrenreich], who is under the same religious influences that I was raised in. I wanted to do a story about that young man and that young woman that also deals with money and misogyny in late-1950s Hollywood.”
One doesn’t immediately associate Beatty with puritanical guilt and repression, but that is the world he grew up in, in conservative Virginia in the 1940s and 50s, and the one he has rebelled against his entire life. “I’m afraid it still remains a big subject in America,” he says, “which often makes us the laughingstock of France and other European countries. So I thought this would be fun to deal with—a young man and a young woman involved with an unpredictable billionaire, who had no rules he had to follow because of his inheritance and his way of life. So it’s also about the effect of Hollywood on those rules, and the effect of money.”
The story of a young man coming to Hollywood from a conservative background is one he knows all too well. He and his sister, the actress Shirley MacLaine, were raised by Southern Baptist parents. Still, the family was somewhat bohemian. Their mother was an acting teacher, their father a high-school principal who was also something of a raconteur and bon vivant. Beatty recalled the first time he came downstairs dressed in a suit for church, astonishing his parents. He also admitted being convinced that if he had sex with a girl, he would have to marry her, one of the many autobiographical touches he brings to Rules Don’t Apply.
Just as Beatty was something of a sexual revolutionary in the years emerging from the strict mores of the 1950s, so his firstborn child is also a revolutionary. Stephen, who is challenging cultural norms of sexuality, is an activist for the transgender community. Identifying as transitioned at the age of 14, he changed his name from Kathlyn Elizabeth to Stephen Ira. A poet and writer, he posted an “Answer to Seven Questions” about his gender identity on the “WeHappyTrans” Web site. One is struck by Stephen’s insouciant intelligence—he manages to be playful, erudite, and eloquent all at once.“He’s a revolutionary, a genius, and my hero, as are all my children,” Beatty says when asked about Stephen.
|Beatty with sister, Shirley MacLaine|