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on 19 January 2010
As a biography, this is perhaps a failure - Peter Biskind does not really justify his early claim that Warren Beatty has led 'one of the great 20th Century lives' and getting lots of people to say bad things about the film-maker is not the same as getting under his skin. However, this was not really intended to be a conventional biography anyway. We are told virtually nothing of the star's childhood / family life etc, indeed we get past page 150 before we learn that Warren is not Beatty's first name. As the author says, he can only describe Beatty, not explain him. Instead it is a fascinating appraisal of a brilliant career and an imperfect man, whose boundless ambition and perfectionism (containing within it the fatal flaws of control-freakery and chronic indecisiveness) led him to scale glorious heights but - nearly as often - snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

Beginning just before Splendour in the Grass and continuing past the star's most recent film, Town & Country, the book charts the films, the spats, the womanizing and the politicking all in Biskind's characteristically punchy prose. Beatty has co-operated with the book, after a fashion, but is largely on hand to merely correct other people's versions of events, not to offer any self-analysis. Unfortunatley several key people have declined to speak with the author including long-time friends and collaborators Robert Towne and Jack Nicholson. Plenty of people have spoken though and the book is chock-full of stories, good and bad. Unfortunately, a lot of the stories and quotes from the chapters that cover the Seventies already appeared verbatim in Biskind's peerless Easy Riders, Raging Bulls although there are additional anecdotes and of course the earlier book did not cover all of Beatty's movies from the period and nothing from beyond. Also Biskind's analyses of the films themselves are excellent, particularly Bonnie & Clyde and Shampoo.

Beatty emerges from the book as quite a sad figure, a man with extraordinary talents who made some sublime movies but who has squandered his professional reputation and now doesn't get the respect his career deserves, a controlling man who was willing to put any number of colleagues and friends through the wringer striving for greatness and acclaim but was frequently his own worst enemy. When he was on top, his pictures (and himself personally) minted money and were routinely nominated for rafts of oscars but his star diminished dramatically and he is now virtually unemployable.

Beatty's reason for encouraging Biskind's project was apparently so that his kids could read something that gave a sense of his importance as a film-maker. But Easy Riders, Raging Bulls had already set that out amply (although the earlier book didn't go into much detail about his masterpiece Reds - which is perhaps what gnawed at Beatty) and a lot of the extra material here from that golden period is about the star's womanizing and difficult behaviour.

However, it is a brilliant book and it's always a pleasure to read a writer who writes about films as if they matter. The great thing about the author's approach is that he takes glamourous movie idols and humanizes them. Inevitabley this means bringing these gods of the silver screen down to earth - uncomfortable for them, even 'humiliating' perhaps. But ultimately, behind the 'star' Biskind shows us the man.
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on 10 May 2016
This book about Beatty paints an even-handed account of his extreme talent and extreme narcissism-by-paralysis.

Should be called - Talent- The one thing Beatty flirted with but never nailed
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on 12 May 2016
GREAT! HIGHLY RECOMMENDED - THANK YOU!
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on 25 January 2015
well written and interesting to a point
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on 7 June 2011
Having enjoyed Biskind's other books about Hollywood, I found this very readable too. The pages flew by. It is often like an extended gossip column ...but, well, this is warren beatty. It is not great literature but it is entertaining.
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on 28 June 2011
I didn't know much about Warren Beatty before reading this book but, having enjoyed others by Peter Biskind, I counted on it at least being a well-written piece of gossipy non-fiction about Hollywood. It was, and I zipped right through it. Beatty comes across as somebody with a great deal of intelligence but also a not-insignificant narcissistic personality disorder which leaves him craving attention and suffering enormous jealousy and insecurity. It could be that these character flaws are part of what drive somebody to become so successful, and it was certainly interesting to follow the ups and downs of his life and career in this book... while at the same time thinking it would be more fun (in his shoes) to experience the same success with a little less personal drama/disfunction.

Good read.
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on 19 March 2010
I started this book with high hopes but found it very hard going, and some of the chapters were a bit repetitive. I lost interest and struggled to work up any enthusiasm to finish it. Warren Beatty comes across as quite dull and controlling an not an especially interesting guy. I felt I had wasted my money as I didn't feel I knew anything more about him after I had read this book than I did before. Save your money don't bother.
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